The importance of enhancing organizations' culture to create inclusive environments for the pursuit of passions needs to be hight in the agenda of every center and studio owner, group and community leader

Pride Month guide: How to foster inclusive environments for the pursuit of passions.

This must-read article contains strategies and resources for center and studio owners, group leaders, the LGBTQ community, and allies that are interested in enhanced the culture of organizations or advocate for it to create inclusive environments for the pursuit of passions.

“What sexual preference do you hope she has?” “Happiness.” Isnt that cool?”

― Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat

LGBTQ people often experience discrimination and challenges in various aspects of life, including the places where they pursue their passions and interests. A major international study on homophobia in sports, “Out on the Fields,” revealed that nearly 90% of LGBTQ people believe homophobia and transphobia remain current problems in sports.

The study also found that 73% of gay, bisexual, and straight people think it is unsafe for LGBTQ individuals to come out in youth sports environments. Moreover, more than half of male athletes admitted to using homophobic slurs recently, highlighting the pervasive use of discriminatory language in sports settings​ (Out On The Fields)​​ (GLAAD)​.

Transgender athletes face additional hurdles. They often encounter criticism and exclusion when trying to participate in sports aligned with their gender identity. Despite Title IX protections against gender identity discrimination, some states have proposed policies requiring athletes to compete based on the gender listed on their birth certificates, further complicating participation for transgender youth​ (Justia)​.

Men playing basketball

In the arts, LGBTQ individuals also face various forms of discrimination. Many report threats, harassment, and violence both online and offline. Racism within the LGBTQ community itself adds another layer of discrimination, particularly for LGBTQ people of color who face bigotry at the intersection of their race and sexual orientation or gender identity​ (National Sexual Violence Resource Center)​.

Transphobia is a significant issue, with transgender individuals experiencing higher rates of violence and harassment. For example, a large proportion of transgender people have faced sexual assault, police brutality, and employment discrimination. Changing gender markers on ID documents can be difficult due to societal and institutional barriers. (National Sexual Violence Resource Center)​​ (Justia)​

Creating environments where LGBTQ individuals can thrive is vital to creating a world where everybody can pursue their passion and dreams equally. This guide is for owners of academies, centers, and studios. It is also for group leaders and allies. They play a big role in promoting diversity and inclusion. They also create welcoming environments.

Understanding diversity and inclusion

Diversity refers to the presence of differences within a given setting, including race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, and more.

Inclusion, on the other hand, is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging and support, regardless of their differences. For LGBTQ communities, both diversity and inclusion are crucial for creating safe spaces where individuals can express themselves authentically and cultivate their passions.

Group of female artists or students with brushes and palettes and teacher painting on easel at art school studio

Challenges faced by LGBTQ adults

1. Discrimination and prejudice

Despite significant progress in LGBTQ rights, discrimination and prejudice remain prevalent. According to a 2020 report by the Williams Institute, 25% of LGBTQ adults experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the past year. This discrimination can impact music schools, sports teams, community centers, and arts and crafts programs. It can make it more difficult for individuals to develop personally and engage with their community.

How to address it:

  • Education and training: Implement diversity and inclusion training programs within these organizations to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues and reduce prejudice. Research shows that such training can significantly reduce bias and improve attitudes towards LGBTQ individuals (Lindsey et al., 2015).
  • Policy advocacy: Support and advocate for policies that protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in all community settings. Evidence suggests that inclusive policies can lead to better mental health outcomes for LGBTQ individuals (Hatzenbuehler, 2016).
  • Allyship: Encourage allies within the community to speak up against discrimination and support LGBTQ individuals in their endeavors. Allies can be critical in creating supportive environments (Fingerhut, 2011).

2. Lack of representation

LGBTQ individuals are often underrepresented in various fields and leadership positions within organizations. LGBTQ people may have a hard time finding help and advice if they don’t see others like them in power.

This lack of representation can make it difficult for them to connect with others who understand their struggles. Important for LGBTQ individuals to have role models who can relate to their experiences and provide support. Seeing people who share their identity in positions of influence can help LGBTQ individuals feel validated and understood.

A study by the Human Rights Campaign found that being visible and represented is crucial for fostering a welcoming environment. This visibility can also inspire others to pursue their interests and passions. The study emphasizes the importance of seeing and representing oneself in different settings. It emphasizes the positive impact it can have on individuals and communities.

How to address it:

  • Promote visibility: Highlight and celebrate the achievements of LGBTQ individuals within organizations to provide role models and inspiration. Research has found that seeing LGBTQ people in media and leadership positions can boost self-esteem and motivation for LGBTQ individuals.
  • Mentorship programs: Establish mentorship programs within institutions that connect LGBTQ individuals with mentors who can offer guidance and support. Research shows that mentorship enhances career satisfaction and personal development (Ragins & Kram, 2007).
  • Inclusive media: Promote diversity of voices and stories within your organization’s communication channels. Inclusive media, like community newsletters or group Instagram accounts, can reduce stigma and promote acceptance in society (Bond, 2015).

Advocating and working for inclusive environments for the pursuit of passions, is a topic that must remain high in the agenda of center and studio owners, group and community leaders and the LGTBQ community and allies as well

3. Mental health challenges

LGBTQ adults often face higher rates of mental health issues due to the stress and stigma associated with their identity. A psychology study found that LGBTQ adults have higher rates of depression and anxiety compared to heterosexual adults. (Meyer, 2003) Not having access to supportive mental health care can make it harder for them to follow their interests.

How to address it:

  • Mental health by offering LGBTQ-friendly resources in your organization, like a school, clinic, gym, or club. Research shows that affirmative therapy approaches improve mental health outcomes for LGBTQ individuals (Pachankis et al., 2015).
  • Community building: Create safe spaces where LGBTQ individuals can connect, share experiences, and support each other. McConnell et al. (2018) found that community support lowers levels of depression and anxiety among LGBTQ individuals.
  • Self-care practices: Encourage self-care practices that promote mental well-being, such as mindfulness, stretching, and yes… keeping connected and cultivating passions. Research shows that regular physical activity reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression (Rebar et al., 2015).

4. Intersectionality

LGBTQ individuals often face intersecting forms of discrimination based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, and other identities. These overlapping challenges can create unique barriers that require comprehensive and nuanced approaches. According to the Movement Advancement Project, LGBTQ people of color face higher rates of discrimination and economic instability compared to their white counterparts, which can affect their opportunities to pursue passions in activities, arts, and sports.

Woman holding the diversity flag

How to Address It:

  • Intersectional approach: Recognize and address the multiple dimensions of identity that impact LGBTQ individuals’ experiences within clubs and organizations. Intersectional approaches are more effective in addressing the complex needs of marginalized communities (Crenshaw, 1991).
  • Inclusive policies: Develop policies and programs that consider the diverse needs of LGBTQ individuals, particularly those from marginalized communities. Inclusive policies can help reduce disparities and promote equity (Grzanka & Miles, 2016).
  • Amplify voices: Ensure that the voices of LGBTQ individuals from various backgrounds are heard and included in your organization’s activities, events, and communications. Participation in decision-making can empower marginalized individuals and enhance community engagement (Cornwall, 2008).

Strategies for promoting diversity and inclusion in academies, centers, studios, communities and groups

1. Foster an inclusive culture

To create an inclusive culture, we must actively promote diversity and ensure that everyone feels valued and respected. You can achieve this through:

  • Inclusive language: Use language that respects and acknowledges diverse identities within communications and events. Inclusive language can help create a welcoming environment and reduce feelings of exclusion (APA, 2020).
  • Safe spaces: Create environments where LGBTQ individuals feel safe and supported to express themselves. Safe spaces can enhance well-being and foster a sense of belonging (Dugan, 2017).
  • Celebrating diversity: Recognize and celebrate diverse identities and experiences through events, workshops, and discussions. Celebrating diversity can promote understanding and acceptance (Banks, 2015).

2. Provide training and education

Education is essential for fostering understanding and reducing prejudice. Offer training programs that cover:

  • LGBTQ awareness: Educate members about LGBTQ identities, experiences, and challenges. Awareness training can reduce bias and promote empathy (Case & Meier, 2014).
  • Unconscious bias: Help individuals recognize and address their own biases. Unconscious bias training can improve attitudes and behaviors towards marginalized groups (Devine et al., 2012).
  • Inclusive practices: Teach strategies for creating inclusive environments in academies, centers, studios, groups, and all organizations. Inclusive practices can enhance participation and engagement (Nishii, 2013).

3. Advocate for policy changes

Supporting policies that promote equality and protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination is crucial for fostering inclusion. This can involve:

  • Legal protections: Advocate for laws and policies that protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in community settings. Legal protections can enhance LGBTQ individuals’ safety and well-being (Hatzenbuehler et al., 2012).
  • Inclusive benefits: Ensure organizational policies and benefits include LGBTQ individuals and their families. Inclusive benefits can improve quality of life and reduce disparities (Badgett et al., 2013).
  • Community engagement: Engage with local LGBTQ organizations and communities to support their advocacy efforts and amplify their voices. Community engagement can strengthen advocacy efforts and promote social change (Dahl, 2014).

4. Support and empower LGBTQ individuals

Empowering LGBTQ individuals involves providing the resources and opportunities they need to succeed. This can include:

  • Mentorship and networking: Connect LGBTQ individuals with mentors and professional networks that can offer guidance and support within community organizations. Mentorship can enhance career satisfaction and personal development (Ragins & Kram, 2007).
  • Skill development: Provide opportunities for skill development and career advancement within institutions and community centers. Skill development programs can improve self-efficacy and job satisfaction (Bandura, 1997).
  • Financial support: Offer scholarships or discount membership to help LGBTQ individuals pursue their passions and achieve their goals. Financial support can reduce barriers to participation and promote equity (Miller et al., 2019).

Tools and worksheets for LGBTQ communities and allies

Our free fillable worksheets are designed to support individuals and academy, center and studio owners, as well as LGTBQ individuals and allies alike to create diverse and inclusive environments.

Download the worksheet bundle from our Toolbox shop for free!

Worksheet 1: Personal identity and reflection

Purpose: To help individuals reflect on their identities and understand how different aspects of their identities intersect. Instructions:

  1. List all the aspects of your identity (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc.).
  2. Reflect on how each aspect of your identity influences your experiences.
  3. Write down any instances where you felt included or excluded based on your identity.
  4. Discuss with a peer or mentor how these experiences have shaped your passion pursuits and reflect on the advocacy opportunities and needs around creating more inclusive environments to pursue passions. Is there anything you could do to help shape this space?

Worksheet 2: Creating inclusive spaces

Purpose: To help organizations create more inclusive environments. Instructions:

  1. Identify areas in your organization where you can improve inclusivity.
  2. Think of and write down specific ways to ensure everyone is included. This can include using inclusive language and hosting diversity events. Make a list of actions that promote inclusivity. Consider strategies such as creating a welcoming environment for all individuals. By taking steps, ensure that everyone feels valued and respected.
  3. Develop a plan to implement these actions, including timelines and responsible individuals.
  4. Regularly review and update the plan to ensure ongoing inclusivity efforts.

Worksheet 3: Advocacy action plan

Purpose: To help individuals and organizations develop a plan for advocating for LGBTQ rights and inclusivity. Instructions:

  1. Identify key issues:
    • Define clear, measurable goals for your advocacy efforts.
    • Determine the specific changes you want to see and the timeline for achieving them.
  2. Develop an action plan:
    • List the steps to reach your advocacy goals, assign responsibilities for each step, and identify the needed resources.
    • Identify potential allies and partners who can support your efforts.
  3. Engage the community:
    • Plan events, campaigns, or initiatives to raise awareness and gather support for your advocacy goals.
    • Use social media, newsletters, and other communication tools to keep the community informed and engaged.
  4. Monitor progress and adjust strategies:
    • Regularly review your action plan to assess progress and make adjustments as needed.
    • Celebrate successes and learn from challenges to improve future advocacy efforts.

Worksheet 4: Mental health and Well-being plan

Purpose: To help LGBTQ individuals create a personal plan for maintaining mental health and well-being. Instructions:

  1. Identify stressors and challenges:
    • List the main sources of stress and challenges you face as an LGBTQ individual.
    • Reflect on how these stressors impact your mental health and well-being.
  2. Set personal well-being goals:
    • Define specific goals for improving your mental health and well-being (e.g., reducing anxiety, increasing self-care activities, etc.).
    • Set realistic and achievable targets.
  3. Develop a self-care routine:
    • List activities that help you relax and recharge (e.g., mindfulness, exercise, your passion!).
    • Schedule regular times for these activities in your daily or weekly routine.
  4. Build a support network:
    • Identify friends, family members, mentors, or support groups you can contact for help and encouragement.
    • Plan ways to connect with your support network regularly.
  5. Access mental health resources:
    • Research LGBTQ-affirming mental health resources in your area, such as therapists, counselors, or support groups.
    • Make a plan to reach out and utilize these resources when needed.
  6. Monitor your progress:
    • Keep a journal to track your mental health and well-being over time.
    • Reflect on what’s working and what needs adjustment, and make changes as needed to your plan.

Embracing diversity and inclusion is essential for creating environments where LGBTQ individuals can pursue their passions and thrive. Organizations such as academies, centers, studios, and also group leaders and allies have the power to create a more inclusive and supportive society.

They can do this by addressing discrimination, lack of representation, mental health issues, and intersectionality. By taking action in these areas, they can help build a more welcoming and understanding community. This can lead to a more positive and empowering environment for all individuals involved.

We can help everyone live authentically and reach their goals by promoting inclusivity. We can also help by offering education and training. Supporting policy changes is another way to assist. Lastly, empowering LGBTQ individuals is crucial in achieving these goals.

References

  1. Williams Institute. (2020). Discrimination and Harassment by Law Enforcement Officers in the LGBT Community.
  2. Lindsey, A., King, E., Hebl, M., & Levine, N. (2015). The impact of method, motivation, and empathic concern on diversity training effectiveness. Journal of Business and Psychology, 30(3), 605-617.
  3. Hatzenbuehler, M. L. (2016). Structural stigma and the health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(3), 179-183.
  4. Fingerhut, A. W. (2011). Straight allies: What predicts heterosexuals’ alliance with the LGBT community? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41(5), 1042-1060.
  5. Human Rights Campaign. (2020). Visibility Matters: LGBTQ Inclusion in Media.
  6. GLAAD. (2019). Where We Are on TV Report.
  7. Ragins, B. R., & Kram, K. E. (2007). The Handbook of Mentoring at Work: Theory, Research, and Practice. SAGE Publications.
  8. Bond, B. J. (2015). The mediating role of self-disclosure and support on the relationship between sexual identity and well-being for young adults. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(1), 97-123.
  9. Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129(5), 674-697.
  10. Pachankis, J. E., Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Rendina, H. J., Safren, S. A., & Parsons, J. T. (2015). LGB-affirmative cognitive-behavioral therapy for young adult gay and bisexual men: A randomized controlled trial of a transdiagnostic minority stress approach. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(5), 875-889.
  11. McConnell, E. A., Birkett, M., & Mustanski, B. (2018). Typologies of social support and associations with mental health outcomes among LGBT youth. LGBT Health, 5(1), 55-61.
  12. Rebar, A. L., Stanton, R., Geard, D., Short, C., Duncan, M. J., & Vandelanotte, C. (2015). A meta-meta-analysis of the effect of physical activity on depression and anxiety in non-clinical adult populations. Health Psychology Review, 9(3), 366-378.
  13. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241-1299.
  14. Grzanka, P. R., & Miles, J. R. (2016). Intersectionality research in psychological science: Resisting the tendency to disconnect, dilute, and depoliticize. Social Issues and Policy Review, 10(1), 231-277.
  15. Cornwall, A. (2008). Unpacking ‘Participation’: Models, meanings and practices. Community Development Journal, 43(3), 269-283.
  16. American Psychological Association. (2020). Inclusive Language Guidelines.
  17. Dugan, J. P. (2017). Leadership Theory: Cultivating Critical Perspectives. John Wiley & Sons.
  18. Banks, J. A. (2015). Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching. Routledge.
  19. Devine, P. G., Forscher, P. S., Austin, A. J., & Cox, W. T. L. (2012). Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(6), 1267-1278.
  20. Nishii, L. H. (2013). The benefits of climate for inclusion for gender-diverse groups. Academy of Management Journal, 56(6), 1754-1774.
  21. Hatzenbuehler, M. L., O’Cleirigh, C., Grasso, C., Mayer, K., Safren, S., & Bradford, J. (2012). Effect of same-sex marriage laws on health care use and expenditures in sexual minority men: A quasi-natural experiment. American Journal of Public Health, 102(2), 285-291.
  22. Badgett, M. V. L., Durso, L. E., & Schneebaum, A. (2013). New patterns of poverty in the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community. The Williams Institute.
  23. Dahl, R. (2014). Democratic Theory and Democratic Practice. Routledge.
  24. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. W.H. Freeman and Company.
  25. Miller, L. R., & Grollman, E. A. (2019). The social costs of gender nonconformity for transgender adults: Implications for discrimination and health. Sociological Forum, 34(3), 736-757.
author avatar
Eleonora Leone
I’ve always been inspired by people who are deeply passionate about something, those who can talk for hours about what they love and relate it to almost anything in life. This admiration led me to ponder my own passions, which I discovered in the disciplines of martial arts, specifically tai chi, kung fu, and qi gong. These practices offer not just physical challenges but also a philosophy that intertwines mind and body. My focus on life passions was sharpened in 2021, when I lost two aunts within a fortnight—one to cancer and the other to an unclear illness. Tragically, they passed away without family by their side. This experience underscored the value of engaging in activities that not only bring joy but also foster a supportive community. Since then, I have become an advocate for pursuing passions, believing that everyone deserves to have a life passion and a community to share it with.

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