With the rollercoaster that is 2020, it is easy to forget that June is LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) Pride month. During this time, we reflect on LGBTQ history and celebrate the progress we have made. Pride takes place in June and honors the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. This was a turning point in the gay liberation movement when the LGBTQ members fought back against a targeted police raid. Given the parallels with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement fight against police brutality and systemic racism, now is the time to take a closer look at how we can become more inclusive to both the LGBTQ and black community within the jiu jitsu community.
In the last couple weeks, people have reached out asking how they can help foster a more inclusive space for people of color (POC) or LGBTQ individuals. While both groups are very different and have additional factors that come into play, here are three simple things we can all do that will make a huge difference.
Check Your Own Bias:
The truth is that most of us hold biases, whether they are conscious or not. These become an issue when we let them interfere in how we treat other people. Try doing a self-check on yourself. Reexamine how you think and speak about minority groups. Is it from a place of malice? Ignorance? Do you lack exposure to individuals in this group? Can you learn more about people and how can it help? Remember the goal is to always gain further understanding and knowledge about topics and issues unknown.
Be A Vocal Supporter:
Many of us see our gyms as our family, and what is a family if not a support system? The jiu jitsu community has shown a great compassion toward supporting causes such as autism awareness, supporting veterans. or increasing women’s presence in BJJ. With that support comes recognition; you are wanted and have a place in this community. That is exactly what the LGBTQ and POC need. Given the amount of animosity they can face on a day to day basis, it would be great to know that the gym is not one of them.
It is simply not enough to be a passive ally. We need to be vocally supportive of these communities. Try making a simple statement against racism and homophobia/transphobia. Being vocal about supporting the LGBTQ community can make all the difference, especially to newcomers to our sport.
Call Out Inappropriate Language And Behavior:
A gym’s culture starts at the top and is maintained by each member. Casual racism and homophobic/transphobic behavior, jokes or comments have become so common place that is it often overlooked, even by the people who are experiencing it. No matter how seemingly harmless, in totality it can make a LGBTQ person or POC feel like the odd person out or as if they are not truly welcome in the gym. It contributes to othering in an environment that claims to be about team building.
When someone behaves inappropriately toward any person, simply and gently call them out. A, “hey, that’s not cool” or “we don’t say stuff like that here” can stop the spread of casual bias into something more explicitly hurtful. In addition, this shows those, LGBTQ and POC members that you have their back and will not stand for mistreatment and discrimination.
Being both black and queer (lesbian), I have a deep-rooted passion to be a vocal member of both communities. Too often we let things slide to avoid discomfort or confrontation and, in the end, this avoidance does us no favors. The fight against inequality has completely taken over the world;we all have a responsibility to do our part, both on and off the mats. The time for passivity has passed and the worst thing we can do is remain silent. Creating an inclusive environment is not difficult, we need vocal and visible allies to make everyone feel safe and welcome. After all, jiu jitsu is for everyone.
Torrie is a purple belt training out of Grappling Mastery in Eustis, FL. She is founder of The Mighty Dames, a group of female heavyweights dedicated to promoting healthy and positive body image within the jiu jitsu community. Outside of jiu jitsu Torrie works as a literacy and community coordinator for Goodwill. In her downtime you can find Torrie curled up with a good book, a podcast, or binge watching a random episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
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