I am Zack B., and I am a graduating high school senior, having just completed my 5th year in FIRST. In celebration of Pride Month, I wanted to share a few key takeaways from my years as a FIRST team member and administrator for LGBTQ+ of FIRST.
One of my favorite things about being on my FIRST team was the sense of community as we worked towards a common goal together. To effectively work towards our goals as a team, it was important that we created and fostered an accepting environment for all individuals involved. There are so many meaningful ways to ensure LGBTQ+ members feel safe and welcome in your team’s community!
1. If you are comfortable, share how you would like to be referred to!
Everyone deserves to be referred to correctly on their team. Sharing how you would like to be referred (name, pronouns, etc.) can normalize sharing for everyone and often makes LGBTQ+ members feel more comfortable sharing. Remember to never force members to share if they are uncomfortable; just encourage it!
2. Avoid “outing” other members
“Outing” someone means to reveal something about their identity that they did not want shared. Not everyone wants to or is ready to share their romantic and gender identities with the rest of the world and confiding in you about that part of their lives means they trust you with personal information. Make sure to always play it safe and never reveal anything unless the individual has expressed that they are comfortable with you sharing.
3. Advocate for inclusive team policies
Fostering an inclusive environment can start with the policies that you have written for your team. Consider adding a “zero-tolerance” clause for LGBTQ+ harassment or discrimination to your team’s handbook and illustrate how and where team members can get help if they feel harassed.
4. Listen to perspectives from LGBTQ+ people & research LGBTQ+ identities
Researching LGBTQ+ identities, especially terms that you’ve never heard before, is one great way to be an ally, and there are some amazing resources on the LGBTQ+ of FIRST website that explain these different identities. Reading, listening to, or watching content from LGBTQ+ people can help you see from their perspectives and understand the challenges that they might face.
5. Give LGBTQ+ members the space to share
Advocating for LGBTQ+ individuals is both positive and encouraged, but it can be harmful to speak over LGBTQ+ people. As LGBTQ+ community members, we know our needs better than anyone. It’s important to give us the space needed to articulate how we can best be supported.
To learn more about how to create a more inclusive environment on your FIRST team, check out our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion trainings and resources, as well as our new partnership with Project THRIVE and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.