opinion Newport Rhode Island

Existing as an LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) person takes a lot of strength.  Finding people and places that affirm LGBTQIA+ people as human beings can be tricky, especially if the nature of one’s queerness falls outside of white gay cisgender affluence and assimilation.  That’s why I, as a queer person, am so excited to see the big step five community-focused nonprofits took in undergoing the BRAVE (Belonging, Respect, Alliance, Validity, Equity) Space certification process.  Thanks to the Dr. Martin Luther King Center, Bike Newport, Conexión Latina Newport, Women’s Resource Center, and FabNewport for being the first to take the plunge. 

The criteria challenge the organizations in eleven areas.  They must: have assessable gender inclusive restrooms, conduct accountability processes for staff and clients, create an intersectional and LGBTQIA+ inclusive equity and inclusion statement, have nongendered dress codes (or no dress codes) that promote freedom of expression and workplace safety, have visible gender and sexuality affirming materials, include gender and sexuality affirming language on forms, promote LGBTQIA+ groups and spaces within the organization, participate in annual intersectional LGBTQIA+ training, build a team of LGBTQIA+ peer advocates, have inclusive hiring practices, and add BRAVE Space changes to the employee handbook. 

Huge thanks to the Newport Health Equity Zone’s LGBTQIA+ working group and Dr. Martin Luther King Center for leading this effort and to Melanie Saunders for being the project manager who wrangled these organizations through the process.  No easy task, and requiring a lot of patience and thoughtful conversations.  I’m hopeful other organizations will follow suit and be an enthusiastic Yes! to taking on the BRAVE Space certification process.  LGBTQIA+ people are not safe anywhere, and the hard work to chip away at the insidious banal oppression our society upholds will result in a more just future for everyone.  

Rex LeBeau, Newport

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