Bridget Koestner, The Alliance’s QCASA(Queer Caucus Against Sexual Assault and Campus Services Coordinator, leads a conversation on the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ rights and the anti-sexual violence movement. Panelists Farron Harvey, J.D. Melendez. and Katelyn Owens share their knowledge and perspectives on the unique barriers that LGBTQ+ survivors face, and how to best provide these survivors with the support and empowerment that they deserve. Additionally, they discuss topics such as supporting LGBTQ+ staff in the workplace, and the important intersection of sexual orientation/gender identity and race. This program was moderated by Bridget Koestner, and created with support from the Alliance’s Queer Caucus Against Sexual Assault and the Triangle Community Center.
Speaker 1 (00:00)
Speaker 2 (00:02)
All right, so welcome, everyone. Thank you all so much for joining us for today’s panel supporting LGBTQ plus survivors of sexual violence. The Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence is so excited to be collaborating on this project with the Triangle Community Center during their 2020 Virtual Pride Week. So before we get started, I just do want to remind folks that the topic of sexual violence is one that impacts many people’s lives and of course, can be triggering. So please, as you are watching this program, please feel free to take whatever space you may need from it at any time that you need. Your self care is what’s most important. Additionally, if you do need support, please feel free to access our free 24/7 statewide confidential sexual Violence Hotline to speak with an advocate, and you can reach that number at any time at 188-99-5545 in English and 188-568-8332 in Spanish. So I am Bridget Kefner, and I go with the pronouns she, her, hers. I am a campus service coordinator with the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and I’m also a member of the alliance’s Clear Caucus against Sexual assault. I’m incredibly excited to have some awesome panelists with us today, so if you’d each like to take turns in introducing yourselves, that would be awesome.
Speaker 3 (01:40)
All right. I am JD Melendez. I go by he, him, his. I was previously one of the LGBT advocates in the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and I now run the LGBTQ civil rights info line for GLAAD over in Boston, and I think that’s pretty much it.
Speaker 4 (02:06)
Awesome. Good morning. My name is Farron. My pronouns are they and she, based in Connecticut, and I’m really excited to be here today. A lot of my work is community oriented, and I come from a variety of backgrounds.
Speaker 1 (02:29)
Hi, everybody. My name is Caitlin Owens. I am the violence prevention specialist at the center for Family Justice in Bridgeport. I have done LGBTQ casework in community education, actually in JD’s footsteps. So that’s really exciting and nerve wracking. And I also just have to shout out this background that my partner, without prompting, spent hours designing for me. So I have to shout out Smash for that, otherwise I would feel really guilty for the rest of the day.
Speaker 2 (03:00)
All right, thank you all so much for introducing yourselves and for being here today. We’re so excited to have you. So in order to just provide a little context and background for folks, how would you define sexual violence in your own words?
Speaker 1 (03:23)
I’ll go, okay, so the urge to use a spoken word poem is already coursing through my blood, but I’m going to hold off because I definitely will do it, but I’m going to hold off at this one. So I’ve actually been with my prevention team at CFJ using power based violence and gender based violence a lot to kind of use more terms to speak more specifically to the types of violence that people experience. Sexual violence to me is the voice and the actions that normalize and perpetuate assault and domination and control over everyone. So in a way, we’re all kind of creating and protecting that system of sexual violence in our society through jokes or stereotypes or inaction. To me, it’s obviously harassment and assault, but it’s also a black woman’s inability to walk into a sexual assault survivor group and be able to talk about the racism that she deals with or a queer person’s inability to. Report their perpetrator because they’re more focused on hiding their identity as a queer person or taking care of their own mental health because they cannot afford or find an LGBTQ affirming therapist to even talk to.
Speaker 4 (04:39)
Can you repeat the question?
Speaker 2 (04:43)
Sure. Just to provide some context and background for folks, how would you define sexual violence in your own words?
Speaker 3 (04:59)
So as a simplified version, when people who aren’t really well versed will ask, I give them my little clip, and it’s any unwanted sexual act, contact, or questions put on another person without their consent. And I think that can go beyond just what we perceive as sexual violence. And it could be something even deeper, like asking trans person about their genitalia or not respecting their pronouns in a workplace. All of those are forms of sexual violence as well.
Speaker 4 (05:37)
Yeah, I think both of those definitions feel accurate. I often just think about sexual violence as non consensual, unwanted interactions that can vary on the spectrum of it could kind of vary. It could be from something as simple as cat calling. It could be something really complex with dating someone and the incident happened and then it escalated. And so I said that to say it’s really rooted in boundaries being crossed or consent breach, which can feel really complicated, especially when folks are still figuring out what is like boundaries and what does consent look like since we are so deeply embedded in a rape culture.
Speaker 1 (06:39)
Speaker 2 (06:39)
And thank you all for sharing your own definitions. So we know that in sexual violence, there are definitely disparities in the way that specific communities will experience sexual violence. So what can you tell us from your understanding about those disparities within the LGBTQ plus community?
Speaker 3 (07:06)
We got to come up with some sort of order here because we’re all just looking at each other. All right, I’ll go first and then not next time, though. So I think something that we see a lot or I have seen in my work history is early targeting of children who are perceived as having some sort of queer identity or who may manifest their gender or just who they are in a way that society doesn’t see as, quote, normal or that trans misogyny that people experience anyway. I think something that LGBTQ kids have experienced is targeting by predators who sort of can see that and will use that to shame them and also keep them silent. And then on top of that, we have just the increase of violence that trans and non binary people or anybody in the LGBT community who is working in sex work or survival sex, and they are forced to keep their salt silent because they know that the people who they would report it to wouldn’t be supportive. So those are two things that I have seen in my work.
Speaker 2 (08:37)
And thank you for that answer. And I see Farron also shared the questions in the chat so that we have those on hand. Thank you for that. Whoever would like to go next, I’ll go next.
Speaker 1 (08:52)
So I think that what comes to mind is kind of like how diverse our community actually is. It’s really hard, especially when you’re put in the position of do an LGBTQ training to tell people who we are. This is the most diverse community in the world. We oftentimes refer to it as communities versus community. And I think that’s really important to own because this is like every language spoken, every ethnicity, every disability status, every corner of our world has a different LGBTQ community, if that makes sense. And I think that within all of those different communities exist different disparities. Something that comes to mind is I feel like a lot of symptoms of trauma, especially sexual abuse, can be really unsavory or something like rage or anger or distrust of a provider. And I think that white survivors are much more likely to be able to display those symptoms without being perceived as some sort of threat or unhelpable or seen within the context of that service provider relationship. Specifically, I think that there’s a huge breakdown in how a survivor is perceived. And I think that we limit many communities in expressing all of those symptoms or feeling all of those feelings because we have this idea of what a good survivor or a helpable survivor or a real survivor is.
Speaker 1 (10:21)
I think of all kinds of the undocumented survivor who’s not seen by our system or the man who comes to our agencies to report violence but feels like a threat to people. The people who can’t reasonably expect medical staff or law enforcement to competently know how to facilitate something. A post sexual assault services or sexual assault evidence collection kit. There’s not necessarily that expectation that that would be a positive experience. And now, even thinking about the new Title Nine policies, the college student who’s assaulted off campus, there’s so many different ways that these disparities play out, and oftentimes it is within those two intersections of whatever those identities may be beyond just the queerness itself. I don’t know, I kind of lost my thought there. But you edit out the last like, 30 seconds.
Speaker 2 (11:20)
No, that was great. Thank you so much for sharing.
Speaker 4 (11:24)
Yeah, I think similar to Caitlin’s point, I’m speaking from the lens of a black queer person, someone who’s gender fluent, someone who identifies as a queer lesbian, the disparities that I’ve witnessed in my community sits at that intersection of blackness and queerness and using queerness as a umbrella term for the LGBTQIA community. And so I say that to say I think some of the disparities that I witnessed is of course racism and the ways that impact people’s ability to be in certain spaces. Even thinking about. When we think about queerness, often that is through the lens of whiteness. I think about the ways in which the queer community interacts, and I’m sure this is true of every queer community, but specifically within a black community, like the lack of healthcare services, but also thinking about the ways in which we perform performativeness and thinking about desirability politics. All of these things then play into how we get access to service as a black, fat, queer person who’s gender nonconforming. And people often perceive me as a man, my interactions or misgender me, right? Like my interactions and how I show up in the world is very different from a black fem.
Speaker 4 (13:08)
And so I say that to say I think when we think about or when I think about disparities, I think about the intersection of race in that and also right class could get added to that, but also the ways in which just who we are as people really impact how we get services. So whether you’re like a femme and people are more likely not to question your sexuality because you perform gender the way that people expect people who are assigned female at birth to I just say that to say I think when we talk about disparities, the intersection of all of the other identities that we hold comes into the space. And as a black queer person, I think a lot of the disparities that I see is like racism, white supremacy and also within that the harm that white supremacy really kind of embeds in our culture around desirability politics and around who do we truly want to be and who do we get to be. And of course police brutality, right? I will be remiss just to name that, especially what’s going on in this current climate. I know this is being recorded for a later date, but it is May 20 eigth and news just came out about another black trans person being killed by the police.
Speaker 4 (14:40)
And so I also write not only do we have our own in house stuff that is clear, but also the systems of oppression that just inherently has never been for black people and black queer people and those who have all of those intersection, black queer, poor people, black queer, disabled folks. And so just also naming sanctioned violence is also one of the biggest disparities.
Speaker 2 (15:11)
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for that feedback. Yeah, we definitely can’t have these conversations without discussing all of those elements of intersection and without breaking down to the LGBTQ plus community itself and different identities within it. So definitely feel free to dig into those topics as much as each of you would like as we continue to engage in this conversation. Just as a follow up, farron used the term desirability politics a couple of times. Would you mind just defining that in your own words for folks that might not be familiar with the term?
Speaker 4 (15:44)
Yeah. So desirability politics is really rooted in folks presenting in a way that society most often is asking people to subscribe to or forcing people to subscribe to. So specifically, within the black community, desirability politics could look like, oh, having a partner of a certain size. They’re not skinny, but they’re not too thick, or they’re not fat, but they’re thick. Right. They’re just right. If you’re someone who might be masculine, a center is maybe the idea that your partner is always going to be feminine presenting right. Desirability politics might be like having long hair. The idea in often it being rooted in being closer or even though black folks who never assimilate to whiteness, it’s being close to white standards as possible. And so just thinking about that, when we talk about desirability politics, we talk about the ways that european standards of beauty have infiltrated and really created this standard that people try to obtain. And so often when I think about desirability politics, I think about the ways on which that perpetuates that violence of seeing bodies that are not very white, very skinny, very whatever being considered disposable. And so that’s really important in thinking about the disparities that folks as a black queer person that I see within a community.
Speaker 2 (17:30)
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that. Is there anything anybody else would like to add before we move on to the next question? All right, so we know in part from what you’ve already shared and just in general from research and providing these services, that LGBTQ plus survivors are generally underserved in the community and that sexual violence against them is traditionally underreported. So what can you each tell us about the barriers that LGBTQ plus folks face after experiencing sexual violence regarding seeking services and or reporting? And I know we did touch on this a little, but just in order to expand, perhaps totally.
Speaker 1 (18:23)
Yeah, I think some of the things that I was thinking about with this question is just like fear of violence. And I wonder if the audience kind of if that resonates with them or that’s like a new thing. I think for a lot of people, especially within this field of DBSV, find it surprising that the LGBTQ community is genuinely more afraid of violence from the institutions than they are from stranger danger. Or violence within their life is so normalized that it’s something that almost seems like they have this inability to prevent that violence. But they do have the ability and power to prevent violence from systems if they can avoid them. So, like, a system like the medical world or a system like law enforcement. If I don’t have to call the cops, then I’m not going to. And so it’s this, to me, inability to see a life of love and joy, this sense of hopelessness, a fear of further violence, oftentimes protecting our I don’t think people really understand how few of us are out compared to how many of us there are and in what spaces we’re out and what that outness means.
Speaker 1 (19:42)
And so I think many of us are protecting our identities for fear of violence or seeking what safety we can manage to access given what ability we have to actually access that safety depending on who we are. And I think that we’ve created a system of services and institutions that were kind of born of research and movements that historically left out queer voices, voices of people of color, disabled communities. I think it’s logical that people fall through the cracks in these systems. I think that it’s not an anomaly. I think that it was built in. And I think that the work of undoing that has to be intentional too. And you have to own it. You have to own that history to be able to address it, fix it, build something new.
Speaker 3 (20:42)
So this is a question I enjoy whenever I do a training. At the end, they’re like, all right, that was a great conversation, but now what can I do? What are some solid tips and tools I can take back with me? And I think respect is really easy and that is going to be the first thing a service provider needs to understand that we’re meeting people where they are when they come in. A job that I had was working for a few people who a little side story, had never met a trans person before. I told them my name and pronouns. My legal name was different and they never once made a mistake. Right? They had no education, no training, and that right there was their ability to respect me as I said I was and who I said I was, right? So the first barrier people are going to face when they try to get services is when I call you for help. If the first thing you do is pick up the hotline and misgender me because you’re assuming by my voice I am a different gender than what I identify as, you’re going to isolate me and that’s going to be the end of the interaction.
Speaker 3 (21:51)
Beyond that, forms and any sort of infrastructure in the program needs to be LGBTQ folks and any marginalized group should not have to bend and break in order to fit these systems. These systems need to fit them. So having the forms be inclusive, like making sure that you have several options for and I’m a big fan of a blank space. I know a lot of people are like, I want to have every identity put down and that’s wonderful. But also add a blank space because we are an ever evolving community, right? We are different tomorrow than we are today. And that’s going to continue to change and that’s what makes us beautiful, right? We are able to make the world the way we want it. I think also when I was an LGBT advocate, I would go with people to the hospital for evidence examination kits and then I would give them their supplies after and it would be a size small pink jogging suit. And the person who got the test was like, I’m not going to put that on. And then it created a barrier from being able somebody who was absolutely willing to provide that clothing for the case is now going to refuse because I certainly cannot wear a size small pink jogging suit out of anywhere.
Speaker 3 (23:17)
It’s not going to work for me. So making sure that our supplies aren’t all speed stick for her, or I would make sure that in my trunk I had a variety of different sizes and I would sort of create the kit for the person after I met them and that would give me the opportunity to fill that need as folks come in. So we can’t have a one size fits all. All our programming cannot be women based because we want to make sure that I had somebody once and I was like, you can call this program and it had woman in the title and they were like, I’m not going to call that. And so making sure that we are always providing safe and closed spaces for every identity. Women deserve a place to be safe and have conversation, but making sure that we are also offering alternate programming for folks who cannot fit into that category. And I think as a barrier for survivors of sexual violence, not feeling like they fit is probably the biggest thing.
Speaker 4 (24:33)
Yeah, I feel like mine’s really right off of JD. And a lot of what he shared around this acceptance being treated with respect and this piece around this inclusiveness thinking from the lens of the community that I come from and the identities that I hold, I think a lot of what happens black people don’t trust the police. They don’t trust these systems. And they’re like, if I report this person, will they actually end up being dead? Right? And so then it becomes, well, you know what, this thing might have happened to me or this might have happened until maybe it’s a parent who found out this happened to their child. Now they’re put in a really hard predicament like, oh, if I turn this person in, this person, this other black bag actually most likely can get killed. It’s a strong possibility because we know historically that police are violent to black communities, as we’re seeing right now currently. And so I think part of it is understanding this system. I think a lot of the work. I think a lot of the questions will always come back to that analysis or that intersection. And I’m so thankful for Kimberly Crenshaw just wanting to shout her out for creating that word intersectionality.
Speaker 4 (26:08)
But I think a lot of my framework will be sitting at that as like black person. I’m most likely actually not going to call the police on you, unfortunately, if you are a black person, because I know that there’s a chance that actually greater harm might be caused. And so I think a lot of the barriers is actually, at least in my community, is because we’ve seen from ancient entities, establishment, that they actually don’t value black lives. And so the idea of turning in a black life to this system feels really difficult, almost impossible. And at the lens of being poor or undocumented. Just thinking about the ways in which, again, these systems weren’t created to serve us, these establishments specifically the police was a form of slavery. It continued. It was a form that something that birthed out of slavery. And so I say that to say again, I think really the barrier is like the anti blackness and the commitment to this country showing that it does not value black lives still and that it’s not willing to do the work to repair that relationship. I think that’s the biggest in my community is like, yeah, this harm happened.
Speaker 4 (27:38)
Okay, I’m going to try to get these services, I’m going to try and do these things. And I’m also possibly not going to report this person. Maybe I’ll get someone to beat him up or them up, this person up who caused harm, right? And maybe that’s the extent of what could happen because at the end of the day, we don’t want this person to be killed. Imagine being like a kid and knowing that being six years old or ten years old or 15 years old and having to make such a decision because the media has shown you time and time again. And so I really just wanted to name that. I think for my community, being black and queer, it’s really the blackness, right? Like black lives are not valued and so therefore, how we show up and protect each other with that in mind looks very different.
Speaker 1 (28:26)
I just wanted to add on to that just in support of what you’re saying too. Just in speaking in anti blackness within the sexual violence movement, I was actually, for this particular panel, speaking to a couple people who I thought might appreciate my seat on this panel. And given everything that we’ve been waking up to every single day in the past few weeks, and what we wake up to almost every day in America is the murder of black people. And I think that what my friend said was between sexual violence, trauma and the racism that I’m just absorbing right now, I literally don’t have anything left. And was also sharing with me that a lot of their white friends had been using this opportunity of the murders that we’ve been witnessing to speak in a political way to this person instead of reaching out as a friend or as a support system. And I think a lot about white queerness and how we oftentimes don’t put a name to use. I’ve been watching my webinars that we’ve been facilitating at CFJ and seeing that when people actually drop off from listening to the webinar and it’s oftentimes when we talk about things like racism and I did want to reach out to any white queer.
Speaker 1 (29:45)
People who are listening to this event and understand that that type of reaching out to have a political discourse around the murders of black people are just completely unacceptable. Like your friends are humans and feeling grief and trauma and experiencing racism and you are not. And I lasted 30 minutes without doing a spoken word poem. So I just wanted to read Andrea Gibson’s A Letter to White Queers, a letter to myself in hopes that white queer people don’t drop off from this webinar and really consider this opportunity a call in or a call out or whatever language is comfortable for you. But is that okay? Is everybody okay with me reading that okay. Something difficult to stomach in this life is the fact that we might all learn and grow at a pace that will hurt people. But I am writing to tell you that I am furious with my own pace, furious that I could be holding the candlestick of a microphone for this many years and have it burned this far down without shining a hell of a lot more light on. The truth of what I know white is white is knowing that if somebody is going to be hung, you are not the one.
Speaker 1 (30:57)
White is having all of George Floyd’s air in our lungs tonight. No matter how queer we are, no matter how anything we are, if we are white, we have George Floyd’s air in our lungs tonight. And that means our breath is not ours to hold. That means our exhale is owed to mercy, to the riot of our own Unknowned hearts, to the promise that we who weep and fight and tear down the sun, who we do that for, will not only be our own faces in the mirror to the knowing that we cannot ever be married to Apathy without wearing the rings of the poplar tree when our country is still lynching, is still calling the hung body shade, when our country is rolling a red carpet from the blood that pours and people are dying for us to notice that our footsteps are red. Our silence is not a plastic gun. It is fully loaded, it has lethal aim. And just in support of talking about anti blackness within sexual violence, but within our society. I want to reach out to the white queer people that may be watching and understand that that work of processing what you’re witnessing and experiencing is not something that should be placed on your black loved ones.
Speaker 1 (31:59)
That what’s important is supporting and listening and shutting up, which I’m not doing right now, but I wanted to just call out the fact that white queer people are very quick to exit out of this conversation when they want to and jump back in when they’re ready to talk about issues that impact them.
Speaker 2 (32:28)
Well, thank you all so much for your responses, and thank you, Farron, for kind of introducing such an important idea, given everything that’s going on right now and everything that has always gone on. And I think that we can’t engage in this conversation without really discussing the topics that we just did, and we’ll continue to. So thank you for that. So is there anything else anyone wants to add before we continue? Um, so given the unique disparities and barriers that LGBTQ plus survivors face, as we’ve been discussing, what recommendations would you personally have for those who are looking to create inclusive and productive prevention programming in their communities?
Speaker 3 (33:40)
So education is always hugely important, right? Making sure you’re getting training and not just about one community, as many communities as possible. And those have to be often and renewed and constantly going. You don’t get to have 1 hour long training about LGBTQ stuff and then never go back. Like I said, we’re an ever evolving community, and things change, and you want to make sure that you’re able to meet people where they are and use the language that they need for themselves. Another really important thing is hiring LGBTQ folks, hiring people of color, hiring trans folks, trans folks of color. There is nothing more empowering than walking into a space and seeing somebody that you can relate to and somebody who doesn’t need that you don’t need to educate in order to get the services you need. So having folks who have that experience already, that lived experience, is really important. Updating any forms, any programming, make sure that you have as many groups that can fit as many populations as possible. And then I think, really the most important thing is probably just continuing the education. For me, that’s something that I constantly repeat to people.
Speaker 3 (35:04)
I will ask, I will check, when was your last training? People will tell me, and then I’ll be like, all right, who believes that they’re able to serve any community that they can without dignity? I mean, with dignity and respect, without making mistakes? And people put up their hands, and I’m like, put them down. The education is never ending. You have to keep going. Nobody has reached the point of being able to serve everybody effectively and with dignity and respect, there’s always room to grow and learn.
Speaker 4 (35:44)
Yeah, I think when I think about service being provided, I think about how often when I go to a. Queer establishment, it’s almost always white queer folks and never solemnly black or brown folks or folks of color. Maybe it might be one you’re like, are you a PO? I’m not sure. Right. And even thinking about that and the politics around possibly getting a person of color who’s really almost like passing but I said that to say I think one of the biggest things is people doing the work around race. Again, it’s going to keep coming up, but people really doing the work around race. And also, again to JD’s point, just like also agreeing with JD when he said this piece around hiring folks from the community who are like queer, POC, black, that’s really important because those are the people in the community who are going to be able to bring in the people you’re trying to directly reach. And also before you do that, though, just making it very clear that you as an organization have to do the work before you bring in people who are part of the community. Because often we know black POC folks, queer folks are often dealing with homelessness, unstable housing, not getting frequent income.
Speaker 4 (37:22)
And so if you are also going to hire from the community, you as an organization have to be able to do the work to sustain and really support that individual coming into their leadership. And so for me, it’s really like, do you have an antiracist lens? Why is everyone on this team in this queer space, white also, what are you doing to make sure that you are able to hire the most vulnerable population and so that they will be able to thrive in this space? I think that’s all I got to say.
Speaker 1 (37:59)
Yeah, I’m literally just reiterating what JD and Farron both said. I think that we exist in hierarchically, there’s like hierarchy in our agencies, but that doesn’t mean that the work that we produce has to reproduce those hierarchies. I think that you have to evaluate how power influences our programs and services and how it influences our relationships amongst each other as colleagues. And I think that those who have the experiences or those who are members of the communities that we want to serve should have that platform and should also have the decision making power. I think that a lot of times the platform that is given is performative or celebratory to applaud an agency for diversity. And I think that it’s not necessarily a conversation of who should we be inviting in, but it’s literally like the people that are doing the inviting in should already be the people from the community. So I just second what Farron and JD.
Speaker 4 (39:01)
Speaker 1 (39:08)
Speaker 2 (39:09)
And I think just kind of as a follow up to that, how do you see the most important ways to make space when onboarding new staff and folks in the ways that you’ve discussed and described?
Speaker 3 (39:27)
That’s the million dollar question, right? I think my experience being a trans person of color, Latinx, Puerto Rican, inside of nonprofits for the past 20 plus years. I think a lot of almost all the time the hiring is performative. It’s meant to say, look, I have a person on staff who has done this work, but then I’m not really giving the support needed in terms of just everything from making people feel welcome to the technical and support and assistance they may need in order to fulfill their duty or having. And I think this is huge in nonprofits is the idea of professionalism is inherently racist and it’s inherently made to keep marginalized communities out of the space. So I hire you and then I pick at you till you don’t respond, quote, professionally, and then you go or I fire you. And then you have the trauma of being a person who went through that entire experience on top of all your other lived experiences. Sorry, my birds. So yeah, that’s something professionalism. The idea of professionalism in the workplace is meant to keep marginalized people out.
Speaker 4 (40:59)
And I would just like to hop in on that before you are even onboarding. I really want folks to look at the job description. How much are you actually paying people? We can’t be talking about black folks matter, that queer folks matter. We can’t be talking about wanting to be in community and not believe in paying people living wage. And I know that there’s a fight for 15 that is still happening. And even when you look at articles and the living wage calculator for Connecticut, in order for you to make a living wage, you have to make 28 an hour, right? And so when we’re talking about onboarding or what do we need to do in organizations, actually we need to make sure that we are able to pay people what they deserve or what they need in order to survive. We can’t replicate these current systems of capitalism and exploiting people’s labor, especially since people, or specifically organizations are hiring right around diversity and exploiting people’s identities in order to check off these boxes for this grant that they’re applying to. So really, how much are you paying people? That’s the first thing. And I truly think the other thing is kind of to again, to JD’s point, professionalism can be weaponized.
Speaker 4 (42:31)
And so if we’re really hiring people and we understand that getting a formal education is not the only way that people live, experience is just as valid. And also knowing that education or people’s experience in obtaining their degree looks different. And so I say that to say, I think one of the tools that needs to be provided in organizations is the ability to provide training and resources that are needed in order to fulfill that role. So if a person is coming in and needs a laptop, does the organization have a laptop that they could use for work? Right. If this is around, it’s like we need to be proficient in Word. Okay, do we have a training that we get paid for to attend so we can learn how to use Word or Adobe or whatever these software systems are? How accessible are we truly making it right? Okay, we require a uniform for you to be a part of this job. Does the job give two complimentary uniforms for the person to start off? How are we really investing?
Speaker 1 (43:41)
I think to that point too, watching our society mobilize against a public health crisis that was COVID-19 as a public health prevention person was like so many feelings because it’s like sexual violence, racism, anti LGBTQ violence are all public health emergencies, not just in a figurative sense, but in a literal sense. And so the prevention strategies that we use to address those things, what our society just proved is that we have the ability, when we want to, to address something as a public health crisis and put those services or change those institutions to acknowledge that we have people who are suffering and hurting. And I think that we’ve proven that we can do that when we want to. So it’s really important to evaluate why is it that we don’t want to activate ourselves in these other public health crises that we deal with.
Speaker 3 (44:45)
A couple of other things that I just thought about was in terms of making sure that your workplace is welcoming and people are feeling supported as a staff. I think stuff like requiring a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree to even apply, or having writing samples are other tools to dissuade people who may not have that traditional training or experience or education. And I know this is really super unheard of in the nonprofit world, but I think we need as nonprofits and as these institutions that constantly perpetuate these systems that we’re fighting against, is allow your workers to unionize. I know in nonprofit we sort of are like, no, doesn’t need to happen. We all have good hearts, and that may be true. We may all believe we have good hearts, but labor work and workers rights really allows sort of a level playing field and gives the workers a space in the room. So that’s another suggestion, and it would be great if more nonprofits did stuff like that.
Speaker 4 (46:00)
Thank you for adding that. Yes, that’s really important because these nonprofits will definitely exploit you as a person because you believe in the mission and the work and you are over which you’ve been contracted to work even though you might be salaried, and so you’re actually not getting paid that money. So, yeah, that’s actually really important. Thank you for bringing that into the space. Also adding, it’s really important for organizations to be able to have someone to come in and help them do the work, to make sure that they’re in alignment with their organization, to make sure that the labor is not falling on that black staff member, person of color, queer person. Because often, at least in my experience in being in nonprofit work, is that usually it’s the person of color who’s flagging. This might be problematic. This policy might be slightly racist, actually. The way in which you’re showing up is not in alignment. And so having an outside facilitator come in and do the antiracism work or to do the work of the organization, making sure your values and mission statement is in alignment is really important because if not, that falls on the most marginalized people in your office.
Speaker 4 (47:19)
And so also naming, I think that’s really important.
Speaker 3 (47:24)
And pay them, and pay them well, don’t give them like a candy bar and $150. Pay them what you would pay any other contractor that is coming into your job.
Speaker 4 (47:36)
Speaker 2 (47:41)
Great. Thank you so much for all of that. Is there anything else anyone wanted to add before we move on? So with the same barriers and disparities and everything we’ve been discussing in mind, what recommendations would you have for folks that are looking to provide their own loved ones and community members with support potentially in the wake of sexual violence?
Speaker 3 (48:20)
So for me, I think being tender is really and by tender, I mean calm, kind, more listening than speaking, not being reactionary. And the reason is because when folks are victims of sexual violence, their control has been taken away from them. So the most important thing is probably to make sure that every step you take is with their consent, their permission, and it’s something they want. You don’t want people to feel like this happened. And now I’m further losing control because I shared with somebody I cared about. So that’s probably calm and take your lead from them and make sure you find offer services, but don’t force anybody.
Speaker 4 (49:10)
I think the biggest thing is actually the person that is being approached needs to really get really clear really fast around what is their capacity. Because when you don’t have the capacity and honor what’s going on with yourself and you’re trying to show it for someone, it could end up being really shitty. And so I think first step first is being very clear about your capacity, what you are able to do, what you are willing to do. And you’re like, okay, I can help you for the next few days. And also let’s think about finding someone to continue the support, right, whatever that support may need. So I think part of it is getting really clear in your capacity and then coming up with a plan, right? When COVID first broke out, there was a lot of resource sharing around pod mapping that came out of Oakland, and I’m forgetting her name. Mia Mingus, I believe, is the one who has been really well known around creating the pod mapping work, but really getting clear around, if something were to happen in your community, who are you going to reach out to and for what?
Speaker 4 (50:15)
So if you were assaulted, do you reach out for this person? If you need money immediately, can you reach out to this person? If you need someone to come and be with you physically immediately, who can you reach out to? And so I think part of it is the person who’s being approached getting really clear and also possibly helping that person think about these things. And that might be really hard, especially in the face of sexual violence and feeling violated. But I also think to JD’s point, that might be a way in which a person could think about like, okay, I kind of have some control. Okay, I know who I could reach out to. Okay, I’m not alone. I think it’s really also important and utilizing that as a tool so people realize that they’re actually just not alone because that feeling could feel so overpowering and people can make decisions based off of that feeling and it not quite be true. Right? So I think that’s like, one thing. And I think the other thing is yeah, when people are coming, being vulnerable, being open and saying, this has happened to me, really holding that and really taking that with the utmost respect and dignity and making sure you are still showing this person the dignity and respect that they deserve, period.
Speaker 4 (51:35)
Speaker 1 (51:41)
Um, I’ve been thinking, I’ve been thinking a lot about this one, just as a survivor myself and navigating how that shows up in my romantic relationships and what I need from a partner. And I think it extends to my friends and my family, mostly chosen family, but like my family, I think that for me, choice is such a big one. And intertwined with power, I think that we can make a lot of great positive change in our communities and in our society that are tangible, that are like resources and doing better and showing up better for communities. But I think when it comes to one on one, like interpersonal, connecting with a actually, you really can’t do that without empathy. And I think that that is inner healing work that you are called to do to support that person if you need to. Or like Farron said, knowing your capacity or setting that boundary if you don’t have that in you. I think that this one was like the hardest one for me, I think. But it’s definitely like the speed with which you take everything. Not just sexual things, like the speed with which you take a relationship or you take a friendship, or you think about how you set up what your normal is with that person and understand that for queer people.
Speaker 1 (53:18)
Speaking for myself, I guess so many of the traumas that came up from my own assault were things that I hadn’t acknowledged or understood that were more around my queerness and growing up in Texas. And I think that to see me holy, for me, I feel seen when somebody sees all of those parts of me, not just that one survivor experience. I think that to see a survivor to support a survivor as a loved one or even as an advocate, you’re kind of called to see a person, a child who grew up in a violent society, a racist society. An anti LGBTQ society. Whatever that violence is that they experience, they carried with them before an assault, and they carry it with them after. And it might surface in new ways as a survivor. And it’s hard to say exactly what I need, but I think power, choice, love, and empathy are, like, sound really cheesy, but I think that it takes you very far in building a one on one relationship with a survivor or trying to re. If it’s somebody that you’ve known for a long time and they’re sharing all these things with you that you never had any idea happen to them or you didn’t really see that history that they were a part of, then I think that there’s a lot that you have to kind of process.
Speaker 1 (55:00)
And also, I think for me and this is kind of what I try to do to support my friends or loved ones who are survivors is understand the ways in which society has harmed them or the ways in which I contribute to that society that ultimately harmed somebody that I love. I don’t know if any of that made sense, but that’s kind of, for me, specifically as a survivor.
Speaker 2 (55:31)
Yeah. Thank you all so much for sharing all of that. And thank you, Caitlin, for sharing your personal experience with us. Is there anything anybody else would like to add about providing support, whether it be community members or loved ones providing support about organizations, providing support, anything like that before we move on?
Speaker 3 (55:51)
Another thing I probably would add is don’t assume you know what a person should need after in terms like, I know a lot of us will be like, all right, you have to go to therapy now. You’ve got to deal with this, you got to fix it. And again, it goes back to not taking away control. We as providers may see what should be a path or think we have a path to healing that a person should take, but you can’t decide that for somebody. So don’t assume that pushing somebody into a program right away or advocacy program would be what they want or beneficial at the moment. You got to let people make their own decisions, for sure.
Speaker 2 (56:36)
All right. So if there’s nothing else before we finish up, I just wanted to see if there’s any other information or any resources that you know of that you would like to share about this topic, even media, whatever you might want to add or throw in there for folks to kind of use as a reference or to increase their understanding.
Speaker 3 (57:06)
Forge out of. I think it’s wisconsin has a series of phenomenal webinars about serving folks in all types of it’s, mostly trans and non binary focus, sexual domestic violence focus. But there are so many really great webinars hush upbird. I’ve watched them throughout the years and whenever a new one comes out, I’m really thrilled. That’s Forgeforward.org, which is a really good organization and also network loret out of Massachusetts, has a lot of really amazing programming and services, as well as the Fenway Violence Recovery program that has like a listening line, advocacy, case management and all of that stuff outside of Connecticut. But I know you can still call Fenway and still access the line and be able to talk and that’s anything that is violence related so it could know stalking a neighbor dispute, anything, those are really great. And if you ever need legal information, you can call me at glad. We have a free legal info line. It’s 804 five five glad. And then the website is glad.org or Gladanswers.org. And if we can’t help you directly, we’ll make sure to connect you with somebody who can.
Speaker 1 (58:42)
So I don’t know why in trainings I used to give books, which I like to read books, but two or three a year. So books for learning aren’t necessarily probably the quickest one. But for YouTube resources for learning more, there’s some great Ted Talks. I just jotted down the ones that I thought of. There’s one called it’s. Me too. Right. And just reflecting upon the history of the MeToo movement being intertwined with anti racist work and then kind of being co opted by white feminism and thinking about returning to our roots. The Ted Talk. Ending gender on YouTube is really helpful for people kind of caught up within the vocabulary of the LGBTQ community and understanding why so often educators for queer and trans teaching opportunities, whatever you want to call it. Webinars trainings. Try to shift us away from learning the definitions because I think people get really caught up on what is bisexual, what does it mean to be pansexual and really shifting away from that and learning the importance of language and how to navigate the ever evolving language and then LGBT querying the narrative of sexual violence is another great Ted Talk on YouTube.
Speaker 1 (01:00:00)
Talking about the different types of experiences that survivors have and how the stereotypical sexual violence survivor within the stereotypical sexual violence movement is really limiting us from actually serving the communities who need support and centering or hiring or raising up the agencies that are founded and operated by those folks who are impacted at the most and trying to think. Also, the other thing is just learning what mutual aid is and understanding how mutual aid and direct support and local crowdfunding can go much further than donating to really big agencies. If you’re looking to provide financial support to people and understanding that supporting and collective work and mutual aid networks can be hugely, hugely supportive and can help kind of repair or heal a community that either you’re a part of or that you see suffering and you want to support.
Speaker 4 (01:01:22)
I think I will just say for like this is really for black MPOC folks who identify as queer, just like affirming, like you are not alone. And if you wanted a place to know, there are some great legends. So Audrey Lord, there’s Pat Parker, angela Davis. Right, just naming that. We have ancestors, queer ancestors, queer elders. Alexis, paul and Giddings. We just have so many people and just imploring black specifically and POC folks to start looking, look for books that feel affirming, see yourself, reimagine yourself from books to think pieces. Like our work is out there, we’re here, we’ve always been here. And so just reaffirming. That’s great.
Speaker 2 (01:02:34)
Thank you all so much for those recommendations. Is there anything else you would like to add before we wrap up today? Any last words? No, everyone’s good. I mean, you’ve already shared so much really incredible, really informative stuff with us today. So I genuinely cannot thank you enough for taking the time to speak with me and answer these questions and be a part of this panel. So thank you all as well, for those of you who have tuned in and joined us as an audience today and definitely feel free to follow up with any of those resources. As I stated at the beginning of the program, if you are in need of services, you can definitely access the 24/7 Confidential Sexual Violence Hotline for free at any time and speak with an advocate. And once again, that is 188-99-5545 in English and 188-568-8332 in Spanish. So thank you again to our panelists for coming today. Thank you to our audience and be sure to tune in for the rest of TCC’s Virtual Pride Week programming. Hi. To end any webinar.
Speaker 1 (01:04:03)
Could I just add I Farron or JD? Do either of you do private trainings or have any you’re taking training opportunities or speaking opportunities and just wondering if we can do our contact information or if it’s going to be posted?
Speaker 2 (01:04:23)
No, you can absolutely add it in the video and we can always post it additionally. But feel free if you’d like to shout that out right now, go right ahead. It’d be great for folks to have that info.
Speaker 4 (01:04:34)
Yes, I do do trainings and consultants with organizations. If you are interested you can reach me at faronharvey at gmail. I do have a website but it’s currently under reconstruction so I think that would be the best place to reach me for now.
Speaker 2 (01:04:58)
Speaker 3 (01:05:00)
And I do trainings I somehow don’t know how this happened. Have been doing a lot of law enforcement trainings on working with the trans community and I haven’t done those in a bit. But I’m not going to really share my contact information because I’m not trying to undercut Farron, right? No, you’re in connecticut. I’m not I’m not trying to drive hours, but feel free to contact me at Glad if you need help in that way. All right, great.
Speaker 2 (01:05:34)
Thank you. Great idea. All right. Anything else? Well, thank you again so much for joining us.
Speaker 3 (01:05:44)
Thank you. Happy pride, everybody.
Speaker 1 (01:05:47)
Speaker 4 (01:05:47)
Thank you. Happy Pride. Bye.