Why Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging is Core to the Advancement of Civil Rights for Marginalized People
As LGBTQ+ Pride 2022 takes off across the country, the visibility, joy, and hope that we celebrate as a community reminds me why Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (“EDIB”) work is so important and why it is an integral component of true progress for the civil rights of marginalized people. When wearing my work hat, I advocate across the country for the civil rights and liberties of transgender people, primarily through litigation. From young transgender students who want to participate in interscholastic sports consistent with their gender to Medicaid beneficiaries who want the same healthcare benefits as cisgender beneficiaries. When I reach the part of my cases where I can ask “why?” and defendants must explain their discriminatory behavior, they never have an adequate legal justification, let alone a logical one.
Over the years, what I have come to better understand is that those responsible for discriminatory legislation, policies, actions, etc., are usually motivated by a common denominator, ignorance. In my work, they often have never met a transgender person, have made no effort to truly understand transgender people or the issues we face, and some are motivated by animus. And these motives appear across the spectrum for marginalized people. Replace transgender with Black, disabled, immigrant, etc., and you will find that there is no connection to or education about these communities, only misinformation and baseless hostility.
In a lawsuit, I cannot connect and provide the kind of education that undergirds lasting and meaningful change. That is why I do EDIB consulting. Through this work, I get to educate others about my personal experiences as a transgender person, as woman, as a bi-racial Black person, as a Southerner, as someone affected by the carceral system, as someone born into poverty, and how all those aspects of my identity have impacted and shaped my life and perspective. I engage with people, on a personal level, who do not share my identities and I teach them history, social science, my personal experiences and the experiences of marginalized people, and the ways in which we all have a part and responsibility in making the world a better place for all people. And that kind of personal engagement is critical in achieving meaningful progress for marginalized people.
Legal victories ensure that the law is clear about the civil rights we all should enjoy but those wins often do not translate to the everyday experiences of some of the most vulnerable people and those who walk through this world with multi-marginalized identities. Legal equality and lived equality are distinct and the latter is where we need more progress and EDIB work is an important tool in that progress. In being an EDIB consultant and choosing to engage some of the most difficult issues we face as a society, my hope is that I am laying more bricks in the path towards lived equality and supplementing legal equality in a meaningful and impactful way.
*Photo by Elyssa Fahndrich on Unsplash