A heterosexual couple together with their daughter and son listen carefully to children's stories addressing emotional validation, self-esteem, solidarity, and respect for diversity as part of a volunteer-led community event. Waves Ahead, a non-profit entity that focuses on equity for older adults in the LGTBQ+ community, spearheads the provision of health and social services without excluding people outside its main community. In fact, as an inclusive organization, Waves Ahead enriches its network of service providers, by adding allies that enhance its service capacity by offering additional support and expertise.
Over the past few years, the organization’s Glitter event, a day-long celebration of equity, diversity, and inclusion, has been carried out uninterruptedly during the month of June. The event seeks community integration through story readings, musical presentations, drag queen performances, handicraft, food, and drink sales, and moments to recognize members of the community, all geared at promoting a fair world for all people. Waves Ahead volunteers collaborate with enthusiasm and contribute to generate a genuine sense of community integration through their annual participation. Seeking social justice is like running an obstacle course, with its ups and downs, cultural nuances, conflicting beliefs, and learned behaviors that lead to mixed societal feelings. Those of us who support social justice for the LGTBQ+ community and communicate with confidence and empathy, are often faced with the hate speech, rejection and dogmatic manipulation that has reigned in the world. Inequity has been normalized and is a systemic evil that corrodes both public and private sectors.
It is because of this thoughtless normalization that it becomes difficult to work with people, since as soon as we are born, we are taught to make daily micro discriminations. They become our unconscious bias and articulate the learned attitudes and stereotypes that exist in our subconscious. This unconscious bias is responsible for forming what we think and how we act, from its command center: the prefrontal cortex of the brain. From that part of our brain, we unknowingly generate assumptions, judgements, and prejudices continuously. This is where education has the most commendable role in transforming injustices and reversing what has been learned. The mother and father who took their offspring to enjoy reading children's stories by everyone including drag queens, is a perfect example of how this normalization can be reversed.
Our society needs to care and treasure mental health, because without it we automate the unconscious bias. Sadly, it is what has reigned throughout the entire history of humanity. However, there is always an opportunity for change, and it starts by encouraging the identification and understanding of unconscious biases, for what is not named does not exist. Discrimination, racism, prejudice must be named! There are dire implications that transcend any political system for those that continue to normalize this entrenched evil that continues to be one of the main sources of inequity in our world. All of us who participated in Glitter were there in solidarity with equity for all, and we will be present to educate and raise awareness about the good news: the conviction that unconscious bias can be eliminated and unlearned. Respect, social justice, and love are modeled through the principles and values we freely decide to embrace. The example has been set by Waves Ahead and its defense of the transgender community in the LGTBQ+ collective. Learn more about their story through https://wavesahead,org.
Mariely Rivera-Hernández- The author is an independent researcher, educator, podcaster, and founder of the ChangeMaker Foundation.