Being Seen + Being Heard = Being Included: The Importance of Action
I am writing this piece after a tough experience navigating this country’s administration. In late October 2018 the Human Rights Campaign reported that the Trump-Pence administration plans to erase non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across federal agencies. Quickly, the hashtag #WONTBEERASED became the narrative in opposition, as well as empowerment to those whose invisibility and silencing would result should the proposed protections be undone.
As I navigated several spaces across and off my campus today, I had only two conversations about this national, breaking news: one with a woman of color and one with a gay couple I ran into at lunch. I struggled through my day thinking of my husband who is transgender, thinking of our family (as I know this will upset our daughters) and thinking of many transgender, non-binary, gender-queer youth and their parents, who have this additional worry on top of a long “Will my kid be safe?” list. I also thought about all the adults who identify that I have seen transition against so many odds and their concerns about their futures.
As if all of that brain swirling was not enough, I then started thinking of all my friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances who have not offered a question, condolence, protest or supportive utterance to me or my partner. I feel unseen, unheard and unincluded in a space that usually feels safe and inclusive. I am reminded of how isolating it is to be different from the mainstream that surrounds me. Advocacy fatigue is real, and it is the reason why having support around you is paramount in being able to commit to creating diversity and inclusion. Encouragement from others is sometimes the fuel I need to stay the course but when I need it most, it is elusive.
I have decided that activism is how I will impact this silence: protesting, rallying, organizing – that is how I will be seen and heard! I will push through the heteronormative, I will raise my voice in solidarity, and I will show up in hopes of offsetting how small I feel in this moment. Intentionality is everything. We must be intentional every day in our interactions with one another to create diversity and inclusion. We must be aware of the issues, challenges and resistance against those that are NOT us.
I am a fan of regulating my exposure to the media, because it is necessary to exercise self-care. However, I try to stay in tune with enough to know what is happening and not to what just affects me. Twitter allows me to intentionally follow national and global issues that affect identities not held by me, so I can lend my support, voice and action. That is affecting equality, creating equity and inclusion. You cannot show up, speak out, or uplift “others” without participating. On campus it is so easy: simply attend a multicultural event to understand people unlike you, listen to a guest speaker and learn from a content expert about the experiences of others, or simply ASK how people are doing. In the nation’s current climate, everyone could use a little more TLC.
Because I chose to actively engage, I expected those around me to as well. I created my own disappointment by setting that expectation; I understand that. My question, however, is this: how will any of us affect the changes necessary in this world – to have every person, every voice and each body valued – if we do not expect one another to commit to be a part of the equality movement?