What LGBT+ members want you to know
Use this advice to make sure everyone feels like they belong when they're with us
June is Pride Month: an annual celebration of the LGBT+ community, it's a time for young members, volunteers and staff to show their support for others and celebrate LGBT+ identities.
Rachel Ripley shares some advice from our network of inclusion advisors for supporting LGBT+ members of Girlguiding throughout Pride Month and during the whole year.
Whether you're a volunteer or young member, use their advice to make sure everyone feels like they belong when they're with us.
Here are some of Rachel’s top tips:
Your first reaction has a lasting impact – both good and bad
We all know the importance of first impressions and your initial reaction towards us can have a big impact. You might not know exactly what to say or worry about inadvertently upsetting us but just a simple acknowledgement or smile can validate how we feel and make us feel safe.
Please don’t ‘out’ us or rush us to come out
‘Outing’ someone is where you tell others that we’re a member of the LGBT+ community without our consent. We often come out in stages. For example, our friends might know, but we might not have told our parents yet. The best way to avoid accidentally outing someone is to ask them directly who they’re out to and how you can best support them.
Please don’t question how sure we are. It’s not just a phase
We may question our sexual orientation or gender identity when there’s a safe space to do so. Allow us the freedom to do so without judgement - it can take time to work out who you are!
Take it as a compliment if we come out to you
Coming out is when someone tells another person about their sexual orientation or gender identity. We don’t always get a positive reaction and coming out can be a scary thing, so it means we trust you if we have chosen to tell you.
It really helps when you use inclusive language such as 'Guides' instead of 'girls' or 'partner' instead of 'husband'
This helps to avoid putting us all in a potentially awkward or embarrassing situation. Otherwise, we may feel the need to hide our true identity or feel pressured into coming out to correct people’s assumptions about our sexual orientation or gender identity.
Please don’t be afraid of pronouns – just ask if you aren’t sure!
Pronouns are words used to refer to someone, for example ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some prefer to use gender neutral pronouns, such as ‘they’ or ‘them’.
Celebrate difference in all forms
We are all unique and individual and we love it when this is accepted and recognised. Just like all members of guiding, we come from different families, have different backgrounds and experiences and love it when these differences are celebrated!
And always be prepared!
It’s always good to be prepared. You know what our young members are like, they can surprise us with something completely out of the blue. I once had a Guide who, out of nowhere, came out to me and the group of Guides we were sat with at the time.
It was so matter of fact. They came out by talking about their girlfriend and getting them a present. Some of the younger Guides looked a bit surprised and it was clearly the first time they had come across this before. I suddenly realised that this was a critical moment and a real opportunity to make this Guide feel included and welcomed for who they are.
First reactions have a lasting impact. I smiled and simply replied, “cool, what are you getting for them?” just as I would have had they talked about a boyfriend.
This might not seem like much, but from experience, I know that the smallest things can sometimes have the biggest impact. By including this one girl we had started to normalise LGBT+ relationships for our whole unit, providing a safe space for them and any other LGBT+ members of the unit to be themselves.
Diversity and inclusion at Girlguiding
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