Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Black Lives Matter = Opportunity for Growth

7 Jul

Black Lives Matter Toronto halted to Pride Parade on Sunday to make some demands of Pride Toronto.

It’s not the first and won’t be the last of their bold activism. And, as Naila Keleta-Mae writes in her Globe and Mail article, the point is that they make people uncomfortable.

Here’s my perspective about activism and marginalized groups.

In a society where one is marginalized, doing things the way that stays within the comfort zone of those in power often means that we wait, that there is lip service, that there is smoke and mirrors as people in power appear to be hearing. But no one is listening, and change doesn’t come. Simply put, when we play by the rules, we are often left waiting. And with no progress.

So I appreciate Black Lives Matter Toronto’s unapologetic tactics that disregard comfort and the status quo, and that make their presence known. Being seen is a necessary part of the opportunity to create change.

The issues they are raising are not new. And that should be a clue to underscore the above – that without discomfort, without someone being willing to stand up, be loud, be brave, think outside of the box, and not back down – the needle doesn’t move much. There are many great leaders throughout history who have used this approach successfully.

Could Black Lives Matter Toronto have used their honoured group status at Pride differently? Of course.
Would it have been effective? Maybe.
Would it have caused the amount of conversation, debate, and discussion? I doubt it.

Here’s why:
Because again, anything that happens within the comfort of how the system operates can then be swallowed up, massaged and fed back from the system in ways that are comfortable and don’t make waves. This often can create the illusion of change, but not real change.

If we remain in the margins as we fight, the mainstream doesn’t have to see us, and our pain is not seen. If we make the mainstream take notice, we run the risk of invoking anger. Sure, anger can cloud what people see and hear. But it also causes conversation. Visibility is an important part of change. So are real conversation and debate. And for getting at the real issues that a society doesn’t want to recognize, face or talk about. And we have to.

What’s happening in the Toronto LGBTQ and the broader community because of this latest move by Black Lives Matter Toronto, is that the underbelly of racism is coming out.

Racism is alive and well in Canada. Those of us who are people of colour know this to be true. We see it, feel it, hear it. I often experience incredulity from workshop participants (who are white), that racism still exists in this country. It does. Here it is.  And even now, it may be easily dismissed, overlooked and discounted as just anger. But it’s not.

And so now more than ever before, we have the opportunity – and must – delve into conversations that are otherwise often brushed aside, overlooked, silenced. Because Black Lives Matter are shaking things up and exposing the underbelly. Systemic racism is deeply rooted in our society. So deep it can be hard to see unless you are impacted by it – and sometimes elusive even then. Black Lives Matter Toronto is giving our city (and beyond) the opportunity to grow, because the only way we grow is when we are out of our comfort zone.

All lives DO matter.
And because this is true, we need movements like Black Lives Matter to remind of this – because not all lives are treated and seen as though they do.

See more. 

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

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Mother’s Day – while celebrating inclusion

30 Apr

Thanks to my toddler I’ve had some interesting conversations with her Daycare teachers recently about being inclusive of all types of families.

They are a great daycare and a super team, and don’t mean to be exclusive – in fact, they regularly remind the kids if they are fighting over who gets to be the mommy or the daddy that there can be TWO mommies or daddies. It’s a great start (and a big improvement over when I was a kid) but there is more to including all types of families.

And then there is Mother’s and Father’s day! What do we do about those?!

So, I decided to create a short webinar.
It’s designed for childcare providers, but anyone can join if it’s a topic that interests you.

It’s tomorrow (Friday May 1) at 11:30EST and it’s only 20 minutes. Plus it’s FREE!

you can sign up here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7635871126399292161

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator and Author on issues of Diversity & Inclusion.

Check out my new blog: www.3queerparents.wordpress.com

Why Tim Cook’s Coming Out is a Big Deal

30 Oct

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, just publicly announced that he is gay.
While he hasn’t been closeted, per se, he felt it important to publicly acknowledge his sexual orientation.

For those of you who wonder why this is a big deal, consider that he is the ONLY CEO in a Fortune 500 company to be out.


In 2014, this may come as a surprise. It probably shouldn’t given what we are learning about unconscious bias.

What does this fact tell us about who we see as CEOs, what our unconscious bias about CEOs is, and what makes someone a good “fit”?

I’m highlighting this because Cook’s statement and Leonid Bershidsky’s article “Does Being Gay Make Tim Cook a Better Boss?” tell us a lot about what inclusion really means both personally and to a company’s bottom line.

Cook states that “being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life.”
While this is great, it’s personal – so it’s fabulous if you work at Apple, but how does it impact the rest of us?

Bershidsky’s article references Kirk Snyder’s book, The G Quotient, that is based on an extensive study of gay managers. One of the things highlighted is that the employees of gay managers (who are out) “asserted that their employees displayed 35 to 60 percent higher job engagement, satisfaction and morale than those managed by straight males.”

This seems to support Cook’s statement above and give us insight into how the personal impacts business. It makes sense that if you’ve experienced barriers, you may be more inclined to make sure your team feels valued and acknowledged for who they are and what they bring.

So while Tim’s coming out may not seem like a big deal. It is.
It will help to broaden the idea of who at CEO is or can be, it has given us the opportunity to have conversations about what it means to be out at work (and the costs if we aren’t), it provides the opportunity to re-examine our commitments to inclusion, and it will give LGBTQ youth one more role model to aspire to – which can make a huge difference in the life of a young person.

If you have 10 minutes, read the Cook’s statement and Bershidsky’s article.

And see more.

Copyright 2014 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Coming out in Sports

2 May

Of course this week I have to write about Jason Collins. If you missed it, he is the first gay athlete to come out while playing. He is in the NBA and is now a free agent.

His article in Sports Illustrated made me smile. It’s nice to hear someone talk about wanting to be authentic, how sharing more of who they are helps them sleep better at night, and how we can’t wait for everything to be perfect (whatever that is) to be who we are. Fear is a terrible thing to live with – it robs us of choice, of a full life, and of dreams. It also undermines relationships and the reaching of our potential.

One day, I hope that being a gay athlete doesn’t cause the stir Jason Collins’ coming out did. But until then, I applaud his courage to be the first, and therefore a role model for gay kids everywhere.

Inclusive spaces allow us to be authentic. Being authentic allows people to see who we are, and to reconsider their stereotypes and assumptions. Being our whole selves out loud allows us to connect and build real relationships. This is just as important in the workplace (where studies show that people work better with people they know even just a little bit) as it is in our personal lives. Inclusive spaces create the safety required for people to consider coming out. It’s always a personal choice if and when to come out, but the clues an inclusive space offers (language, visual cues, policies, etc) make it easier to be authentic when one is ready.

Ironically I was at TD branch this week and saw this ad TD ad
It’s a great example of a visual clue for safe space.

See more.
Copyright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder

Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion

The Cost of Exclusion

28 Aug

You may have heard/read about/seen the kafuffel about the transfather who breastfeeds his child and who wanted to be a La Leche League Canada Leader – and who was told “no”.

La Leche League Canada (LLLC) is an organization that advocates  breastfeeding. The “no” was because Trevor McDonald  does not identify as a mother, and therefore it would be “difficult for him to represent LLL philosophy”.

Interestingly, his “non-mother” status did not prevent him from becoming a member of LLLC in his hometown of Winnipeg,  from receiving support, and from being welcomed there with open arms. But attempting  leadership, I suppose, brings out a different side.

Ah, the challenges of sharing power…

Trevor’s hope (according to the article in Metro last Monday) was to “coach LGBTQ members and those who struggle, like he did, to breastfeed after chest reduction surgery”. Sounds like a niche market to me, and one which would benefit from a leader with personal experience and awareness – and a safe place to talk about specific issues other parents may not be facing. Sounds like a golden opportunity to reach out to a specific group, acknowledge that there are some differences, and provide support in a “culturally competent” way.

One cost of exclusion is missed opportunity.

If La Leche League Canada could see beyond the word “mother” to the diversity of parenting breastfeeding experiences that now exist, they would embrace Trevor and his vision of reaching out to  communities that currently may not feel safe or welcome to join. In so doing, La Leche League Canada would fulfill it’s mandate of advocating breastfeeding even more, and further their vision.

If your vision is clear, then embracing diversity and inclusion can only make it stronger, because you will include people and perspectives (and therefore ideas and actions) that you never dreamed of when you started. And you will go further.

See more.

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

The Power of a Name

7 Jun

This week in Ontario, Bill 13 (the Accepting Schools Act) passed. This Bill addresses bullying and includes clear reference to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as types of bullying. Hooray! Naming is powerful in fighting oppression.

One of the aspects of the Bill that has received much attention is that Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) will be able to be named as such in schools. As you may have read/heard about, this caused no shortage of debate and disagreement among some school boards, educators and religious leaders.

The bottom line is this: when we name something, we can address it.

A GSA is a club which, by design, helps to address homophobia, biphobia, transphobia (the fear and hatred of LGBTQ people, which can manifest as verbal and physical harassment – bullying – exclusion and physical harm including death) as well as heterosexism (the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that it is the only “normal” sexual orientation), and cis-normativity (the assumption that everyone is cisgender, and that maleness and femaleness is a binary). And the name suggests the mandate. It is a club where queer students and their allies can talk, strategize about how to make their schools safer, and support each other in these endeavours (as well as when incidents of the above occur). They are a safe space in a possibly otherwise hostile environment (in some cases) and a focal point for change even in accepting environments.

While a social justice club can, technically, do the same thing, if we can’t use the word “gay” in the club name, I wonder about the efficacy of dealing with homo/bi/transphobia in that setting – of naming the issues and dealing with them.

Naming something creates the space for it to exist. It validates it. And it’s the first step in addressing a problem because without a name, what are we really talking about?

See more.

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


The Message of Free Bibles in School…plus

28 Mar

Congratulations to the Bluewater District School Board (in Ontario) for reconsidering the handing out of free Gideon Bibles to Grade 5 students.

The article is very good and says a lot of what I would write here – so here it is for you to read.

The part of the article that stood out for me the most, considering what I’m up to this week, was the following paragraph:

“Public schools are the wrong place to hand out religious texts. Any material given away in a classroom comes with a sense of tacit approval by the school, the school board and the teacher. The latter is an authority figure in the lives of Grade 5 students, which makes the implied approval feel all the more real.”


I am currently in Newfoundland and Labrador with Egale Canada, training all junior and senior high school principals, vice principals and guidance counselors in the province on why it’s important to (and how to) create LGBTQ safe schools. (Yes, you read correctly, ALL principals, vice principals and guidance counselors. Yay Newfoundland and Labrador!). Just like how what is IN the curriculum is given value (and, in many cases shows students the existence of that fact or issue), what is MISSING implies less or no value, or possibly denies the existence of a fact or issue (or in this case, an identity). School may be the only place students will hear about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, queer or questioning (LGBTQ). If they are straight or cisgender, this can become part of their education about diversity, inclusion and respect. If they are LGBT or Q, it allows them to see themselves in the curriculum and also understand that they are not alone, and that there is nothing wrong with them and nothing to be ashamed of. This is huge, especially in communities or families where it is not talked about, or where what they hear only tells them it is wrong.

Including LGBTQ people and issues into the curriculum can be as simple as using a family with 2 dads in a math example, reading And Tango Makes Three in Kindergarten, choosing a great English Novel with a gay, lesbian, bisexual, Two-Spirit, trangender, queer or questioning character, or including the fact that people can be attracted to members of the same or opposite sex in health class when the topic of relationships is covered. These are 4 simple age-appropriate examples that acknowledge the existence and presence of LGBTQ people in our communities. At about 10% of the population, we are there, whether you know it or not.

LGBTQ safe schools (and any LGBTQ safe space) has to be created purposefully and obviously, because of the silence, stigma, and discrimination that still exists around this issue, despite the laws in Canada.
We are literally making history here in Newfoundland and Labrador, as this province is the first in Canada to embrace the creation of Gay Straight Alliance student clubs in schools, and to recognize the importance of creating schools that are safe for LGBTQ (and therefore ALL) students. The Minister of Education is on board, the Department of Education is present at the workshops, and the School Districts are supportive.

I am honored to be part of it, working for Egale Canada.

Education is powerful.
And what/who is included by example, material, and role models (etc.) sends as powerful a message as who/what is missing.

See More.

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

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