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This Conversation Isn’t Over — from Words to Work!

This blog post is in accompaniment to recent statement we made, The Conversation Isn’t Over — Pride is Still Political

Our mandate as a small non-profit organization is to work towards building healthier communities where people of different backgrounds and experiences are more connected. The diverse communities we serve have much to celebrate for their accomplishments. The reality that a pride parade in Vancouver can draw out more than half a million people speaks to the work of the local LGBTQ2S+ community, and the shifting attitudes of people living in and outside of our city.

At the same time, many members of the local LGBTQ2S+ community continue to face barriers and isolation in the form of: heterosexism, cissexism, and other intersecting forms of oppression such as anti-Blackness, racism, classism, ableism, ageism, and many other legacies of colonization.

We endorse the notion of non-Black and non-Indigenous people listening more and speaking less when Indigenous folks and Black folks in our communities, especially those who identify within the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum, are reaching out, naming issues they live through as human beings, and expressing the need for these issues to be addressed meaningfully. For us, working within the principles of peer support continues to teach us the importance of centering and valuing the lived experiences of those most affected by indifference, discrimination and violence.

Even the most well-meaning of institutions will encounter challenges associated with creating meaningful change. Often, these can be traced to a misunderstanding of allyship; it is a verb; a state of action. It is not a state of being. To do this work with integrity, we all must understand that our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with; we cannot self-identify as allies. We can acknowledge our privileges, in this particular case, as institutions. As recipients and creators of privilege, we will always be capable of perpetuating systems of oppression from which our privilege came. and with privilege comes immense power. In allyship, we take guidance and direction from the people we seek to work with, not the other way around.

PeerNetBC stands by our ever-evolving working definition of allyship: an active, consistent, and challenging practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person of privilege seeks to iteratively work in solidarity with a marginalized group.

Those of us who have expressed commitment to allyship with the LGBTQ2S+ community, must continue to build our capacity to receive criticism, to be honest and responsible with our mistakes, and to recognize that being called out or in for making a mistake is a gift — that it is an honour of trust to receive a chance to be a more accountable organization, to learn, to grow, and to do things differently

The kind of community engagement PeerNetBC believes in fostering requires ongoing self-reflection in relation to others so that we might better know when and how to take up space, hold space, and give space up to those who need to be seen and heard in their existence, and in order to thrive. This work is rarely easy.

As an organization that has made mistakes, we empathize that this practice takes time and courage; we understand allyship is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups.

As an organization who works with a myriad of organizations and groups, we empathize that this work is challenging, that we often we have limited resources, and that we work within constraints.

At the same time, we, as institutions (non-profits organizations, governmental and law enforcement entities), have more work to do in recognizing and taking ownership of our responsibilities, and the realities of our decision making power to end the perpetuation of racism and other forms of oppression in our own practice.

We strongly encourage and support future conversations and processes with meaningful community engagement that centers marginalized people, and is rooted in principles of peer support, anti-oppression and allyship.

It is time for some of us to step out of the spotlight. It is time to make space for and amplify voices of the most marginalized, silenced, and ignored LGBTQ2S+ members of our communities calling for the resources, support, and actions required to address the very real challenges they face — on their terms.

 

For more information on allyship: