So as a queer lesbian woman I usually take a breath before entering a room and remind myself that probably someone will say something homophobic. Then I put up this special wall and only let it down once I’ve discovered that everyone in the room is either a queer or an ally. Mostly I do this subconsciously, which is pretty sad.
I was part of a meeting recently where a woman made a homophobic comment. Of course this was upsetting to me. But what is more upsetting is those straight people who did not comment. That is complicity. After debating with her, me and the other queers were the people who left the room. People who didn’t leave the room with us, or ask the other person to leave, are complicit in her actions. I now have to process for days because this is what I live, not something I can observe and shrug off. If you feel uncomfortable reading this, good. Cause you’re unease is nothing to my fucking rage and disappointment.
How does this happen?
I don’t have the answers, and am perhaps too upset to start that conversation. And actually, I am not the one who should educate people on this. But I do have suggestions for how to stop it from happening again.
– Have a good facilitator. When it is a collective meeting it’s best to have a rotating facilitators. That means everyone takes it in turns so no one has more power. But when it is a more general meeting, someone needs to facilitate and do so respectfully but strongly.
– Have a progressive speaking list. This means that people who haven’t spoken are prioritised before those who have. Generally this helps stop some people dominating
– If there is a grievance where someone from a minority or oppressed group is voicing their unease or anger, people from that group are prioritized to speak before those who aren’t from the group. Most especially, they are to always be heard before the person who has caused the grievance.
– Ask the person/people who are effected how they wish to proceed from that point. They are the ones who run the meeting from that moment, if they so wish.
– Don’t ever blame the person who is upset. Especially if that person/people feel unable to remain present when it comes to trying to reconcile the situation. If they are upset ask them what they need. If they need a break, do so. If they need to stop the meeting organize for the conversation to happen again. As an ally, this is your job, not theirs.
– Stop the person who has offended others from talking. Let me repeat: stop them from talking. From this point they should listen. Having them constantly interrupt only further reinforces their privilege and power. This will most likely affect the person/people more, leading them to be upset. This is shit because of course we do not wish to upset those grieved more but also it further reinforces them as “too sensitive” or as “over-reacting”
I’m sure there is heaps more but I guess I have to spend some time contemplating. I really encourage other folks to add to this list. Perhaps together we can make sure the walls no longer exist.