As a grassroots educator and activist, I am a huge proponent of creating safe environments for people to learn and thrive. I don’t believe that people can truly let go of their inhibitions and indulge in sexuality education without a safe space to foster the growth. One of my favorites methods for creating safe spaces are Diversity Welcomes.
The purpose of a Diversity Welcome is to be as inclusive as possible, and to create an environment that encourages thinking outside of the box. Oftentimes when educating about sexuality, many people are left out of the conversation, and it’s those omissions that may shut people down. One way to avoid exclusion is to conduct a Diversity Welcome. A Diversity Welcome is a literal verbal welcoming of identities and diversity to the space. Let me elaborate…
I recently facilitated an Institute at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change in Houston, Texas with the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance. During our Institute (Recentering and Reclaiming Sexual Freedom as Fundamental Human Rights), someone spoke up and said that they knew that we were talking a lot about sexuality, but they were concerned that the asexual community was being left out of the conversation. I explained how I wanted everyone to feel included regardless of their identity, but wanted to note that we weren’t talking about many sexualities explicitly and that, personally, I was not able to speak for many communities. Our goal was to affirm that sexual freedom is a fundamental human right for all people. I explained that we hadn’t explicitly talked about differently abled folks, those who aren’t able to be out about their sexuality, people who are in the asexual community, among many others. I then promised to deliver a Diversity Welcome after lunch to provide a more inclusive space.
This is the Diversity Welcome that I wrote and used at Creating Change to create a safer space:
“I don’t know anyone’s backgrounds, identities, or experiences, but I do know that we all come forward with myriad intersectionalities, and I also know that there are many bodies and human beings who are not present.
I want to open this diversity welcome to be inclusive of all people’s rights to sexual freedom. I want to welcome people who are differently abled, who are spiritual, who are pagan, welcome people who are pansexual, who are great-grandparents, who are Native American, people who have had abortions, who have experienced sexual violence, welcome people who are not able to use the pronouns of their choice, who cannot afford to attend Creating Change, welcome those who have experienced family violence, who practice sex work, who aren’t able to kiss the person of their choice in public…”
After you, as the facilitator, have listed a variety of different identities and communities, you should begin speaking even slower to indicate that people in the audience should begin contributing and chiming in with the identities of those who they perceive to be missing from the space. This activity works best when people have their eyes closed, or are looking down. The facilitator can chime in with more identities when people seem hesitant, but make sure to “let silence ride” and allow space for comfortable silence so that those who are less outspoken have time to think and space to speak.
After the Diversity Welcome, you have a few options of how to move on. You can:
- Talk about what people thought of the Diversity Welcome. Did they enjoy it? Did they feel like they had space to speak? Were there identities and communities that were still excluded?
- Ask participants why they think that this activity was included.
- Thank everyone for participating and move immediately into the next activity to keep things flowing and make the Diversity Welcome more natural.
The Diversity Welcome that I provided above is just my version of many combinations and infinite variety. Diversity Welcomes can change based on the audience, the lesson plan, and the goals that you have as the educator. Feel free to use the Diversity Welcome and adapt it to fit your needs.
Who do you want to welcome to the table?