Visibility, privilege and inclusion

Do you see, value and include others? Are you seen, valued and included? Last week our colleague Steve Copsey, Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, talked to transactivist, Yvy DeLuca. Below, Steve shares the key conversation points from the webinar, what we can learn from Yvy’s experiences and how we can be a part of the solution.

Inclusion is what Inclusive Employers is all about, but it’s really important to remember how we achieve that inclusiveness – by recognising and valuing differences and going out of our way to talk to different people and experience different perspectives.

On Thursday 23rd July I was lucky enough to “sit down and have a chat” with Yvy DeLuca. This was in one of our regular webinar slots, but was far from one of our usual webinars. This chat with Yvy was one of the ways we’re choosing to recognise, value and expose our members to different voices. And her voice is definitely different (and that’s not just down to her Blackburn accent!).

For those of you that don’t know Yvy, she’s a trans Indian woman, an activist, an artist and an author. She was raised in a working class, Muslim family and is now a practising witch.

To start the webinar Yvy talked about her transition and coming to terms with her identity whilst coming from a Muslim background. She was surrounded by people in her family and community constantly telling her that everything about her was wrong. Even when she went to her GP, they said “you can’t do that to your family, you don’t want to disgrace your family do you?”

We talked about the significance of her Bollywood performances. Yvy needed to become the change she wanted to see, as she didn’t see any South Asian performers in the LGBTQ+ community herself. By “injecting” herself into white spaces she was able to do this. She used her art as a form of protest, saying: “You’re going to watch this and you’re going to love it. You’re not going to understand a word I’m saying, but you’ll be thinking “what is going on and why am I enjoying this so much?””

Queer women of colour was a key topic of conversation. Did you know that the founders of Black Lives Matter were three queer black women? And the figureheads of the Stonewall Riots: Marsha P Johnson, Storme DeLarverie and Sylvia Rivera; all women of colour who were part of the LGBTQ+ community. Why were they pushing for new legislation? What made them feel the need to do this? Yvy thought that it was a case of “not being heard” – over, and over, again. Their opinions, their thoughts, their feelings not being valued because they’re women. Not being valued because they’re not white. Not being valued because they’re LGBTQ+. Because of all these factors, they needed to shout the loudest to be noticed.

The term BAME was discussed – is this really representative? Is this really inclusive? Or is it just saying, Black, Asian and “everyone else?” 

We talked about moving the conversation on to healthier dialogue and how to get away from 21st century homophobic comments like, “oh you’re gay/trans/bi, I’m fine with that” – Yvy felt we needed to make people understand that being LGBTQ+ isn’t up for debate. “We are not up for debate. We need to talk to these people about why they felt the need to say, “I’m fine with that?” And if that makes them feel uncomfortable, then good!” It’s time we flipped the script and got to the bottom of why they think this way. People only really learn if they’re outside of their comfort zone, so why aren’t we going there more often? Maybe diversity and inclusion needs to be more uncomfortable for us to learn more?

One webinar attendee asked Yvy, what about those that don’t see themselves represented but aren’t yet feeling ready to be that representation themselves? She responded, “if the person isn’t ready that’s fine. But don’t be afraid to reach out to others who can help and support. You don’t always have to put yourself forward.”

We talked a lot about privilege, and not just white privilege – the privilege that she has as a “passing” trans woman. The various levels of privilege and the “pecking order” within the LGBTQ+ community itself. For example, the privilege and power that I, as a cis gay white man, might experience compared to others within the LGBTQ+ community.

And what does Yvy think those with privilege can do to be better allies? Read more, learn more, seek out people with lived experience. Don’t just aim D&I networks or training at the majority white population – include people of colour in the designing of these programmes, ensure people of colour are attending these sessions.

So, the lesson for us all is get out there! Read more, learn more and engage with those who have different lived experiences to you.

Happy Thursday everyone!