~ By Jacinta Astles
Including LGBTQIA+ perspectives and voices is important in any violence prevention education program. This ensures the course is accessible and inclusive of all participants, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, whilst also recognizing that these factors influence the forms of violence that members of the LGBTQIA+ community may experience.
Here are five practical ways to promote LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in your courses.
1. Learn about your context
LGBTQIA+ issues and language vary greatly around the world. The first step is understanding the context in which you are working. Learn which key terms are used. Read about key issues, particularly be seeking out the voices of LGBTQIA+ activists and public figures. Take the initiative to fill in your blind spots. Remember to be intersectional, read about the experiences of LGBTQIA+ persons of color, with disabilities, from different religions and so on.
Then, try to expand your knowledge by reading about issues in your neighboring countries, your region, and around the world.
Remember that regardless of our legal status or other efforts to erase our existence, LGBTQIA+ people exist in all corners of the global, including in your classes and community. LGBTQIA+ identities have been recognized for centuries in many cultures, such as Muxes in Oaxaca, Mexico, Sistergirls and Brotherboys in Australian Aboriginal nations such as the Tiwi Islands, and Hijras in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
2. Invite everyone to share their pronouns at the start of the program
This signals to all participants that you are trying to make your class as inclusive as possible. The concept of sharing pronouns also aims to disrupt the culture of making assumptions of a person’s gender based on their name or how they look.
Keep in mind that we should not make assumptions about a person’s gender identity based on their pronouns. Just because someone uses ‘they’ pronouns, does not necessarily mean that they identify as non-binary, for example (Sakurai, 2017).
3. Include LGBTQIA+ case studies
If you have any activities that involve role plays, case studies or stories, include examples that explore the violence experience by LGBTQIA+ populations.
Keep in mind that the LGBTQIA+ acronym (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) covers a spectrum of sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics. Encourage your participants to analyze how certain forms of violence may be linked to one of these categories, or multiple. For instance, many intersex individuals are subjected to irreversible surgeries during infancy (United Nations Free & Equal). This is an example of violence based on sex characteristics.
Transgender people face a disproportionate risk of murder based on their gender identities and expressions (Wakefield, 2020).
These experiences of violence also intersect with discrimination based on other social categories, such as class, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, education, among other factors. In the United States, Human Rights Campaign found that the majority of transgender or gender non-conforming people killed in the United States in 2020 were Black and Latinx transgender women. Consider how you can encourage an intersectional analysis through the different case studies used in your course.
4. Don't minimize our experiences
All of our individual feelings relating to our experiences of violence and trauma are valid, and should be respected. Avoid phrases such as 'that doesn't sound that bad', 'ONLY men are perpetrators of intimate partner violence.'
If your course involves discussions of domestic or intimate partner violence, consider how these issues affect LGBTQIA+ individuals. Too often, discussions of these topics adopt a heteronormative approach, which means that they assume that the relationship is between a (usually cisgender) man and woman.
Research is emerging to support our assertions that those of us in same-gender relationships also experience intimate partner violence. In Costa Rica, a 2020 study by Acceder found that 41% of Lesbian, Bisexual, Pansexual and Non-Heterosexual women had experienced emotional and psychological violence from an intimate partner of the same gender, whilst 15% indicated that they had experienced physical violence.
Including these realities in violence prevention education initiatives can serve as a key step towards increasing visibility and reducing stigma.
5. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake
If you make a mistake, apologise, move on and of course, try not to make it again.
If you don't understand why something was offensive, try to find out by doing your own research or asking someone from the LGBTQIA+ community.
It is important to encourage all participants to talk about these issues, including those who are not part of the LGTBQIA+ community.
Try to equip them with the right language to ensure that violence or discrimination is not being perpetrated within your class. Encouraging open and honest dialogue helps to break the taboo which has made LGBTQIA+ individuals invisible in many societies for decades.
What have been your experiences in promoting LGBTQIA+ inclusivity through violence prevention education? Is there anything you would add to this list?
The Queer and Hear project provides virtual, Empowerment Self-Defense classes to lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer and non-heterosexual women and non-binary persons around the world. To find out more, check out their Instagram: @queerandhear