This article was published on April 14th, 2015
Privilege is when you think something doesn’t pertain to you. It is viewed for the most part, as something to be pointed out and exposed. Most recently there was a national reaction to a picture of six openly gay US ambassadors who were all white with a headline about advancement of LGBT rights.
This created a social media stir with people calling out the problem within the LGBT community about institutions and political systems in the United States being run by privileged and rich white gay men.
In Canada, are we different? In Canada we had our early parliamentary pioneers Swend Robinson, Libby Davies and Bill Siksay as elected officials that helped pave the way for equal rights.
There are no easy answers for this. Most LGBT boards and non-profit organizations have an inclusion and/or diversity policy, yet it still doesn’t ensure engagement or involvement. It could be argued that the reason for the lack of gender diversity is because women and ethnic minorities make less income than gay men and can least afford to be part of boards or community based organizations. Others say diversity itself with respect to ethnicity, youth or gender do not see their images or values represented within boards or organizations and in turn don’t step up to become involved.
There are many forms of privilege in the LGBT community and many narratives that talk about a ladder of privilege. The first step is to name it and be part of the change. This is where the responsibility of privilege comes in.
Privilege can be used in positive ways if the actions are associated for making space for others and creating organizational structures that represent gender and ethnic diversity. These need to be sustainable, create an environment of inclusion and structured for long lasting change. In other words, creating the fertile soil for inclusion. This is not suggesting affirmative action where people are appointed based on gender or ethnicity.
One of the challenges that negatively affect LGBT organizations is tokenism. This is why it is important to engage other groups and collaborate on the vision of inclusion. Successful boards and organizations require knowledgeable people with different professional skills and it needs to be balanced with values around diversity and inclusion in order for success.
It’s time to be part of the change and become part of the community where we are all working together to ensure LGBT organizations are diverse and successful. In addition, new Canadians have a lot to offer by participating on boards, volunteering and providing great experience for future jobs. Many boards and non-profits welcome diversity. Connect with them. Ask to see their policy on inclusion and get involved!