Written by James Spearin, Chair of LGBTQ Resource Network
Senior Vice President, Youth Development
YMCA OF GREATER KANSAS CITY
As a leader fortunate to have been given the opportunity to represent staff and allies throughout the Movement, I am often able to see the many wonderful advances in equity throughout the country and indeed across the world before others. These advances happen every day because of the engaging work and dialogue delivered by our organization. One of the best parts of my work is having a platform to lift up and champion these stories of inclusion, bridging differences and building understanding and affirmation that we are all part of this world, linked together in unbreakable ways. With this platform comes a great deal of responsibility. Unfortunately, I am also privy to the less glamorous and sadder stories of those averse to diversity, inclusion and global (DIG) work and part of my responsibility is to find ways to open doors and initiate conversation in meaningful ways.
Over the years, I have found what’s best for me is to lift up the positive DIG work in the Movement, and show the business case and tell stories that build relationships with new people through shared experiences. As obvious as it sounds, it’s striking that in most disagreements- some so small and some of seemingly monumental scale – the root is the perception that each side of the argument has nothing in common. But it’s a pretty safe bet that most of us have several things in common. Our lives, experiences, tastes, tendencies, heritage and more all intersect. It is important that we take the time to build relationships based upon those shared experiences. Senator Richard Ross (R) of Massachusetts and the father of a student I taught many years ago said to me while teaching a lesson to my students on his family’s history and that history of many of the townsmen and women, “Meet a man where he is and find one thing you have in common. Build a friendship from that one thing in common and you’ll both grow from there.” Richard’s words are as true for me today as they were nearly 20 years ago.
Politicians come and go, as do their policies and initiatives. Sometimes our priorities are center stage and sometimes we have to work harder to find those shared experiences with one another. As champions of DIG work, we understand that our best future is one in which all of us can live without oppression, free to pursue our own dreams and desires. It’s a delicate balance, of course. We all want to be free from anyone telling us what to do. And yet, without a foundation of understanding, we feel free to judge others when they do differently than we would. Resist that temptation to judge and meet any man where he is with a goal to find shared experiences and learn anew together. Become enlightened, thoughtful, reflective, open-minded to each of our freedoms to pursue as we wish. And, celebrate that freedom! It is with those celebrations that we move steps every day toward that peaceful and fully inclusive world.
While we may believe that equity is fundamental, our mistake is believing we get there with just one fight. Rather, the pathway to equity, to freedom, indeed to that Nirvana we seek is through sometimes seemingly glacial speeds involving intentionality, purpose, and a genuine desire to build relationships through shared experiences, even with those we can’t imagine having anything in common with. I challenge you to think of this work as part of our Mission. The values we set forth allows us to open ourselves to new people and experiences. Those same values center us during the most difficult of times as we take a new step each day in our DIG initiatives. I promise you that when you look back throughout your career, you’ll be blown away by how many steps we took together and how we changed the Y and the world, for good.
June is LGBTQ Pride Month in many parts of the country. June was chosen to remember the Stonewall Riots. Pride is one way we lift up those many remarkable figures that have helped advance our cause and shape our country for the better. Please join me and our Steering Committee of talented leaders throughout the U.S. as we lift up the many wonderful stories of inclusion, equity and affirmation. Everyone is welcome to join and we truly need everyone involved building relationships through shared experiences. In Y Exchange, go to My Profile and under Special Interests, click on any and all of the Employee Resource Groups you’d like to join. We can belong to all of them as an ally!
Engaging Your Y through PRIDE
Join us for conversation about how to engage your Y in PRIDE events. Leadership from across the Movement will join in for a panel discussion focusing on the importance of this work, its impact on our inclusion efforts, and what type of engagement opportunities can be found within our communities. Learn more about the work of the LGBTQ Resource Network, gain advice on how to start conversations internally and externally, and hear success stories from coast to coast.
June 28, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (CT)
Register here: https://yusa.webex.com/yusa/k2/j.php?MTID=tf8d728129ac5af6fa2c71f701358ae8b