Celebrating Pride at DiversiPro: A Conversation with Ilaneet Goren
Ilaneet (right) and her wife Selina (left) participating in the Pride & Remembrance Run in Toronto.
1. What does Pride mean to you personally?
For me, the meaning of Pride has evolved over the last twenty years. When I came out in my early 20s, it was a tumultuous time in my life: I was a newcomer in Hamilton, Ontario, struggling to find my place and my path while trying to understand what being gay meant. It was a lot of adjustment all at once with little support at the time. My very first sense of belonging in Canada was within LGBTQ spaces, especially around Pride. It wasn’t just about the Parade. Grassroots events like the Dyke March and cultural spaces like the InsideOut film festival were so meaningful because they showed me how richly diverse this community is and how strong and resilient. There was also a palpable sense that there is much we still need to fight for until all of us are free from discrimination.
Laws often seem to change faster than human behaviour and the culture that guides it. Even though same-sex marriage is now legal and there are more human rights protections around gender identity and gender expression, violence (including systemic violence) against queer, trans and gender non-conforming people is still a reality. Pride is undoubtedly still relevant, but we need to critically reflect on its purpose and meaning, particularly with respect to racial, economic and disability justice.
Over the years, as I’ve seen Pride get bigger and more corporate, I began seeking out community and grassroots spaces more, as they reminded me that Pride is and always will be political and liberatory at its core. Now, Pride offers me the opportunity to reflect on my relationship with the community – what are our different needs and what should the focus be as we fight for justice? How do we reach beyond our own lived experience to build true allyship and community, whether it’s around gender, sexuality or other identities?
2. How does your queer identity and experience inform your IDEA work?
Of course, I can’t separate my queerness from the other parts of my identity and how society sees and treats me in the context of power and privilege: I am a white, immigrant, queer, cisgender woman without a disability; my family includes Ukrainian, Russian and Jewish roots; I am a settler on Indigenous land; I live in Toronto where I have access to services and resources; I have experienced economic barriers throughout my life related to gender and my family’s migration journey. All of this informs my cultural entry point into the IDEA work. Unpacking those cultural filters each of us carry, and are often unconscious of, has been central to my work.
At DiversiPro, I work with an internationally recognized methodology called the IDI® or Intercultural Development Inventory® that helps people evaluate, understand and further build their intercultural competence. This work has helped me develop a more expansive definition of culture as norms, beliefs, expectations and patterns of behaviour formed around a shared identity, space, and/or lived experience. This process recognizes that all of us have cultural experiences around the different parts of our identity, including being LGBTQ+. When I talk to people about how they can be better allies, it is essentially a conversation about intercultural competence – how we make sense of cultural and identity-based differences within a particular context, in this instance sexual and gender diversity. This process includes recognizing our biases, reflecting on our own identity, power and privilege, and learning to shift our behaviour in ways that better reflect our goals and values.
3. How can organizations support and champion LGBTQ inclusion?
I will answer this question both as a consultant and as a queer professional who has worked in frontline and leadership roles. For the work of inclusion to be meaningful and impactful, it must be intersectional, driven by values – not performance, and integrated within a larger equity strategy.
- True inclusion is intersectional –
Inclusion starts with psychological safety when everyone feels free and safe to bring their wholes selves to work. LGBTQ issues don’t exist in isolation from other lived experiences in relation to institutional power. When organizations talk about challenging homophobia and transphobia but elide racism, ableism, patriarchy and other forms of systemic oppression, they are doing little to substantively improve the conditions for the LGBTQ community. When organizations fail to recognize that not everyone in the community has the same experience with access to resources and opportunities, they end up reinforcing systemic inequity.
Ask yourself: Who is this work centering or privileging? Whose voices are excluded? Am I leaving some groups, identities and lived experiences out? Do I treat the acronym as a homogenous monolith, or do I acknowledge and address the community’s rich diversity? What am I doing to address all forms of discrimination and systemic inequity?
- True inclusion is driven by values, not performance –
Rainbow-izing your logo and going to a Pride event don’t automatically make you an ally. True allyship is demonstrated through intentional and consistent behaviour and tangible impact. If celebrating Pride in June is a natural extension of the activities you do throughout the year to centre the LGBTQ community, your actions and intent will likely feel more genuine rather than performative. Real allyship is doing the work when the cameras aren’t rolling, without or regardless of praise.
Ask yourself: What have I done to centre and address LGBTQ identities and needs in my organization/work? Do I use my privilege and risk my personal comfort to advocate for queer and trans rights? If my actions weren’t shared on social media and I got no public attention, would I still do it? When I act as an ally, do I do so without expecting something in return?
- True inclusion is change work, it needs a system-wide effort –
This relates to intersectionality and seeing the experience of being LGBTQ as intrinsically connected to other systemic issues affecting this community. I remember many instances when during an equity workshop, a group was eager to talk about what their organization was doing to promote a safe space for LGBTQ but were highly uncomfortable to touch issues of race and racism. What did that say about the organizational culture and intention with respect to queer and trans folks of colour? For LGBTQ+ inclusion to “stick”, the organization must address it across all its functional areas, which is what The Six Cylinder™ approach used by DiversiPro is all about. It guides organizations toward a more holistic implementation of equity and inclusion goals.
Ask yourself: Is my LGBTQ inclusion work integrated with anti-racism principles and work? Does the organization have an overarching strategy which addresses multiple key aspects of EDI including anti-racism and accessibility? Does the strategy have clearly articulated goals with timelines, performance indicators, and financial and personnel resources assigned? Is the organizational commitment clearly communicated across all relevant stakeholder platforms?
My perspective will always be limited by my own lived experience. I learn a lot by following the work of amazing LGBTQ thought leaders and equity experts and I want to highlight a few here – I highly recommend following them on LinkedIn to learn more about meaningful allyship and change work: Lily Zheng (They/Them), Jade Pichette (They/Them), Percy Lezard, PhD (They/Them), and my DiversiPro colleague Adam Benn.