Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Allyship Messaging

The Sonoma Community Center welcomes visitors and participants of all ages, races, sexual orientations, ethnicities, language backgrounds and spoken languages, income levels, gender identities, and abilities. We strive in particular to be a safe space for those communities who have been traditionally marginalized or underrepresented in and by public institutions. To that end, the Community Center is actively working to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in everything that we do. We realize this work involves a lot of terminology that may not be familiar to everyone. We hope this list of FAQs is helpful for anyone who has any questions about some of the words and concepts we’ve been talking about. If you have any additional questions that aren’t answered by this document, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you!

What does Equity mean?

Most of us are familiar with the concept of ‘equality’, but ‘equity’ can be more complicated. If ‘equality’ means that every individual gets equal opportunities, the notion of ‘equity’ recognizes that different people have different circumstances that can affect the way those opportunities play out. Imagine that a kids’ soccer league wanted to give every player a pair of cleats to play in. If they gave every kid the same size shoe, that would be equality – every kid receives the same opportunity. It’s a generous gesture, but of course not every kid has the same size feet. So while some lucky ones would have a great pair of new shoes to use, others would be hindered by pinched toes, or shoes that were too big. Equity, in this case, would be to give each kid the right size shoe for their feet – so that every kid is equipped to play soccer.

If equality is about sameness, equity is about fairness and justice. Equity can be a way to reach equality, whereas equality isn’t always a way to reach equity.

What’s the difference between Diversity and Inclusion?

These terms are often used together, because each means something different, and each item is important in the ongoing effort to ensure that spaces are welcoming to people of all backgrounds and identity.

Diversity simply means the presence of difference within a given setting. Diversity in a community center means that people of all races, ethnicities, gender identities, religious traditions, sexual orientations, ages, abilities, nationalities, languages, income levels, and so on are represented on staff, among instructors, and among class participants. But the presence of diversity doesn’t necessarily imply inclusion. Inclusion exists only when all of these people have an equal voice and feel equally welcome in that space. You can have diversity without inclusion, for example, if all decision-makers on your team are still of the same color and identity. That’s why the Community Center is working to enhance both diversity and inclusion.

What does LGBTQIA+ stand for?

LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual. The + signifies the expansive and inclusive intent behind this acronym, creating space for those who may not identify with any of these listed terms, but who likewise don’t identify with our culture’s assumed norm of heterosexuality and cisgender identity.

If you’re interested in learning more about the meaning of each individual term, there are lots of excellent resources available online. In particular, we recommend this glossary from Trans Student Educational Resources. This gender unicorn helps explain the concepts of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Are you sure it’s OK to use the term ‘queer’?

It’s complicated. The word ‘queer’ originated as a slur meant to denigrate, marginalize, and harm members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Some members of this community still consider it a harmful term. Others have reclaimed the word and transformed it into a call to rise up, to take pride in who they are, and to demand equal recognition. Today, the word is commonly used within LGBTQIA+ communities and among allies because it offers an inclusive, gender-neutral term that can refer to anyone who falls outside of our society’s assumed heterosexual and cisgender norm. At the Sonoma Community Center, we use the word ‘queer’ as an affirming, inclusive, umbrella term. We also recognize and acknowledge its history as a slur, and we affirm every individual’s right to be referred to by terms of their own choosing.

For more information on usage of the word ‘queer,’ Learning for Justice offers a good explanation.

Why do you include pronouns behind your name or signature, or when you introduce yourself?

In the English language, many of our pronouns are gendered: they inherently indicate the gender of the person being referred to. That means that when we choose a particular pronoun to refer to another person, we are identifying them as belonging to a particular gender. When we say ‘he’, we designate someone as male, and when we say ‘she’, we designate someone as female. However, another person’s gender identity can’t and should never be assumed on the basis of their appearance, their name, or any other external characteristics.

We add our pronouns behind our names and signatures, and include them when we introduce ourselves, so that others don’t have to make assumptions about our gender identities. We also hope it will invite others to feel safe sharing their own pronouns. Finally, we hope the explicit mentioning of our own pronouns will help remind ourselves and others that every person has the right to define their own gender identity, in whichever way they choose.

What else is the Sonoma Community Center doing to ensure that its space is welcoming and inclusive of all identities and backgrounds?

The work of ensuring that our spaces are welcoming and inclusive to all is a never-ending work in progress. We are continually striving to learn more about what it means to be an ally and advocate for marginalized communities, and to explore better ways to create and maintain a safe, inclusive space for all. We are currently working with a consultant to develop a comprehensive three-year plan to build our capacity around equity, diversity, and inclusion. We continually seek out partnerships with advocates, experts, and community-based organizations who serve marginalized communities, with the goals of educating ourselves, and of ensuring that our programs, classes, and events are accessible, inclusive, and welcoming to all. We invite the entire community to join us in this journey of learning and action, and we invite feedback and suggestions on how the Sonoma Community Center can best serve all residents of the Sonoma Valley.

How can I become an ally for marginalized communities?

There are great advocacy organizations out there who know much more than we do about how to be a good ally to marginalized or underserved communities, and you can find great resources online.

What we’ve learned in our journey so far is that allyship is not something you ‘are’; it’s something you ‘do’. It’s an ongoing process of learning and action, and it requires some humility; a willingness to critically examine your own viewpoints, and to learn from mistakes. We at the Community Center are committed to doing this work, and we hope you’ll join us!