Digging In With ONN

Beyond the Rainbow: Supporting 2SLGBTQIA+ workers and Decent Work

Episode Summary

The Enchanté Network is an organization connecting and supporting 2Spirit and LGBTQ+ communities and nonprofit workers across Canada. In this episode, we connect with Roland and Noah to discuss the different dimensions of 2Spirit and LGBTQIA+ realities working within the nonprofit sector including how to make nonprofits more gender-inclusive from a Decent Work perspective. Bio: Noah is a Black person of trans experience with a passion for creating dialogue and space for Black queer and trans communities to exist as their fullest selves. Noah received his bachelor's in Social Work from Carleton University in 2014 and has worked with various Black and 2SLGBTQ+ organizations in Ontario including Jaku Konbit, Kindspace, the Centretown Community Health Centre, the LGBT Youthline, Rexdale Pride, and Family Services Ottawa’s Around The Rainbow program. He is currently the Program Manager with The Enchanté Network, where he gets to use his vast experience to support 2SLGBTQI+ organizations and groups across the country" Roland Jones is Saulteaux–Cree, originally from Regina, Saskatchewan (Treaty no. 1 & 4) and is currently living on Algonquin Territory in Ottawa. They are a Two-Spirit, Non-Binary and Queer multimedia artist, educator and full spectrum doula in decolonizing our approach to gender, sexuality and sexual health. They are currently the Two-Spirit Coordinator at The Enchante Network.

Episode Notes

The Enchanté Network is an organization connecting and supporting 2Spirit and LGBTQ+ communities and nonprofit workers across Canada. In this episode, we connect with Roland and Noah to discuss the different dimensions of 2Spirit and LGBTQIA+ realities working within the nonprofit sector including how to make nonprofits more gender-inclusive from a Decent Work perspective.  

Bio: Noah is a Black person of trans experience with a passion for creating dialogue and space for Black queer and trans communities to exist as their fullest selves. Noah received his bachelor's in Social Work from Carleton University in 2014 and has worked with various Black and 2SLGBTQ+ organizations in Ontario including Jaku Konbit, Kindspace, the Centretown Community Health Centre, the LGBT Youthline, Rexdale Pride, and Family Services Ottawa’s Around The Rainbow program. He is currently the Program Manager with The Enchanté Network, where he gets to use his vast experience to support 2SLGBTQI+ organizations and groups across the country" 

Roland Jones is Saulteaux–Cree, originally from Regina, Saskatchewan (Treaty no. 1 & 4) and is currently living on Algonquin Territory in Ottawa. They are a Two-Spirit, Non-Binary and Queer multimedia artist, educator and full spectrum doula in decolonizing our approach to gender, sexuality and sexual health. They are currently the Two-Spirit Coordinator at The Enchante Network.


Driving Transformational Change: A Funder’s Guide to Supporting 2SLGBTQI+ Organizations

Episode Transcription

Digging In With ONN Episode 8 Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Yami: Welcome to Digging In with ONN. A podcast that focuses on issues that matter to the nonprofit sector. I'm your host Yami. Digging in with ONN is a podcast that discusses public policies and systems change with a focus on Decent Work. We use an intersectional lens that centres, Racial Justice, Truth and Reconciliation and Equity Practice.

Before we begin, we want to acknowledge that ONN's head office is located on the unseeded territories of the Mississaugas of the credit, the Anishnabee, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. We know that Tkaranto is diverse to many First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities, documented and undocumented. And for all of the listeners, those of you who identify as settlers, there's a really great resource called nativeland.ca. That's n a t i v e dash land, l a n d . ca, where you can find out whose land you're on, and not only for the purposes of acknowledging but building relationships and practices of solidarity. So make sure to check that resource out.

This week I am super, super, super excited to be joined by Roland and Noah who work at The Enchanté Network. I'm going to let you folks introduce yourself and the amazing work that you do at The Enchanté Network. Welcome to the podcast

Noah: Awesome. Thank you for having a Yami. So hello folks. My name is Noah. My pronouns are he and him and I am the Programs Manager with The Enchanté Network. I'm very excited to be here. A bit about me, I am a millennial Black Trans man who has a real passion for community spaces. And for creating dialogue and spaces that empower 2SLGBTQI communities, but specifically Black and Indigenous communities. Super happy to be here. Yami.

Roland: Hey folks, my name is Roland I use he and they pronouns. I am Soto Cree originally from Saskatchewan, but I am recording this from the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin nation. I am an artist, a sex educator, an educator, and generally have been working in LGBTQ+ work for the past however many years like,

Yami: Decade?

Roland: Yeah, a decade at this point. I am Two-Spirit. I am Trans and a lot of that informs my work and how to navigate the in-between of what it's like to be an Indigenous Trans person, as well as navigating just the non-profits sector.

Yami: Thanks so much for the intros. I know as you're listening, you're super excited as I am to dig into not only talking to you about Decent Work but the 2SLGBTQ sector. And before we begin, just cause I know that our listener's knowledge is, don't want to make assumptions about folks' knowledge around terminology and understanding of the framework, so maybe I'll start with you, Noah, can you break down what 2SLGBTQ is as an umbrella term, and then Roland, I'll ask you to, to define, and I know that there are many definitions around Two-Spirit just for our own.

Noah: For sure. When we're referencing 2SLGBTQ, we're referencing the queer and Trans community. It's an umbrella term. It's an acronym, as Yami mentioned to sort of explain folks’ identities and lived experiences and navigating gender and sexuality. So in really tangible terms, LGBTQ lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, plus.

I think at The Enchanté Network, it's really important for us to name and include the I, as intersex communities are here and exist. And of course, the + as our identities are infinite. The acronym is growing, at least in my experience, every year, frequently all the time. I'll pass it to Roland as well to touch on.

Roland: So Two-Spirited and the word Two-Spirit is an umbrella term that acknowledges that a pre-colonization, a lot of Indigenous communities already had an understanding of gender and sexuality and throughout the process of colonization, those things were taken away from us.

Really, it is supposed to be a term that is really similar to the word queer. But it's supposed to encompass a lot of other LGBTQIA+ understandings of how we explain gender and sexuality, but with the understanding that the intersection of being Indigenous and also acknowledging precolonial Indigenous roots is really that differentiation. And it is something for Indigenous folks.

However, I'm not someone who particularly likes to police this word. I know Two-Spirit can actually have a lot of different meanings for folks throughout the Two-Spirit community. And I think it's important for me to say that because Two-Spirited for me will have a very different meaning than it will to another person.

For me, Two-Spiritedness connects me back to the community and allows me to use my gender as a tool to be able to teach other folks. While for other folks, I know, Two-Spiritedness is that representation of being LGBTQ or being queer being gay in the experiences of navigating the HIV crisis during the times it was rampant in the early eighties and the nineties as well.

Who am I to police another person's experiences around that word? So I think it's important for me to make that differentiation and to know that it is just a word to kind of reconnect our communities in the present-day knowing that colonization had been that tool that separated us.

Noah: Yeah. And Yami if I can add on that a bit, I think that,, it's really always a pleasure to work with Roland, and I think through understanding and having discussions and dialogue around Two-Spirit experiences and identities, I think it provides the opportunity as well to look at the term 2SLGBTQ and the definition I gave earlier and really position that and, and, and let folks know that, although the terms are very- we don't want to oversimplify focuses identities and experiences with that acronym so in the same way that Roland just explained, I think that there's a different interpretation for all those letters under the umbrella, depending on how folks feel about that and how they interpret that for themselves. So that's super important to know as folks listen as well, and that queer and Trans are the words kind of like use interchangeably with 2SLGBTQ as well.

Yami: Thank you for that, because I know that some listeners may be thinking, well, the term queer is offensive. When in fact it's been a term that has been reclaimed by many communities and is also very individual, right. I know our generation tends to lean into it, but older previous generations lean less into it because of its meaning and context during the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and whatnot. Thank you for that.

On that trajectory. I'm curious if you could share some statistics around the workforce in relationship to, to LGBTQ communities and the work that Enchanté is doing to capacity build-

Noah: I think when we talk about, the nonprofit sector and 2SLGBTQI communities, the thinking and exploring Decent Work for our communities is very important. Transpulse, which is a data agency here collecting, for the first time in the past couple of years actual statistics on the Trans and nonbinary communities release many, many good studies and reports on our communities and, some highlights from there is a report, they released identifying how 37% of Trans folks who participated in this study have full-time jobs. So it's like 37% of folks have access to the kind of like full-time work. Right. And there are many other statistics that you can check out through chance, pulse, but all of them really demonstrates that access to, we talk, we can talk about access to Decent Work, right? But access to work is, is something that is not, actively present, for Trans and nonbinary communities. Getting an interview, going through the interview process, those things look very different for our communities. So this is a very relevant conversation for our communities.

In The Enchanté Network, our goal is to support and connect our members, and our members are 2SLGBTQI organizations across Canada. We are a new network. We're, we're growing all the time, but we're about two and a half years old, but before our existence, the 2SLGBTQI non-profit sector was existing in silos, right? So we were all doing similar work, but we were all really isolated in doing that work. Not only that we were, we're all dealing with similar issues of underfunding and, and precarious and really doing a lot of heart work on a voluntary basis.

And so through The Enchanté Network, we try to connect folks who are doing similar work. We have a capacity-building program where we share different resources, workshops, and training to support our member organizations and build their capacity to serve their communities. We have a networking program where we attempt to facilitate connections between our members who are doing similar work or who are coming from similar lived experiences.

We have a mentorship program to connect leaders in the sector with, with our membership for capacity building, we have a micro-grants program that operates depending on funding. But it's a really accessible granting opportunity for our member organizations who are looking to increase their funding.

And we, we advocate as much as we can. So we have reports that we released on access to funding for 2SLGBTQI organizations and various panels and such we host, for example, we just got off hosting a panel on continuing the momentum after the conversion therapy ban in the country. So we do our best to sort of talk about these issues and support and connect our folks as much as we can.

Yami: I really appreciate the work that you do and the statistics that you provided at the beginning because with Decent Work we're often thinking about it as a prism, employment opportunities, access to pay transparency, equity in the workplace, benefits. And what's interesting and also deeply problematic in a chronically underfunded sector is that to begin with the work and the statistics that you've referenced are naming our reality that first Trans and nonbinary folks need to be hired to even think about, the dimensions of, of Decent Work that can apply to communities.

Roland, I'm curious if we could just transition a bit to your role and the work that you're doing with Two-Spirit communities within Enchanté Network, and I know it's in the early stages, so TBD everyone on the amazing work that's going to be happening. But for folks that may be curious about it.

Roland: A lot of the work that I, I plan on doing alongside Noah's support is really finding ways to uplift and support the efforts that Two-Spirit organizations and folks who are already our members, supporting their efforts that are already in existence. One of the things that I think is important as a non- Two-Spirit organization is to actually not step on any toes and to not overstep. Acknowledging that, yes, we're an LGBTQ organization. We aren't a Two-Spirit organization. We should not be at the forefront when it comes to talking about these things. And as a Two-Spirit person in this role, I understand how important that is and to not take away from folks that are really doing the grassroots work.

I am a lover of being able to share information. Maybe it's a Gemini trait. It totally is. But I really, I love sharing knowledge. I actually do. And I think one of the things that I've learned is working in LGBTQ organizations can sometimes be really inaccessible for other Two-Spirit folks. And I want to be able to gather the knowledge that they have around grants and being able to actually create some sustainability for Two-Spirit organizations and funnel that information to them in, and really create us network of support where- we can create circles where we you rant about what it's like to be a Two-Spirit person working in white organizations, as well as working with, with our own people because unfortunately like Indigenous, non-Two-Spirit or non-LGBTQ organizations still hold a lot of homophobic and transphobic views, even if they're Indigenous.

So oftentimes I don't really know, even as a Two-Spirit person, the struggle is often like, how do I be queer, trans, Indigenous in one place and feel all parts of myself are welcome. Unfortunately, that space is not often given, to me. So I know that and I want to be able to create sustainability in these spaces and funnel that information into these groups because I think they deserve it. But never taking credit on behalf of them. To uplift their voices and bring their needs forward so we can get funding and future opportunities for them. That, that that's really kind of where I see this role going, not necessarily ever being the person in the front lines. But on a national level, like, yes, we do support LGBTQ organizations, but we will not speak on behalf of people if we don't have the authority to do so.

Yami: I really appreciate that framing, because I think a lot of the time it can be very easy to find ourselves in that position where we speak for when we are the only one, or even if it's a collective of us, that's really small. And, and that perspective around the complexities of working in 2SLGBTQ organizations, working in settler and white-led organizations and also working in communities that are own that, at times there's those dimensions of homophobia, transphobia that, that still manifest.

Just continuing on that trajectory, I'm curious if you could share a bit about some of the internal practices that Enchanté is taking to mirror what you want to advocate within the sector.

Noah: Just to go off of uh, some of what Roland was saying as well. I think that he really identified something very important that, myself as a, as a Black person as well like these experiences come can hit differently when there are intersecting identities that are going on. So, when we talk about 2SLGBTQ communities Again, not speaking for the community, but just speaking off of our experiences of the isolation that can come about when you are a person of colour, when you are a Black when you are Indigenous doing this work and what it means to be visible and doing this work, as a Black person, what that means around safety et cetera. At The Enchanté Network, as an organization, that is positioned as a queer and Transnational organization we try really hard and are very intentional about our workplace culture. So we have an evergreen document on a workplace culture that really identifies how we want to think about the culture of our work, how we want to implement anti-oppression and equity into the way we work and how we want to think about boundaries and, and conflict in our work. These are all things that are very relevant. Again I was going to say statistics, but oftentimes with marginalized communities, data that justice into statistics are not always there to sort of back things up. But the reality is that our communities come to the table with lots of joy and lots of gifts, but also because of marginalization, oppression, colonization also comes to the table, not with the same footing as maybe some of ours, our white queer counterparts. So it's really important to name that and move with that strength and really try to create a culture that acknowledges that, it's okay to take a break. That burnout is real. And then how do we process and work through all those things? So we can work together in a good way.

Yami: Can I ask what that effort creating document is are we able to share the results?

Noah: So, so it's not, it's not ready for sharing yet. It's inspired by the happiness manifesto by Frida- I don't-

Yami: Feminist Fund?

Noah: Yes. The Feminist Fund. Yes. It's inspired by that. Yes, completely.

Yami: Very cool. Okay. As it becomes available, making sure to share it with our networks, is super exciting.

Moving into our last question. We know that a lot of listeners may be feeling like, okay, so we're not a to LGBTQ organization, we are extremely interested in taking an intersectional approach to embedding in practices and Decent Work, and I know we, we talked a little bit about this in terms of, I often struggle with prescriptiveness when it comes to doing any type of equity-based work, and also as someone who is non-binary, as someone who exists on many dimensions, I also have witnessed how our sector has a long way to go when it comes to, centring the needs of 2SLGBTQ workers. Knowing that we're on a trajectory of talking about Decent Work and, and, and cautioning prescriptiveness, I'm curious if you folks, and anecdotally can share some tips that organizations who are either new to this journey or have been doing it for a while, in terms of gender-inclusive as well as Trans inclusive practices.

Roland: I think on the bare minimum, being able to have and rewrite policies around bathroom assessability being incredibly important. I think this is particularly something I've struggled with a lot within Indigenous organizations, but also as someone who is like gone through the process of transitioning, but still kind of looks, like I still get I guess identified as both genders a lot of the times, the bathroom has become like a significantly huge place of anxiety. So making sure that I actually have a space to use the bathroom I think is just like a bare minimum. And, and I'm speaking a lot to like organizations, cause like, of course, like we know organizations who have been here and doing the work for a while, understand that, but there are still a lot of organizations that for example, that might not necessarily see the importance of that. Which is why I still think it's incredibly important to share.

Those are things that I think of and just, obviously diversifying policy to be more inclusive of Trans folks. Sometimes I see this as organizations losing gendered language within their policies, like very, very, very basic, but yet, so many folks' policies still have like she or he, and we understand gender actually goes beyond that. But I think it's oftentimes like people in the in-between and like being non-binary are usually the ones where there are a little bit of more nuanced discussions that are needed. But I know like Noah has definitely a lot more to say on, this, I just think it's still always important to, unfortunately, continuously bring up the bathroom because we all have a non-gendered bathroom in our homes. So why can't we integrate that into our organizations?

Noah: Yes, exactly. I think what Roland identified in having a bathroom, having a toilet that somebody can use during their workdays is super simple, but it's not happening sometimes, right. So how can we turn these things we, we discourse about, we theorize about, how do we turn these policies into action? How do we operationalize policies that would be affirming to gender diverse communities, to 2SLGBTQI communities? How do we actually operationalize that to create safer spaces and affirming spaces for queer and Trans workers? I think about things like, like Roland mentioned, your bathrooms. You might have a policy, but implementing the policy means that you're removing the gendered aspects of your bathroom, or you're allowing access to a gender-neutral space for staff. Right.

It goes as simple as like, like Roland said, like forums, are you including identities outside of the binary that we know as she and her on your forms. Then it goes to things like if staff are having to come in and access your services in like a physical building, for example, will they possibly be met by maybe security guards or other staff that might work in the building who might not be on the same page with the policies and procedures of the organization and might engage in like harmful, misgendering or behaviour that might make folks uncomfortable.

I think the overarching message here is that like, I know that I hear a lot in the sector. We want to encourage and empower folks who are quote-unquote marginalized, folks who are of colour, folks who are 2SLGBTQI to be in positions of leadership, to come work with our organizations, to create these dialogues and to be at the planning table and have these things, and I, and I want to encourage folks before you encourage folks, and before you have that desire to want to have these folks at the table to ensure that there's safety, to ensure that you're thinking about how to operationalize that, to ensure that you're not, you're welcoming folks, but you're actually welcoming folks in a good way. And you're welcoming folks in a way where they're not going to be overly shocked that they might experience a bit of harm. Because maybe you, you were not ready to let folks in, because you did not have, that, that capacity to sort of operationalize some of those things that need to happen for folks to feel good. Right.

Those are all things I think about. Right. So just doing the work and then welcoming folks and building those relationships with folks is super important.

Yami: I think that's been such a huge theme of the conversations that we've been having in on the podcast, around Decent Work is really creating the conditions for people to thrive, and I think you've both eloquently spoken to, to the ways in which organizations can operationalize that, and that it is a continuous process that requires not only education but really putting practices into place and recognizing that if, for example, you misgender someone that correct yourself and move on. That these are the dimensions of what it means to be in a Decent Workplace. I think sometimes we get so fixed- I know that sometimes collectively we can get fixed as you folks have talked about in naming policies and practices, but then the operational pieces fall short.

I'm wondering if you two could share parting words for the sector to think about a question that you want to put into the center for the sector to think about as we close the episode out.

Roland: One of the best quotes that I feel like I've heard around allyship was from Kim Katrin Milan. And she talked about allyship in a way where she says, allyship is a card that you get every morning when you wake up. It's not something that you just continuously have like allyship is a verb in something that you continuously need to renew when you wake up in the morning. And I think about that a lot. When I think of folks who are in the sector for example and trying to find ways to be more gender-inclusive. I think it takes a lot of intention to be able to actually implement these things. So. I guess my question is on an ongoing basis, like, what are you going to do to ensure that you can renew that card every morning when it comes to allyship?

And we understand even within our own identification cards, like you do not get an identification card that does not at some point expire. So allyship is an ongoing- it's an ongoing process. So what are you going to do to ensure that you're going to be a part of that process?

Yami: That is like a mic drop.

Noah: Exactly. Mic drop, for sure. For sure. I would echo that honestly, I would echo that question, that challenge to folks who are listening, I would also add that, there's 2SLGBTQI work in organizations and then there's, there's like just the nonprofit sector, right. We're in a new reality, right. Where these bridges are being formed We're moving more towards bridging 2SLGBTQI and CIS straight kind of work happening simultaneously together in a good way. As organizations, maybe who are not specifically 2SLGBTQI, what resources, what access to resources, what access to funding what do you have that maybe you can share with 2SLGBTQI organizations to support them in bringing the to the pace where they have the capacity to serve communities, like some CIS-Het organizations do, right. How are we leveraging- like Roland kindly said like, how are we leveraging allyship and resources and support and access to those things to organizations that might be a bit more marginalized?

So just thinking about the possibility of support, we're here. Like as we mentioned earlier, the statistics around Trans and non-binary communities and unemployment, folks want to work in this sector. Folks are really excited. Trans and nonbinary communities, LGBTQI+ communities, we have so many gifts were so talented in so many ways. The simple work that it takes to just affirm us, listen to us and welcome us, I think will be beneficial to the sector in general.

I just want to leave with a final point that it's okay to make mistakes. And I think that sometimes I often feel like some of the barriers that exist, exist because folks are scared or they have fear around engaging in conversations out of fear of maybe making a mistake or saying something wrong.

This whole concept of like being a snowflake or something. Right. And folks are not like that. Folks, like it's okay to make mistakes. Moving through things with transparency, honesty about where you're at really kind of supports folks to want to stay and to want to do the work together and build an understanding together.

If that is a barrier, it doesn't have to be. Folks are very gentle and we really just want to exist as our fullest selves and the opportunity to do that is amazing.

Yami: Really want to appreciate the knowledge that you've shared. I'm so, so, so grateful for you folks taking your time and thank you to our listeners for tuning into the episode. I'm your host Yami and Kavita will be joining us in future episodes. We hope that you were able to garner knowledge on ways that you can start to think or rethink or continue the workaround embedding practices of Decent Work from an intersectional lens to support 2SLGBTQ+ communities and join us for future episodes as we continue to dig into issues that matter to the nonprofit sector. And make sure to share rate, subscribe so that you're the first to know about new episodes and when they are live.