Connecting Communities: Creating Safe Spaces for 2SLGBTQ+ Students and Staff

Authors: Joshua Sauer, APR | He/Him; Carla Pereira, APR | She/Her

As school public relations leaders, we have the ability to challenge and address injustices, exclusion and inequity. We do this through input on policy development, awareness-raising, the use of inclusive language and images, support for culturally responsive practices and amplifying the voices of communities who are marginalized.

Keep these five things in mind when working, through communication, to create safe spaces for the 2SLGBTQ+ community:

Be familiar with key terms: 2SLGBTQ+.

2SLGBTQ+ is an acronym used to identify two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning as a community of people whose sexual and gender identities can create shared political and social concerns. Yes, in 2019.You may not be familiar with the plus sign (+) or the 2S. The plus sign (+) represents the fact that many communities choose to expand the acronym to include other identities. 2S stands for “two-spirited” and must be contextualized within a Native American framework. The term is used by some indigenous peoples to describe individuals who carry out a traditional third-gender role in their cultures. We placed 2S in front of LGBTQ+ to acknowledge that indigenous peoples were first on these lands. To gain a clearer understanding of each term listed above, visit itgetsbetter.org.

Remember voice vs. amplify.

In our roles, it is important to recognize that we cannot be the voice for all. It is not our intention here to speak for everyone in the 2SLGBTQ+ community or for all district communicators. Sometimes, our lived experiences are quite different than those for whom we advocate. This does not mean we cannot be allies.What we’ve learned in doing equity work is that we must listen, acknowledge and actively support those who experience hardship. And sometimes, we need to apologize and do better. Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” So let’s do just that in support of students and staff who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. Together, we can create safe spaces for all.

Use personal experiences to guide your heart work.

As a communicator and trusted advisor for your school district, you the adversity you have face in life to guide your work. Let the adversity you have faced drives you to amplify the voices of others today.

Use an equity mindset.

Creating safe spaces in our schools and districts takes courage, and can be complex. The goal is to create positive climates for learning and working that inspire success, well-being and trust.Remind stakeholders that this is about supporting all by providing climates that are safe and inclusive of everyone. Besides being the right thing to do, it’s also the law.

Evaluate the use of heteronormative practices and use inclusive language.

Review content used on forms, messages sent home and how you celebrate days like Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.

Seek advice and learn continuously.

Know the space you occupy, and seek guidance from local leaders and advocates. Some may be staff and parents in your district. You can also reach out to us for free advice and support or extensive consulting, and/or presentations. Please contact us at carla.pereira@peelsb.com and/or Joshua.Sauer@mntc.edu.

When the work is right, just and good, we should. This is heart work.

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