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Widening the Gender Circle

Written by MJ Ryan, SheEO Development Guide

June is LGBTQ+ Pride month and I can’t let it pass without honoring the occasion. It’s always been an important time in our San Francisco Bay Area household, what with many queer relatives and friends and the best parade in the world, if we do say so ourselves.

A cis straight woman, I’ve always considered myself a strong lesbian and gay ally, but when my then 19-year-old came to me and said they were nonbinary, used they/them pronouns, and were changing their name, it was a whole new level of learning.  A five year journey of educating myself on the difference between gender identity (who you know yourself to be) and sexuality (who you are attracted to). Of getting used to their new name and pronouns (still occasionally slipping up on the latter—the brain’s tendency to habituate is SO strong). Of educating my friends and relatives on gender and pronouns, which I was glad to do so Finn didn’t have to because they didn’t have to hear for the seemingly millionth time that it’s not grammatically correct to use they for an individual person (whatever someone wants to be called, please honor it. No lectures needed from the grammar police.)

But the hardest thing for me by far has been meeting so many LGBTQ+ young people who have to be in the closet or who cruelly have been disowned by their families, literally cast out. Like my beliefs about so many other social and racial injustices, I naively had thought the majority of folks were past such prejudice, much less being willing to cut off their own child. I can’t even conceive of what such hatred does to the human heart.

At SheEO, we have been in deep conversation, contemplation and learning about gender inclusion given our original purpose to be a community of radically generous women supporting women working on the World’s To Do list. Recently we crafted an inclusion statement that I wanted to share here: “We welcome cis and trans women and non-binary folks into our community. At this moment we are not a space for men. As we transform we will continue to evolve this inclusion statement.” Hopefully, it will inspire you in your organizations to make explicit who is welcome to stretch the circle wider. SheEO is also hosting a Pride Story Slam tonight, June 28, to amplify, witness and honor LBBTQ+ voices in our community.  We’d love it if you could join us.

A while ago, one of my favorite social media bloggers, Unitarian minister John Pavlovitz, posted a message for trans folks. I am re-posting it here in hopes that every single person in the LGBTQ+ community who needs to hear this today does so. And please, if you are an ally or family member of someone who is being marginalized for their sexuality or gender, please share it with them as well:

I wanted you to hear words that you deserve to hear, in case you haven’t:

You are loved.

You are not a mistake.

You are not a disappointment.

You are original and beautiful—and just as you’re supposed to be.

You are doing amazing things to alter this place every single day.

This world is better, kinder, more wonderful because you are here.

I wouldn’t want you to change a thing about yourself.I am proud of you.”

And if you want to educate yourself more about gender, here is a great starting place.

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