Coming out to one’s community as an LGBTQ+ student is a daunting experience. Many wonder if they will find community, support, or respect after coming out. For me, coming out was made easier by the inclusion and respect our team had fostered for the LGBTQ+ community. Walking into our team’s pit for the first time, I saw the pride flag boldly displayed as members from our team handed out pamphlets for LGBTQ+ of FIRST. To me, it signaled that my team was going to be a safe space for me to come out and be respected in my identity.
The importance of making one’s team a safe space for queer and trans members cannot be understated. Here are some ways to make one’s team a more inclusive and supportive space for LGBTQ+ members.
1. Have an easy way for members to share their pronouns
Sharing pronouns is an important way for members to share their identities. By normalizing sharing one’s pronouns on your team, you signal that your team is a safe space for trans and nonbinary members to express their authentic selves. To do this, your team can add a section for pronouns on team name tags or produce pronoun pins to distribute among team members.
2. Show pride in the workshop and at competitions
By displaying symbols such as the pride flag or the trans flag in your team workshop and at competitions, you indicate that your team is a welcoming and safe space for LGBTQ+ members.
3. Respect members that come out
When members come out, respect their identities and feel free to ask questions on how to best support them. However, it is important that you respect the member’s privacy as well and do not share their identity unless they ask you to do so. It is also important to simply treat the member as any other and not single them out for their identity for any purpose.
4. Educate your team on LGBTQ+ identities
Taking time to educate one’s team on LGBTQ+ identities and the challenges they have faced is a valuable way to have team members better understand LGBTQ+ members, which can lead to increased inclusion and respect for queer and trans members on your team.
5. Create inclusive team policy
Adding clauses to team guidelines explicitly stating to respect LGBTQ+ members or making all members pledge to include and support LGBTQ+ members are good ways to not only ensure that your team is respectful to queer and trans members, but also signal to queer and trans members that the team will be a respectful and inclusive place for them.
6. Listen to LGBTQ+ member voices
It is extremely important to truly listen to the voices of LGBTQ+ members on your team. Provide spaces for LGBTQ+ members to express their views and suggest ideas to make their team a more inclusive and respectful place.
Ambassador, LGBTQ+ of FIRST
About LGBTQ+ of FIRST
LGBTQ+ of FIRST is a student run organization that advocates awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ students, mentors, and volunteers of FIRST Robotics. LGBTQ+ of FIRST reaches out to over 1000 members across the FIRST regions and fronts multiple outreach endeavors.