June is LGBTQ+ Pride month. It’s a time of celebration for many LGBTQ+ people, marked by parties and parades. But pride wasn’t always a party. LGBTQ+ Pride emerged out of the gay liberation movement of the 1970s, which sought to end violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. Since the 1970s LGBTQ+ folks in the US won the right to marry, and protections against discrimination in housing, employment, and medical care.
We must not forget, pride is political. It is an unapologetic statement by LGBTQ+ people that we are here and that we will not be silenced. Pride is also a political moment for allies. Clearly, you don’t have to be LGBTQ+ to support our community. Straight folks are welcome and encouraged to participate in pride festivities, but I would also invite you to do more. Our current political climate has created many challenges for LGBTQ+ people. Nationally, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people are increasing, and our current administration actively targets the rights of transgender people.
What Can Yoga Studios/Teachers Do to Support LGBTQ+ People?
There are lots of things that you can do to support LGBTQ+ folks, here are the 4 things that I think can make the biggest impact.
1. Celebrate and Acknowledge LGBTQ+ Pride Month and other LGBTQ+ Awareness Days
First and foremost, acknowledge pride! It’s as easy as making a social media post or including a paragraph in your newsletter. These simple steps will help your LGBTQ+ clients feel welcome and supported. You can also fly a rainbow flag or post some other signage that indicates your support for the community. But there are many other important LGBTQ+ days including Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20) and National Day of Silence (April). Check out this list for more.
2. Create Safe and Inclusive Spaces for LGBTQ+ People
It’s one thing to fly a rainbow flag but it’s another to create a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQ+ people. There are MANY great resources available for learning how to create safe/inclusive spaces. I’ve offered LGBTQ+ inclusion training at my university for six years; here are some basic tips:
- Don’t Assume – you cannot tell someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation from looking at them.
- Use inclusive language – avoid talking about “male” or “female” “energy” or “natures”; remember not all men have penises and not all women have periods. In general, try to avoid gendering bodies.
- Offer gender-neutral restrooms/changing areas
- Shut down homophobic/transphobic language – period.
3. Donate to LGBTQ+ Organizations
Put your money where your mouth is. Consider offering a special donation-based yoga practice(s) to raise money for LGBTQ+ organizations, especially local organizations or organizations support LGBTQ+ racial and ethnic minorities. Similarly, reach out to local LGBTQ+ organizations and OFFER to help them raise funds.
4. Offer FREE Classes
Yoga shouldn’t be a luxury. Unfortunately, many folks simply cannot afford a $15 drop-in class or a $120 monthly membership. LGBTQ+ people, especially people of color, face significant financial hardships due to housing and employment discrimination. Consider offering a few free or low-cost classes each month to low-income folks in your community.
What do you do?
This is by no means a complete list! Leave a comment below and let me know what kinds of things you do to support LGBTQ+ folks in your studio. Or, if you’re LGBTQ+, tell me what you’d like teachers and studios to do.