In this day and age, it is shocking to learn 75 percent of LGBTQ+ young people are being bullied, and 59.1 percent contemplate suicide as the answer to their problems.
Lara Husselbee, Experience Designer, Board Director and co-President of Wear it Purple talks about the issues facing queer young people, what an Experience Design is and how it promotes inclusion, and what it means to be an ‘active’ ally.
Manisha: We all like to think we live in an inclusive world; that our sex and gender preferences are accepted. But despite diversity and inclusion initiatives, the LGBTQ+ community is still suffering stigma and discrimination, leading to serious mental health issues.
Welcome to With Not For, a podcast from the Centre for Inclusive Design. My name is Manisha Amin, speaking to you from the lands of the Cammeraygal people here in North Sydney, Australia. My guest today is Lara Husselbee, whose career includes working for various institutions as a facilitator, and an experienced designer, or as Lara describes herself, an experienced designer with a heart to make big changes.
One of the areas Lara is making big changes in is as an advocate for Rainbow Youth. She’s the President of Wear it Purple, a volunteer organisation that strives to foster supportive, safe, empowering and inclusive environments for Rainbow Youth. In short, Wear it Purple believes everybody has the right to be proud of who they are. Lara, welcome to With Not For.
Lara: Thanks, Manisha, I’m super excited to be here. It’s been quick planning, but a long time in relationship.
Manisha: Absolutely. And I’ve really loved watching and talking to you as you’ve moved from different roles and different work in the last five or six years. And all of that work has really had, at the core of it, this notion of experience design. So can you tell us a little bit about what an experience designer does, and how you found yourself in this role, and particularly in this role in relationship to LGBTQ+ communities?
Lara: Yeah, absolutely. I guess what I’ll kind of frame – as every experience designer loves to do – frame my statements today is, obviously this is my experience, and my views of what experience design is, but it’s certainly not everything. And I’m sure that there’s many people out there who would like to add many more sentences to what I am about to say. But for me, experience design is orchestrating that brand commitment, be it to an employee, or a customer, throughout every entity or area of your business.
So for example, for a new starter starting at an organisation, it’s really working out what’s the experience that they get, right from the start, right through to the end of their time with your organisation. Or from a customer perspective, obviously we have lovely teams like marketing, who look at the sales and the pitch to get customers through the door. But how do we keep that brand commitment all the way through, from complaints handling, to documentation? So my role is to orchestrate and to design what those experiences are like for customers.
Manisha: Often when we think about brands, the concept is really lofty and warm and welcoming, but the experiences that people sometimes have in those organisations is significantly different to that. And when we think about LGBTQ+ communities, I was really shocked, actually, when I saw the statistics around, for instance, suicide, and the difference that some of these communities and people are having, when we think about those brand experiences, and how does that relate to what you do every day?
Lara: Yes, it’s a great question. And look, I think this is where my two worlds – or three worlds maybe – so in my personal life, I identify as a lesbian woman. And I’ve worked as an experience designer for a long time. And I now also head up Wear it Purple, which is a charity organisation. I think brands promising of whatever it is, or a product promise, all of those things, it becomes really interesting when you lift the hood and see how that’s delivered, or the metrics that are behind it.
There was an amazing piece that was released, and I wish I had the information in front of me, but it was from a Melbourne study that looked into insurance and LGBTQ people’s risk factors and ratings behind some of our basic products. So home, car, contents insurance. And actually, the rating factors are pretty significant, and have some huge impacts on LGBTQ+ people.
Manisha: Can you give us an example of one of those factors, and how they play out for community?
Lara: So I think brands are doing a much better job. And before we continue down this path, one thing I don’t want to say, is that experience design isn’t just about brand proposition, right? There’s so much more beyond that. In fact, I would say that there’s a lot of teams that are really about the brand proposition, and ours is about following through with that commitment, but making sure the experience is what customers need at every point, which is based upon research, and balancing that desirability with what’s viable for the business. And we all know this little Venn diagram. What’s feasible also for our technology stacks that we have.
But if I think about that brand promise again, so we really need to be careful about what we present as organisations in branding, particularly for minority groups, or those who are disadvantaged. I’ve sat in many a bank, and I’ve sat in many a discussion around visuals of who should be presented. And often we’re seeing very white, very Caucasian, very heteronormative presenting stock images. Which, again, fine. However, I encourage brands to push well beyond that, because it actually doesn’t project visibility of these role models – sorry, these minority groups for people to role model themselves off.
Imagine what it’s like growing up now in Australia, if you’re only seeing brands project, and top tier brands, right, projecting a certain look and feel. You wouldn’t feel like you have a place. Pair that with the rhetoric of what our politicians have recently discussed in the recent political debates for who was going to lead our country, and how quick it was to pick up trans and gender diverse youth and drag them over hot coals, saying that they didn’t have a right to be here, or a right to express or explore what their gender is, or their sexual orientation. It would be a really horrible place to be if you’re from that minority group, and not seeing any visuals that support who you are, and also hearing this rhetoric from the top tier.
Manisha: That’s really interesting, Lara, because that discrimination that you’re talking about isn’t really explicit and avert. However, I think that when we lift the hood on an organisation, and think about how we’re creating experiences and how we’re creating products, these things become increasingly important. What are some of the things that we can do within organisations to make sure that we’re making conscious decisions that don’t bias our products for one community or another?
Lara: Yeah, it’s a really great question. And I’m sure there’s a myriad of answers for this. I guess, for me, some of the things that I would think about is what is the diversity makeup of your own organisations? And then how does that diversity roll out into the teams that are working on these products, these experiences, these marketing campaigns, etc, so that they are more robust, and accounting for the amazing differences that Australia is made up of. It can be age, it could be ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, all of these things are really important in terms of how we design products for people and with people.
I think other things is actually having almost a matrix to quality check. And I’m sure there’s a lot of people who shudder at that out there. But I really do think that that’s important, to make sure that your brand lives up to its values and promises in terms of its diversity inclusion. So that makeup could be – sorry, that matrix could be checking that you are actually being diverse in the images that are going out; that you are accounting for, in your call centres, that gender is being removed from your conversations, those sorts of things. And then making sure that you’re employing people who live up to those values as well.
Manisha: And when we think about visible and invisible disability, looking at the social model of disability, rather than the physical model of disability, or even difference, what are some of the things we can do? Sometimes people will say, well, it’s all well and good to say our photo needs to reflect diversity, but how do I reflect different genders, or things that might not be as explicit?
Lara: Great question. So look, I’ll take it back to my role. So I often have to create a ton of journey maps for companies, someone who’s experience design, and they think one of the only outputs that we can do is journey mapping. And so that’s something that I’m often doing. And I think then, again, it’s exploring the way that you’re talking about the people throughout the journey; do they need to be gendered? Who has the position of power in some of the narrative that you’re providing?
I recently rolled off a project for the Department of Health in Victoria, which was all around the Royal Commission into mental health. And it was a really amazing project, a really incredible team. And myself, the agency that I was working for at the time, and also the Department, were really across making sure that our products were as diverse as possible, but also making sure that what we were getting in terms of information was diverse as possible.
But even at the end, when we’re producing these journey maps, I managed to spot, I don’t know, three different positions of power where there was a white man who was the doctor, there was the white man who is providing, teaching in the narrative, all of this sort of stuff. And even with as much rigor as you possibly can, you can get to that final point and then realise, well, actually, this map is not as diverse as I would like, or not representing things, or has injected too much power imbalance or gender without it needing to be there. So it was an opportunity for us at the end to review it, reshape it up, change the narrative, or change the images, and then have a discussion around how that happened as well.
And it’s just internal bias. So doing all of those courses that you can do around checking your own internal bias should be, I think, mandatory for a lot of companies, particularly if they’re doing anything with AI, or building these products, as you say, with risk factors that are involved, or other algorithms.
Manisha: What have you found the most challenging in that area?
Lara: I think the continual conversation with some people is really hard. Again, this is where my three worlds combine, right? I am a female cisgendered lesbian, who works in experience design and champions LGBTQ youth issues. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I’ve had to sit down with certain people and talk about some of the issues that their females are experiencing in the workplace that they’ve come to me and shared, or what it’s like to be LGBTQ. And it’s really seen as an affront to that either individual or business. So I do find those conversations continually hard. And I’m working on ways that I can deliver that better, so that the message comes across with what it’s meant to be, rather than, I guess, with shock or anger, but I can only control the way I deliver that message, not their response.
Manisha: And I think that’s really powerful, what you’re talking about. In the world today, the word ‘allyship’ and ‘ally’ has become such a catch phrase, in some ways. And a lot of people are keen to support other people. But there is a cost to that, that I think you’re alluding to here as well.
Lara: Yeah, completely.
Manisha: How do you – and I think it’s also interesting, and very generous, that you talk about how the message is heard, not the cost to you of how the message is delivered. And I’m really interested in seeing or understanding how you balance those things out, and how might people actually who choose to be allies actually support themselves? Because the burnout rate is high.
Lara: Yeah, it’s a really, really topical point, and also topical, for me personally, as well. This time of year, I’m back to back in speaking events for Wear it Purple Day, be it schools or organisations talking about these issues. But naturally, there’s an expectation to share your story. And sometimes I choose to lean into that, sometimes not. Then also I’m a certain point in my career, where I have a certain amount of leverage that I can stand up and champion rights. And wish I was that strong when I was a junior. I can’t say I was in the most amazing places to do that. But I find myself at a point where I’m often standing up for people, or on behalf of people once they’ve asked me to.
And so it is really tiring, and it does absolutely take a toll. And I think as experience designers, there’s a broader chat around how we have to protect ourselves, when we are leaning into spaces where we’re learning a lot that can actually be quite traumatic for us as well. And that’s something that has particularly come up for me recently with, again, this mental health project, because it really was a huge challenge on my own mental health. Not from the client, they were amazing, but more just from the topics and stories we had to hear to do the research. So yeah, I think, as you say, it’s very topical at the moment, for me personally, and then also professionally, I think, or globally what people are experiencing.
When it comes to that allyship discussion, so I think what you’ll hear people starting to say is ‘active ally’ now. Because throughout the plebiscite, and marriage equality, there was a lot of people who were saying, “I’m an ally,” which is fantastic. And there certainly was, and thankfully, a lot of people stood up and very publicly said yes. Which still baffles me that our nation had to come to that point to decide that people who love each other could get married. But what I think active allyship actually means is beyond those moments. It’s how do you continue to learn? How do you continue to step into spaces that may not seem super comfortable for you, but it’s an opportunity to listen. How do you seek out the myriad of resources? And how do you champion those braver conversations or those courageous conversations with your kids, with your parents, with those around the table, when maybe they’re saying something that doesn’t align with what you’ve learnt, or what your values are?
I can think of a few conversations where I’ve been personally challenged, even though you could say that the work that I do should have helped and championed me, where I’ve got some amazing family friends that I’ve grown up with, who are my parents’ friends who’ve said some stuff. And I’m really in the moment trying to figure out how I can remove the emotion, and speak freely, whilst helping them understand. And that stuff shouldn’t always be on the minority group shoulders, it should be on everyone’s shoulders. But I don’t think leaning into your queer friend and asking them to educate you is your only answer. Some people can, and it’s something that I, it’s a hat that I’m wearing at the moment, but it certainly shouldn’t be expected.
Manisha: Now, that brings me to Wear it Purple. Because even though the LGBTQ+ community is represented in popular culture now, in movies and shows and books, and the media reports on LGBTQ+ issues a lot more than say they did in the 1980s, or even in 1978, when the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras started. When we look at the time that’s passed, it seems like we’ve come a long way; marriage equality, all these things that we’ve spoken about. However, there’s still so much more to be done. And I’m really interested in why you chose to be involved in Wear it Purple Day, and what some of the things you are seeing are, in terms of mental health and young people.
Lara: So I think what I heard there is one, really, what is the kind of state of play; two, how did I get involved; and then three, what is it like for LGBTQ youth? I guess we could bring it back to thinking about has it really changed for LGBTQ people in Australia. And my answer is probably yes and no. So yes, it has changed in terms of different mechanisms of violence. But no, the violence hasn’t stopped.
So for example on Oxford Street a fortnight ago, a man was bashed by five people. This is meant to be one of the most safest streets for queer people in the world, almost. We’re celebrated as a country that is inclusive of LGBTQ people, and that is the street that is known for it. And that happened under a fortnight ago.
Then I think about those statistics that you mentioned around mental health and LGBTQ youth. So I think nowadays, I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to go through school with social media the way that it is. I got a tiny taste in the final year, I’m that old where it was just at the end. But I couldn’t imagine if that’s your main message, or it’s your main way of communicating, and then that’s actually turned into quite a violent, or lack of inclusive space for you. And that’s what you’re used to in terms of how you connect to friends.
So I’m going to just talk about some statistics right now from an amazing report that was done by Latrobe called Writing Themselves in 4. Now, take these statistics with the knowledge that this was gathered and presented pre-COVID. So you can imagine how dire they are post-COVID, given what we’ve all gone through.
So 75 percent of LGBTQ youth are likely to have been bullied for their gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation or altogether. And 80 percent of that is likely to happen in schools, safe assumption in the fact that they spend most of their time there. How that manifests though, if we look at their 16 to 17 year old bracket, so not long at all, LGBTQ youth are 12 times more likely to experience depression, and five times more likely to experience anxiety.
So how this plays out; 59.1 percent of LGBTQ youth people within that bracket of 16 to 17 have reported experiencing suicidal ideation as an option to handling this bullying.
Manisha: Hang on; 59 percent?
Lara: 59.1 percent. This is contrary to 11.2 percent of the population for that same age bracket. Now this was pre-COVID. So you can imagine how both numbers have spiked up. But let me tell you, I’m sure everyone here listening to this podcast believes no kid, no matter the age, no matter the gender, no matter the background or social orientation – sexual orientation, should think that death is the only option for them. It’s not fair. And it makes my eyes swell up. But you can only imagine the amount of pain that that kid is going through.
Manisha: Absolutely. Those numbers are shocking.
Lara: Yeah, and Manisha, unfortunately, they get worse when you start to break down each of our letters, right. So for our trans and gender diverse people, and as I said earlier on, this just continues to get worse and worse and worse. So again, remembering that these statistics are pre-COVID, but 41 percent of transgender people or non-binary people reported having self-harmed in the last two weeks.
Manisha: Those numbers are really shocking. And when we think about what you just said about suicide self-harm, I think, comes into that same sort of bucket, right, in terms of when our emotions are so strong that we can’t see any other way out.
Lara: And to be honest, we all know what it’s like to be a teenager, where you’re challenging everything, you’re questioning everything, you’re trying to work on the fringe to work out your personality, let alone gender and sexual orientation on top, it’s hard. But imagine when you can’t see through that fog of emotions, being a teenager, being bullied, trying to figure out who you are. And then you’re actually hearing rhetoric from our top tier politicians, who are fighting for a place to lead this country, absolutely dragging people who are gender diverse, who are trans – in fact, in this recent, political, I don’t even know, it’s certainly not leadership, whatever you want to call it, Wear it Purple was mentioned as groomers of people in schools, when really our task is to help create safer spaces for schools. Because as I called out, 80 percent of this bullying is likely to happen in schools.
Manisha: What comes up for me is that when we look at these statistics, which are incredibly high, when we think about the communities we’re talking about, we’re not talking about a lot of people. And when we think about the media, it almost feels like there’s this epidemic of people that are trans. And yet, it’s a very small group of people that are really being heard in a way that’s not okay.
Lara: Yeah, and I think regardless of population size, because let me tell you, it is increasing. The more these safer spaces do bubble up, or the more we see in the media, it is absolutely increasing. But it’s only increasing because it is allowing people the space for them to be them, versus the bottling it down where it does result in suicide. Because that’s the only outcome, where people can’t be them, right. So whilst statistically, on population size, it may be small, that number is increasing. And we often talk about how important it is to design for minority first, for the masses, it’s actually amazing for insights. One of the first presentations that I ever saw you do was at Macquarie Bank, and you talked about the bridge and the role that the bridge has, and how that – or the ramp – and how that was designed for people, a minority group, so people who had various accessibility issues. But actually that opens up to a whole lot of people in the masses, which is people running to the airport with their bags, people on bikes, people pushing prams. And none of that is gendered, that is just designing for one group, a minority group that’s opened out for the masses. And that’s what we need to do here.
Manisha: And I think there’s something really strong in what you’re saying there as well. When I think about, say, trans communities, and designing for people, but also learning from the strengths and the insights that different groups have. And I think one of the things that trans communities can do is really spotlight gender, for us. So for instance, there’s been some work done, I believe, around trans women, and their experience of gender, as both men and women, and their experiences in the workplace, and the bias that they faced. And it’s really powerful, because the person hasn’t changed, their competencies haven’t changed, their merit hasn’t changed. The only thing that’s changed is their gender.
Lara: Yeah, completely. And look, for anyone listening to this podcast, I really do have to say, the trans experience isn’t my experience.
Manisha: No, that’s right.
Lara: And I only know what is shared to me either statistically or by the people around me. And again, being an active ally, I’ve learnt and lent into more resources so that I can learn. I really encourage people to lean into TransHub, which has been released by ACON, championed by their most amazing person, Teddy Cook. And he’s, with a lot of other trans people and allies, put together an amazing suite of resources for trans people and for allies of trans people. So again, if you want to learn more about that experience, really lean into resources like that.
Manisha: Absolutely. And I’m really interested in this space and the strengths-based space around this. We’ve talked about some of the problems. We’ve talked about some of the challenges. But I believe that the LGBTQ+ communities are also strong, resilient communities that support each other.
Lara: Yeah, yeah. It’s amazing. I mean, look, within my community, and again, putting my personal hat on, we very much talk about chosen family. Because often people have had to, they’ve been rejected by their own, and their friends turn into their family. And these people will drop anything for you, because you have gone through similar things together. You know what it’s like to be ostracised by people, you know what it’s like to be judged just by the way that you look, or the way you choose to express yourself.
I’ve got to say, it’s pretty funny for me walking through the streets of Crows Nest, I used to be here as a school girl in a very different attire, where I had a Panama hat on, and my very private school looking outfit. And now I’m wearing big Doc Martens with short blonde hair, and definitely experiencing different looks throughout Crows Nest. So I do think that you lean towards your community, because you feel accepted and you feel supported, and you don’t feel those eyes, worrying if they’re judging you. And obviously, sometimes there’s an assumption there. But yeah, it is an incredibly supportive community. It’s one of the reasons why I’m on Wear it Purple.
In your question, you also asked about how I got into Wear it Purple. And actually, it was my experience design and love of human centred design that led me there. So at the time I was working at Macquarie Bank, and really leaning into their pride network, and how I could use human centred design to help uplift the experience for LGBTQ people in the bank, talking about policies, talking about events, and how they were outwardly showing that support through things like the marriage equality.
And thanks to that, an old Macquarie worker, so Ross Weatherby, who’s the outgoing President, saw the work that I was doing, and how I was using human centred design to help, and said, “We’re an organisation that sprung from the ground of two kids saying that this isn’t good enough”. And we’re now at a stage – at the time, it was about nine years of growth, we need to look at our internal infrastructure and do it well, that still lives true to our ethos. The only way is human centred design. So thanks to Ross and that community support, I was able to step onto the board. And yeah, I’ve been there now, I guess it’s coming up to three and a half years.
Manisha: What I love about that is often we say, and when we think about young people, we’ll say we need young people to design the new world. And we need young people to show us the way. What I like about Wear it Purple is it sounds like it’s intergenerational. So it’s not just about young people supporting young people, and the rest of us cheering young people on, but it’s actually different people, helping young people, but also changing systems. And you’ve spoken about systems a lot in in this podcast as well.
Lara: Yeah, completely. And look, that’s it’s a great example. And I’ve actually not thought of Wear it Purple like that, because often I’m the one championing its youth-led issues that we’re bringing awareness to, and we have an amazing Youth Action Council that’s consistent of these kids who are like, this is the stuff that’s important to us, champion it for us. But it is, your right, it’s intergenerational.
Manisha: And what are some of the issues that these young people are talking about at the moment?
Lara: Well, yes, so some of them are mental health statistics, visibility in the media, obviously what it was like experiencing COVID. Many were in homes that they didn’t feel safe within, or they didn’t feel safe enough to express the changes or explorations that they were uncovering to gender, sexuality. There’s people pretty fed up in terms of departments and education around the lack of support in schools as well. But obviously, and hopefully, things like Wear it Purple and other amazing charities are going to change that.
Manisha: And if I want to be an active ally –
Manisha: – and if the organisations or people listening to this podcast would like to be active allies, so they’ve done some reading, and they’re wearing the Wear it Purple t-shirt, they’ve got the merch.
Lara: That’s it, it was going to be my first answer.
Manisha: Absolutely. So they’ve done those things that I guess are one step removed. How do we as managers, as colleagues, as peers, and as parents, or people in the community, actually ensure that people aren’t just welcome, but they’re heard?
Lara: Yeah, that’s a really great question. And again, I think there’s a myriad of answers. I can certainly give a few though. So I think as managers, as managers who want to be leaders, let’s put it that way, I think there’s a role of listening, and there’s a role of vulnerability. Gone are the days of being the really hard statue at the front that can handle any storm. That’s not leadership anymore. Leadership is being vulnerable with your people, actively listening, and helping the whole ship turn in the right direction, given the change that we’re in, right, that we’re constantly facing. So I think as leaders it is being vulnerable and honest when you’re new to a new conversation, but how important it is for you to have them.
I recently heard a story around someone who was in their business, and someone came up to them and said, “I don’t want to use pronouns, because it assumes that I’m gay.” And the role that this person then had to have as a conversation with that person, “It doesn’t matter the performance levels of this individual, obviously, that language isn’t acceptable.” The way of thinking, I would also say, is not acceptable. It suggests, to be honest, it suggests that gay people are less, and that this person wouldn’t want to be part of that. And that’s obviously not language that anyone should be using or believing.
So the role of that particular leader in that moment was to have a challenging conversation, but really stick to the values that they have, and the organisation has as well. So I think it is, it’s those challenging, courageous conversations. It’s having enough knowledge where you can step into it confidently, but also being really vulnerable and honest and asking, “Look, I’m not really sure about this, let’s get people in, let’s have these conversations.” But by gosh, let me tell you that this is absolutely an important conversation for our organisation.
Manisha: And I think we’re going to get it wrong, right?
Lara: Oh, absolutely. I mean, look, again, we talked about experience design at the start of this podcast, and the beauty of experience design, it’s built on practices, like human centred design, it’s design thinking, hell, why not, chuck in some agile in there. And all of these things, it talks about failing fast, but it talks about failing with grace, right? So you fail fast to learn, and you build up from there, and you improve. And so the amount of times me as a lesbian woman have tripped over LGBTQ+, as an acronym is a huge amount. But that’s okay. It doesn’t matter. It’s about stepping back up, getting it right. I didn’t even start off this podcast by using my pronouns, which is she and her, by the way, and that that’s important for me to do as a leader in the queer community, to show people that actually, it’s really easy to use your pronouns, and that anyone can use them, no matter your sexual orientation or gender.
Manisha: It’s interesting, I hadn’t actually considered that people might consider the use of pronouns as a way of identifying their sexuality.
Lara: It’s more gender.
Lara: But yes, but this – no, it’s no sorry, it’s exactly where that person took it, to be a slag on their sexual orientation. And I would probably stretch to that individual probably doesn’t know the difference between gender and sexual orientation in terms of the way that we’re talking about it. And hopefully, over time, they educate themselves, and have challenged their own views. But yeah, the pronouns are a really important one. And again, pronouns are about creating safe spaces.
So for people listening, I’ve got a bit of a challenge for them; I would ask yourselves, have you ever been asked, when you step in a room, to identify yourself by your sexual orientation? I recently – well, actually, forgetting the COVID years, it was a few years ago now. So I worked on a project for country South Australia, and all of the connected health networks down there. And the intent of the project was to work with – the client was Country SA PHN. And it was to work with them uplifting their inclusive practices across all of the various GPs that exist in their network, and how they could make sure that they were, be it LGBTQ gender, etc, be more inclusive in the language that they were using.
And so the session started out, I was like, “Hi, my name is Lara. My pronouns are she and her. I identify as a lesbian woman. And then the leader next to me went, “Oh, hi, I’m, blah, my pronouns are blah, and I’m a straight woman.” And it was an amazing experience. And we talked afterwards about it, she was like “I’ve never had to do that, yet you have to do that every time you walk into a room.”
And obviously you make a choice as why you’re doing it. I’m a leader within the LGBTQ community in terms of I lead Wear it Purple. It is my responsibility, I believe, to step up and show that I am happy and confident as a lesbian woman, so that young kids who are coming up the rank, be it in Wear it Purple, or listening to any of these things, know that hey, it’s actually okay to be queer. And it’s great being a lesbian, and this is how I’ve projected my life in my career, and all of that. But yeah, for this one woman, she’s like, “Oh my God, I’ve never had to do that. And that was so confronting, and I didn’t know if I should do it, and I didn’t know if it was inappropriate.”
And so it’s a really interesting challenge to go like, that’s all the pronouns is as well, right? It’s you creating an inclusive space, using language to create an inclusive space for those who are around you, by identifying the way that you want to be referred to; she/her, him/his, they/them, there’s a list.
Manisha: And what I really love about that is this idea that it’s not just about the edge doing the identification. It’s not just about the edge. That we’re actually looking at making sure that the things that we take for granted are made explicit.
Lara: Yeah, absolutely. And it is a privilege to navigate this world, looking the gender that you are and feel, and being in that body, it is a privilege. Could you imagine – and this was part of that project – what it’s like being continued to be misgendered, when you’re going to someone who’s meant to be, in a country town, the cornerstone of safety, your GP, even though you’ve expressed your pronouns to them, or you’ve expressed your journey exploring gender diverse trans? And again, that’s not my experience. But the statistics have very high, and it stops people from going to see these people, which has huge issues in terms of their health, which then has huge issues on our social structure as well.
Manisha: You know, it’s so interesting, there’s so much to be done. There’s so much that has been done. So I have one last question for you, and that is, if there was anything you could redesign to make the world more inclusive, what would it be?
Lara: This is such an interesting question. When I got the pre-read, I was like, oh, my God, I can think of so many things. So I looked at obviously my own world first. And I’m a really avid surf lifesaver, I row most days of the week. And I actually also on the side, teach spin. So I was instantly, the beach and gyms. But then I went, well, there’s got to be something more that’s beyond that. Because yes, these are places and spaces that I can go as an able bodied woman, cisgendered, navigate that space with comfort. But actually, I think it’s council policies, is the answer to your question. Because I think about beaches, right. Even in my Council of Waverley, I’ve not seen one of those ramps roll out, that allows people who are in wheelchairs to experience the beach, experience water. And I couldn’t think of how horrible that would be, or how you’d have to navigate that, the vulnerability you’d have to show to the people around you to help you get down to just get in the surf. And that’s not fair. So for me, the answer is actually making sure that we have that matrix that I talked about before in all of our council policies of how we can be inclusive. And I’d love to see that change in Waverley.
Lara: Thank you, Lara, it’s been fantastic speaking to you today. You such a bundle of energy, and we’re really lucky to have people like you fighting the good fight every day, in this world that we’re in, and also working with such amazing young people, and really showcasing the work that can be done together, step by step, day by day.
Lara: Yeah, look, I’m really lucky for what I do. And I’m very glad I walked into that auditorium where you were giving your first presentation. Who knew it would lead to here, hey?
Manisha: Absolutely. And I know it’s going to continue to lead to great things as well. So thank you so much. And thank you to our listeners for listening and being with us here today, on With Not For. Lara talked about a whole lot of things, and there were some great statistics in there too. So we’ll have all of that information in the show notes as well.
So if you’d like to learn more about how you can make the world more inclusive, contact us on www.cfid.org.au, or see the show notes for more information so that you too can become an active ally. Until next time, this is Manisha Amin for the Centre for Inclusive Design.