The Questions People Ask

26 Mar

I’m mulling over an experience I had last week.

Maybe it’s because I’m a workshop facilitator, and a teacher before that.
Maybe it’s because I was facilitating a workshop when it happened.
Maybe it’s because the workshop was on creating LGBTQ safe space.

Whatever the reason, when one workshop participant came up to me on break and said “I have to ask, was it IVF?” I answered her question. (I guess I should backtrack and add that I’m pregnant).

Maybe it’s because I feel a responsibility to educate, or the fact that she told me her sister is a lesbian. Or maybe I just don’t have a problem answering questions.
But I am wondering now, if I did the right thing. Would she ask a straight woman how she got pregnant? But then, in that case, she may assume that she knows the answer (and she may be wrong).

So I wonder: is how I got pregnant one of those questions & answers that will help break down barriers? To be honest, I don’t know.

As a D&I facilitator, my job is to help people cultivate tools to be able to break down barriers so that they can really see others. Much of those barriers are due to personal and societal bias. Part of really seeing others and the barriers they face is recognizing privilege. One of the liberties of privilege can be feeling the right to question. It’s tricky, because without questions, we rely on what we know – which can be informed by stereotypes, or could just be incorrect. Questions allow us to get to know each other. But I have do wonder about the appropriateness of some questions, who we dare to ask, and what this suggests about how we see and value certain people (and identities).

I may be over-analyzing, but upon further thought, I think what I would have liked to say is this:

“That’s a really personal question. Why do you want to know?”
Or maybe: “That’s a really personal question. What makes you think you can ask?”

I could still have answered her question, but I would have created an opportunity for thought.
Which, come to think of it, is my most important responsibility as an educator.

See more.

copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion.


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