Here at Planet HQ we believe in collaboration. It is the foundation of how we work and it has served us well over the last 5 years. It has given us many opportunities and allowed us to really support the community.
Over the past couple of weeks I (Naomi) have been to a lot of community meetings around creating safe spaces. I find this extremely exciting and I’m pleased for these spaces and those it will support.
I’ve also seen many online messages within various LBQ events on social media being very hostile to the event organisers, bullying and almost attacking them for not being inclusive, for excluding them. I rarely see a polite message asking why it is niche, asking for an explanation - we seem to have got used to launching straight into the attack and assuming people are against us. This saddens me extremely.
Part of the problem is that being LGBT+ is not in itself enough to have in common with each other. The LGBT+ community crosses many cultures, religions, classes and is probably one of the most diverse groups around. We should celebrate the fact that we are different; that we are brave enough to love who we love. As long as we are not hurting people, shouldn't we be able to live together side by side?
I personally love the fact that I get to interact with so many different people, and that I have friends across different social economic demographics. I also am aware that it means that we often have very different views of some things – but this gives me an opportunity to learn, open my mind to other points of view. I understand that not everyone currently does this, but shouldn't we all try?
And I don’t believe we should be attacking one another. I mean, why do we need to worry about homophobia from outside of our community when we are dividing and attacking each other within our community. This only makes it easier for those against us to divide us.
I’m not saying we should all live happily ever after, but we should be able to understand how it feels to be attacked for trying to be our authentic selves; and to rise above this and to be considerate and polite to each other. Treat each other like equal humans.
Being a true community includes supporting each other and co-operating in society. Now sometimes that does mean offering support to others to enable them. This may mean that there is no direct advantage to you – not on this occasion – but the world goes around and when you need support it may be there for you in return.
We often see many campaigns asking for signatures. We may look at them and think that they are not relevant to our lives. Perhaps we should ask ourselves if it impacts any members of our diverse LGBT+ community, and if so take the decision to support it. It is through small change that bigger change happens.
Being a community, means being a team when it matters. That isn’t all of the time. It is when numbers matter. A mutual understanding of you support me and I’ll support you. Understanding that sometimes there is a bigger picture. If we are trying to reach out to a large mainstream audience we may well use more narrow terminology because it is more widely known and less confusing – so the message will be better received. This shouldn’t mean that we should publicly attack those going out there. Certainly it is appropriate to send a private message politely enquiring as to whether they are including you, and are aware that the terminology could be broader; giving the person the chance to respond.
A good example of this is the recent campaign of straight celebrities posing as gay couples. We all know that celebrities have a much stronger reach, and can persuade people to change their views much easier than people such as you or I - certainly we wouldn't get the press coverage they get! We should celebrate the fact that they feel so passionately about our rights that they want to show support for us. We all know that there are people better placed and that it would be better to use real people in our community, but we know that the impact would be far less.
Not every event is for every segment of the LGBT+ Community. If an event wasn’t designed for a particular type of attendee, it would be of interest to no-one. You wouldn’t go into a vegetarian restaurant and demand a beef burger for example. If there are events taking place we should look to share them with those that we believe are of interest. In the hope that they will do the same for us.
Facebook is restricting the reach of those organising events in our community. It is getting harder and harder to share events to those who they are aimed at. Unless we share within our community it will only get smaller; harder to reach and eventually less diverse.
Let's share our experiences, our knowledge and what makes us who we are. Let's allow those who want to label themselves to do so; and those who don't to not. Let's forgive if someone uses the wrong gender pronoun and politely correct them instead of assuming they are ignorant or don't care. Let's remember that our community is evolving and changing, and that the language is too. We need to respect that certain labels offend some, and give others support. For some there just isn't the language to use yet.
If you want more events for you, because either you don’t feel that there are any, or perhaps not enough then how about finding out how to get involved yourself.
You know what you like and who you are; and how to be you. I would never write an article telling people about the experience of being a person of colour, or bisexual - because as a white cis lesbian I would not be able to. I do however give a platform and support to someone better placed to help them to reach their audience.
Let's encourage allies to participate (and in fact continue to participate) - and perhaps we can return the favour to other smaller groups who are also experiencing discrimination, for example not all refugees are heterosexual and by helping them you are probably also helping a segment of the LGBT+ community.
We need to support what exists in our community to help it to grow and expand rather than complain at what we don't have. We all know that what is on offer doesn’t suit everyone. However we have to remember that those creating the spaces are doing the best that they can with what they have.
Sometimes the only space available is what is on offer. That can often be due to limited resources. However if we support the spaces that are available (even if they are in a basement for example!) then those running these events will be able to find better spaces because they will be able to cover the high running costs.
I appreciate that not everyone can visit the spaces; due to various disabilities. However for me that is even more reason to support them; so that they can move to spaces where those who currently cannot participate can join us.
We can all help. By taking a pledge to support our community and to celebrate and support its diversity. To allow each of us to identify, or not identify as we wish. To live as our authentic selves without fear from our fellow LGBT+ community.
Stand up and be strong – where you get the chance to lead change; do it proudly. Do it strongly and do it with integrity. We can all be role models for each other.
Let’s make 2016 a year for celebration for all of us!