I am a 58-year old cisgender female, who uses the pronouns ‘she, her, hers.’
This disclosure was foreign to me until last year when I began working here at Walden Behavioral Care. I hadn’t realized the importance of these types of introductions until I joined the LGBTQ+ task force.
The mission of this passionate group of people is to cultivate an affirming and inclusive environment for patients and employees. One of the main goals of the task force is to nurture an environment that reflects and helps to build upon a greater cultural shift toward equal rights and access to care.
In a report by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), and The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ suicide prevention organization, it was found that more than half of LGBTQ+ youth aged 13 and 24 had been diagnosed with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. The report’s findings are based on an online survey of 1,034 young people who self-identified as LGBTQ+ and resided in the U.S.
These statistics were startling to me. I knew immediately, I wanted to help this community in any way that I could.
As an executive on the task force, one of the first initiatives I was brought, was a proposal to begin incorporating pronouns into our email signatures, ID badges and business cards. My initial response was “why do we need to do this” and “is it really that important?” After receiving a thorough education, I soon changed my thinking to “why WOULDN’T we do this?”
Unfortunately, marginalized populations don’t often have the luxury of assuming that the world around them will be safe.
This realization really affected me. All individuals deserve the opportunity to heal in a welcoming, empathetic and inclusive environment. While we can’t control how others interact with diverse communities, we can control how they’re treated while they’re here with us.
To be honest, I am trying, really trying to be aware of how I speak and the language I use.
It’s important that I lead by example – and I am doing that by making mistakes. Transparency has been a really helpful tool for me as I continue this learning process. I have accepted that I am imperfect and am diligent in owning my mistakes. I make sure to apologize and correct myself to show others that this is important to me.
Still, I sometimes fall into my old ways.
The other day, I addressed a group of people using “you guys.” I got the ‘eye’ from one of my colleagues for using gendered language and immediately corrected myself. The ‘old me’ used “you guys” as an informal way to speak to a group. I have since learned that in order to be explicitly welcoming, I have to be careful not to genderize language. I am practicing using “y’all” and “friends” etc. to replace “you guys” or “you ladies.” It’s a more challenging process than I would like, but I know that it will soon become second nature. I think that simply being more mindful of what I say is a good first step.
We have all heard the old adages, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s hard to teach an old dog, new tricks. I am trying though. I promise that I will keep trying in order to help make others feel accepted. It’s a learning curve y’all and I am committed to making this change happen.
It is important that we all try.
We live in a complex world and we all play an integral role in shaping it into one that feels safer for all people.