This week we’re shining a particularly bright and sparkly spotlight on the LGBTQIA+ community as we gear up for one of our favourite (and most colourful) festivals of the year – Mardi Gras.
However, beyond the glitz and glamour, it’s important to understand how to support the LGBTQIA+ community year round. There are always ways to do more, but it can be hard to know where to start – which is why we’ve opened the floor to Eva from Minus18, a not-for-profit organisation improving the lives of LGBTQIA+ youth in Australia.
From creating a safe space to what it means to be a good ally and the respectful way to ask someone’s pronouns, Eva kindly answers some commonly asked questions and provides their advice on how we can all support the LGBTQIA+ community.
MECCA: Hi Eva! Thanks for chatting with us. Can you start by sharing your preferred pronouns?
Can you tell us a little about Minus18 and what you do there?
“Minus18 started more than 20 years ago in Melbourne, as a parent-led effort to provide safe social spaces for LGBTQIA+ young people. From there, it’s grown dramatically – we still deliver incredible life-affirming events but also offer LGBTQIA+ inclusion education for schools and workplaces, as well as a wealth of free online resources.
“In my role as fundraising relationships coordinator, I work with anyone who wants to fundraise in support of our work to help make their activity as impactful and engaging as possible. I work with everyone – from a young person running a sausage sizzle or bake sale, all the way through to a business or workplace delivering an Australia-wide activity across all their offices or stores!”
Is it OK to ask someone what their pronouns are? If so, what’s the best way to ask?
What’s your advice if you’re talking to someone and you realise you don’t know their pronouns?
Could you use gender neutral pronouns?
We often hear about how important it is to create safe spaces. How would you define a safe space?
What’s involved in creating a safe space and where should we all start?
“Firstly, it’s important to listen to the people who the safe space is for, and to recognise that no two people’s needs are the same. We all have multiple identities – I, for instance, am queer, trans, disabled and neurodiverse – and it’s important that everyone can bring all of who they are into the space. Ask what people need and use that as a basis. It might be creating quiet zones or perhaps some shared guidelines around inclusive language.
“Secondly, don’t forget that it’s an ongoing journey. Safe spaces take work to maintain and the shared agreement of everyone in that space to do so. Taking time regularly to reflect, and perhaps to have challenging conversations as a group, are essential.
“Finally, understand that things can and will go wrong sometimes. We’re all human, after all. What matters most is making sure that you have a respectful, solutions-focused process for resolving disputes and challenges, one which is transparent to anyone participating in it, but which protects their privacy and personal space as well.”