Each year in June, Canada celebrates Pride Month. At Strongest Families Institute (SFI) we celebrate inclusion and diversity as part of our culture, supporting our staff and empowering our clients. We sat down with a few of our coaches who identify as part of the LGBTQIA2S+ community and who have extensive experience supporting LGBTQIA2S+ clients.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
Most people think of Pride Parades when they hear about Pride Month; there is so much more to it. From big events and festivals to the small act of holding space for and amplifying the achievements of community members, Pride means something a little different to everyone.
We’re grateful to our coaches for sharing what Pride Month means to them:
“Pride Month to me means celebrating the freedoms that were won for me and for my fellow Canadians through the efforts of those who came before us. It’s also a celebration of how beautiful diversity is and how exciting it is that people can finally start to be free to be open about who they are. It also means acknowledging and bringing awareness to suffering those in the LGBTQIA2S+ community still go through so we can fight for greater equality.”
“It’s a complicated month, I feel a big mix of emotions, joy and celebration, of course, it’s given me opportunities to find and connect with a community. A time to celebrate being visible and encourage others to be visible. Another aspect which is the core part of Pride is the political and advocacy/protest part, as there is still so much work that needs to be done and more advocacy that needs to be done.”
How has your lived experience helped you in your role as a Coach at SFI?
At SFI we recognize the importance and impact of lived experiences and how they shape not only our clients but our Coaches too. The ability to hold space and show empathy for individuals and their unique challenges is a key factor in our coaches’ and clients’ success. That’s just one of the many reasons why we ensure that we hire for diversity, equity, and inclusion: to ensure that the populations we serve are represented, seen and heard across the organization.
When asked the question above, our coaches offered some of the following tidbits and suggestions based on their experiences as Coaches at SFI:
“Specifically with LGBTQ2S+ clients, my lived experience has given me a deep understanding of challenges clients may be experiencing and compassion with their parents. Parents who are supportive can still struggle and my experiences help me to be supportive of community members and their caregivers.”
“I worked with a youth who was in the process of coming out as non-binary. Because I educated myself on some of the experiences and challenges LGBTQIA2S+ (particularly for youth) I was also able to know the types of questions I should ask to ensure they felt respected. This could be something as simple as “What are your preferred pronouns?” and “What name would you like me to call you?” I was able to go through how they could use their anxiety skills to stay calm when letting their friends know about these things because I knew from other people’s experiences this may be a difficult conversation for them.”
What do you think we as a community can do to support the LGBTQIA2S+ community all year, not just during Pride Month?
Pride Month is a special time of year, but in order to be a truly equitable, inclusive, and admirable society we must each make an effort year-round to work towards being a community of allies; holding space for and amplifying our LGBTQIA2S+ community in addition to engaging in self-reflection and education.
Our coaches offered some wonderful suggestions about how we can collectively achieve this:
“Education is so key! We need to keep up to date on the current struggles for the LGBTQIA2S+ communities and throughout Canada. Another thing we can do is to have the courage to have those awkward conversations with some family members and friends. If you hear someone using the incorrect pronoun, it’s okay (and good!) to gently correct them. One way to support the community is to buy things you normally would (makeup, soap, etc) from LGBTQ2S+ run businesses.”
“Simply accept each individual as a person, all equally deserving of the same rights and respect, regardless of how they identify or present themselves to the world.”
On the small scale, day to day, be vocal with your support not just on social media but with friends and family. If you know someone is part of the community, reach out to them, make a connection, let them know you’re supportive. Be aware and critical of the media we consume, especially with underlying transphobic/homophobic messaging. There are so many online resources, educate yourself or ask someone in your circle. Be politically critical, look at their platforms, are the policies to help our community? Are they working against our rights?
What do you like about working for SFI?
Finally, we asked our coaches to tell us a bit about what they love about working at SFI and how they would describe it. As an organization that prioritizes the mental health of our clients and staff, we’re filled with delight to hear the satisfaction of our staff in their role of supporting the well-being and care for our clients:
“I get particularly excited when I hear how the skills have helped clients to build stronger and healthier relationships with those around them. It makes me so happy when I hear how a client has used their skills to manage a difficult relational moment that may have previously ended poorly but now has had a positive outcome.”
“I feel very lucky that what I do each day plays even a small part in helping families be as happy as they can be.”
“I tell people all the time that I love my job. It’s wonderful to be able to work in such a healthy work environment where I feel my own mental health is prioritized by my employer. More importantly, it’s wonderful to see the difference I’ve been able to make in people’s lives.”
If you would like to continue the spirit of Pride all year long, one great way is to prioritize Canadian LGBTQIA2S+ authors next time you’re in need of a new book. Reading diverse perspectives and supporting creators financially (when possible) is an impactful and educational way to extend Pride year-round.