The Right Side of History | June 2017

Key Conversations: What Do We Risk When We Stop Talking?

By Kevin Patterson, June 2017 Issue.

What we ignore, we allow. Anytime we shy away from having high-risk conversations because we are uncomfortable, we enable the problem to continue and possibly escalate the associated emotions. We can’t get tired of having these conversations.

Our community, historically, began to grow in solidarity once we made it safe to have high-risk conversations that elevated the needs of those who were suffering. Today, for whatever reason, it seems as if that’s no longer the case. Here are three examples on which Equality Arizona is committed to continuing the conversation:

Example 1: Lately, I’ve heard many sentiments along the lines of, “I am so sick of reading about politics. On social media, I am hiding everything political.” While it can be so easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed with the negativity present in many posts, hiding or avoiding them because we don’t want to face it won’t help us advocate, protect or elevate each other.

Consider this: No one’s forcing any of us to engage in political banter on social media, especially if that’s not your thing. But I urge you to ask yourself “why?” Why are you tuning out what your friends, family and acquaintances have to say? Is it indifference? Is it because their ideas conflict with yours? Or are you just overwhelmed with the volume, frequency or repetition of the headlines you’re seeing in your new feed?

How EQAZ can help: For anyone looking for straightforward updates on the political issues in Arizona, I encourage you to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter at equalityarizona.org. By doing this, you can choose when and where you’d like to catch up on the conversations we’re having in your home state without having them interfere with your personal relationships or social media newsfeed. In turn, you’ll be better informed and better equipped when these conversations come up.

Example 2: Another example was from the Phoenix Pride parade this year when a group organized a peaceful demonstration designed to vocalize their feelings of being not being heard, as trans people of color, which prompted us all explore our thoughts and feelings on the matter. As a result, some individuals were not comfortable with the statement being made here. My question to those folks is: Did you feel uncomfortable because the tone of the demonstration felt negative during a celebratory event?

Consider this: While some in our community have so much to celebrate, others fight daily to have their basic rights acknowledged, and often navigate their daily lives feeling unsafe and unprotected. This type of vulnerability should make us all, as the LGBTQ community, feel uncomfortable because these underrepresented voices are our brothers and sisters. Therefore, I urge you to get to know those who aren’t like you and don’t see the world through your perspective, and embrace the diversity of those who might expand your world view.

EQAZ can help: Currently, the board of EQAZ has a subcommittee focused solely on the work of equity and social justice in our communities. This committee works to identify the many intersectional connections among those who are most marginalized, looks for ways to increase awareness through education, locates resources to address related needs and invites these otherwise marginalized voices to the conversation. If you would like to be a volunteer, a board member, or would like information on the work of this committee, EQAZ is always so grateful for more help in this meaningful work.

Example 3: A third example is the barriers that still exist for LGBTQ families wanting to foster/adopt the 19,000 children in our state system. Many of our state legislators don’t want to hear how these barriers hurt both the families and the children involved and don’t want to have the conversations that would lead to simple recommendations for policies that would serve as solutions for all involved.

Consider this: In the state of Arizona, there is preferred order of child placement that ranks “qualified homes.” At the top of this list is what is referred to as “mom-dad” homes or traditional homes. In the middle is single mother, kinship (friends and extended family) and then single father. Last on the list is same-sex couples. While many judges choose to overlook this preferred placement order in favor of fair treatment, amendments and bills have been proposed to permanently remove this language have been unsuccessful. While the LGBTQ community has many fierce supporters and allies at the capitol, the majority leaders who have the power to make simple changes to enable true equality don’t want to have the necessary conversations.

How EQAZ can help: Along with Arizona’s Children Association, EQAZ launched Project Jigsaw, a campaign seeking to remove barriers that exist for LGBTQ families looking to adopt children in the Arizona system. Together we work to capture and share stories of prospective and existing families, and the barriers they’ve encountered, in an attempt to change hearts and minds in committee hearings. To find out how to share your stories with us, and be a part of our mission to end this devastating crisis, visit equalityarizona.org/project-jigsaw.

The point is that injustices and emotionally-charged circumstances will never go away. We will grow weary of the feelings they conjure. However, what we ignore, we allow. Until we have nothing left to fight for, we must never let the conversations stop. To strike up a conversation with EQAZ, you can reach us at eqaz@equalityarizona.org. We look forward to hearing from you!