Miki Vyse: February is LGBT history month

By Miki Vyse, Yorkshire & East Coast Regional Manager, JLC

February is LGBT history month.

Last summer, the JLC participated in inclusivity training ran by Keshet UK.

The session started by setting some ground rules for the day, something that I feel is incredibly important in any training session. Setting ground rules helps people to understand what they can get out of the session, but also allows for the space to ask questions.

Keshet UK use an important rule in all their training sessions: assume every question is asked from a good place. That rule has now changed the way I interact in debates, since it is so easy to assume that people are trying to play a contentious character when asking difficult questions, or that they are being intentionally offensive. This guideline, however, helped us all to be honest and accepting of every question asked.

The training included exercises and information that will help us to be inclusive of our staff, stakeholders and the wider community. One activity that stood out to me was on the subject of privilege.

We were given a list of thought provoking statements to read, which highlighted how many of us were privileged in different ways. The statements were things like:

“I have never been stopped and searched on the streets because of the colour of my skin.”

“I have never been spat at because of the religious dress I was wearing.”

“I have never been mistaken for a different gender.”

“I have never been attacked for holding hands with my partner in the street.”

Some of these statements also linked to intersectionality, affecting the person as both a member of the Jewish community and the LGBT community. This allowed the group to try to understand the identity of being an LBGT Jew.

We discussed a number of ways that communal organisations can make small changes to become more inclusive.

We know that there is an appetite for wider inclusivity in the community. Even the simplicity of saying “Good Morning Everyone” as opposed to “Ladies and Gentlemen” means that those who fit between gender binaries can feel more included in discussions. Similarly, on application forms having a line for description rather than a tick box for two genders allows for more description if the person wishes to expand.

The two biggest things that prevent people working on LGBT+ inclusion are fear (either of doing the wrong thing or others judging them for wanting to support the LGBT+ Jewish community) or complacency (believing they already do enough). KeshetUK’s work helps people overcome their fears and challenge complacency, so people can make real change in their communities.