Let’s start with the facts: You have biases. We all have biases. We’re born and raised in specific environments, families, and cultures that affect our viewpoints and shape our brains. There’s nothing wrong with having biases, and no shame in acknowledging our biases. They are just there. But acknowledging they exist is the only way to work toward overcoming them.
In order to see your biases, start by simply identifying who you are. For example, you might be a white, middle-class, able-bodied, cisgender, suburban, married man. If so, you have a set of experiences that are different from an African American lesbian, a Latin nonbinary immigrant, or a disable white man experiencing homelessness. That you view the world differently makes sense and is not surprising or a failure.
Acknowledging our biases is only the first step in being faith leaders who are inclusive and affirming. We must also consider how our individual life experiences have affected our thinking and assumptions.
- What advantages have I had because of my identity? What disadvantages?
- What obstacles have I faced and/or avoided simply because I was born into a certain family, neighborhood, or body?
- What might someone of a different race, gender, or orientation experience that I haven’t?
Obviously, none of us has control over the identities and culture we were born into. But we absolutely do have control over how we leverage those identities and cultures and how we engage with people who are different from us. This is especially true for people of faith. We are called to consider others as valuable as ourselves. We are followers of Jesus, who preached about welcoming strangers and caring for those who suffer. As a youth leader, you have the great privilege of creating spaces of welcome and care for the LGBTQ+ kids in your community who are too often treated as outsiders.
From “Welcoming and Affirming: A Guide to Supporting and Working with LGBTQ+ Christian Youth” by Leigh Finke – Broadleaf Books