As a result of shouting loudly about the need to include LGBT+ families in the discussions around pregnancy, baby and child loss – I’ve had several conversations lately to support charities in making their support materials inclusive. So I thought I’d share what I would recommend…
Now, obviously, I am one part of a long list of letters than aims to bring together many, many different people. There is a reason our symbol as a community is a rainbow. It is incredibly diverse. Aiming for diversity and inclusion isn’t as simple as ticking the LGBT+ box because there are quite simply, many different boxes to tick.
That said, I think there are many ways that people producing content, training and support services can challenge their inclusiveness. Not just for our community, but for all those who don’t easily fit in the white, middle-class, able, cisgenered and educated categories.
I’m going to write this blog without a do and don’t vibe, because I do not know or even think that this list exists. However, I’d like to just prompt some questions to help people reflect and challenge themselves and find their own answers.
If you aren’t really sure why it’s important, I spoke about this earlier, here.
Understand the communities you are trying to actively include
The challenge with being actively inclusive to LGBT+ families is that we are not a single concept. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, non-binary, pansexual and so on. All different aspects of the rainbow – all with their own diversities. Not all lesbians are the same, obviously.
How much do you, and your teams, know about this community? Do you have people representing the community within your Board, employees or volunteers? Who can help you sense check your work to ensure that it best meets the diverse needs of all?
How much do you understand about the varying routes to parenthood that are present in the LGBT+ community, and the challenges that may be faced. How much does your training and content reflect those differences?
Some scenarios below that you may want to use as opportunities to reflect on this:
How equipped is your service and content to support the needs of same-sex couples or single LGBT+ parents going through private fertility treatment, or using donor sperm or eggs, or surrogacy. Or people utilising known donors outside the clinic environment, through casual or legal arrangements. What about the complexities surrounding international surrogacies and loss. Or trans men going through pregnancy and loss? What about a same-sex couple going through concurrent pregnancies, with one or both involving loss? Or a loss at the time when a partner is postpartum?
These are just some examples to consider. It is worth exploring LGBT+ parenthood and applying those scenarios to a loss situation and considering how equipped you are to support as an organisation.
Things to consider:
What unique challenges might these families face?
Could your language unintentionally exclude these families?
Are you familiar with what additional layers to grief might be experienced?
How could their individual circumstances impact any onward pregnancies?
What challenges might they have already faced prior to loss, through family and friends support and through maternity services?
Showcase families of all dynamics and backgrounds
Generally speaking, if someone is trying to find support and understand if a charity or service is going to help them, they will be looking for themselves to be reflected in the materials showcased. This is a very basic concept of marketing; people respond more to things that look and feel like them. Therefore, in a diverse world and with a topic that can impact everyone – it’s vital to have that diversity in beneficiaries reflected in the content shared.
There is also a point here that when we know that baby loss affects certain communities more than others, there’s a question to ask about how much the content reflects that disparity? More black and Asian families experience baby loss, and therefore more black and Asian families may require support. How much does your content show those families that this is safe and supportive environment for people from their community?
Think about the journey someone might have with your organisation. For example, take a look at your leaflets or your website. Place yourself in the position of another person. Imagine you are a non-birth mother or a single lesbian or a gay dad or a trans man. Or even further, what about a black, disabled lesbian? How might they explore your services?
Can someone easily see that your organisation welcomes families like theirs? What images do you have? Are these token efforts or do you offer diversity within diversity? Are different family types shown with equal standing to each other?
Do you have lived experiences within your content from a range of people within that community? Is it token efforts, single stories, or is there a range? For example, one story from the LGBT+ community amongst hundreds from the straight community doesn’t give LGBT+ families an equal or comparable opportunity to find stories like there’s. See above re multiple tick boxes. We are not one size fits all. Would you be content with only one or two stories from straight families?
How do people find this content? Is it easily found? Are those stories a needle in the haystack, or are you using tags, categories, or specific sections or booklets to help someone easily find what they are looking for? How could you make sure that people feel seen, heard and supported by the way you share stories? Are you directly talking to them, and only them? Or is your content generic for all? How effective do you feel your approach is?
Engage with the community and speak to your supporters to continue to learn
Engage, communicate and gather feedback. There will never be a one-size fits all concept to diversity but by listening, actively, your teams can become more aware of the issues present to different communities. How could you go about this? Who could you engage with? Where can you gain feedback? Are you always getting feedback from the same people? Who isn’t giving you feedback, and why?
How much do you know about how prevalent loss is for a particular community you are trying to reach and include? Is this an area that needs more attention, research and advocacy? Can you raise this conversation with others more and gain a wider picture from the experiences of the charity network? How well is this community supported at a maternity services level, and what work needs to happen here? What can you learn from maternity services and charities and their inclusivity that can filter into yours?
Just because a particular community might feel lesser in volume, doesn’t mean that they are lesser in need. Often, those communities who are smaller will find it more challenging to get peer-to-peer support at groups, or online. They may already have challenges with their personal support network, and struggle with discrimination and inclusion in other areas of their life. How much do your teams understand the day to day challenges of the LGBT+ community? They may not expect a charity to be welcoming of them and their identity – especially if none of the above is done! It is common for members of the LGBT+ community to look for overt signs of inclusion before engaging with a support service.
Don’t make perfect the enemy of good
Just do something. Small changes can make a huge difference. At every reprint or redraft, what can you tweak? Can you be that critical voice in a strategy meeting that just asks the questions, in order to tweak a project to better meet the needs of others?
Diversity within diversity
LGBT+ people are rarely defined soley because they are LGBT+. They will also be part of other communities you may be seeking to reach – they may be disabled, or Black, or working class, or single, or abuse victims, or teenagers, or….
When we actively aim to include one community (as an example, male partners) you may inadvertidly exclude another community (as an example, female non-birth mothers). How can you level the opportunities for support, so that both are directly spoken too and neither feel excluded?
Striving for diversity is never and should never be about ticking that one box. There are too many boxes to tick. The aim here is to engage with a diverse range of people, communities and experiences. Loss itself is not a single story; and neither are humans.
GLAAD An Ally’s Guide to Terminology
HFEA Same Sex Couples information