As Pride Month closes, I want to take one more minute to say that we see and love all of you.
Something I’ve been chewing on lately is the difference between saying “all are welcome” and “I have made a place for you, specifically.”
I see the first one a lot. On social media you’ll see posts like “I’m a safe person to come out to,” or “If you’re afraid I’ll walk with you,” or “Proud Ally.”
And it’s not that those things are bad, but also they don’t really feel like things we get to designate for ourselves. It’s up to the individual whether they think you’re the sort of person who can handle their identity in a safe way. It’s up to the scared person if they feel comfortable calling you for support. Being open and willing to accept people is very different from being someone people can rely on to handle their truth with respect and kindness.
Making a place for someone, to me, is more about learning about the issues that impact that group, taking your lead from people you admire who are already on scene and your cues from the people you know and care about who are impacted by your behavior in that group.
It has been difficult, and continues to be something I’m working on, imperfectly but constantly. It is so easy to hurt when we treat each other with labels, and it’s so hard to avoid those labels. But I think even the effort has been worth it. I can’t say if it’s made an impact on others necessarily, but I can say that it has taught me a lot about how to listen, how to empathize, and what it is that makes me feel safe around others, which I can then try to use in the future. So, I hope it’s been soothing to others, but as that’s not something I can just decide, I’ll believe that it has been a good exercise, if nothing else, and that’s all I can strive for.
I have been trying to do this more regularly, considering the people I am looking to encourage and finding ways of signaling to them that I’m not just willing to widen the circle, that I am in fact holding an empty chair in case they decide to join.
What does this look like to you? Do you have any stories of times you’ve seen this done well?