By Grant Godino, president-elect of the LGBT Rotarians and Friends Fellowship and member of the Rotary Club of Strathmore, Australia
As I have started to share my ideas, opinions, and stories about LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse, queer, and questioning) inclusion in Rotary, I have heard so many of our leaders say to me: “We’re a really decent club/district. We don’t have any bad people. So, we don’t have a problem. Right?” I’ve also heard things like “Why is Rotary doing something so political” and “There are no gay people in my community.”
These comments come from a place of ignorance but I always consider them a teaching moment. LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. But while diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have climbed the Rotary agenda over the past decade, many LGBTQ+ members continue to face discrimination. When it comes to true inclusion, everyday interactions with peers and leaders matter as much as organizational policies or formal processes.
Here are ways to make your club and Rotary as a whole more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community:
Start having conversations
In order to understand the challenges for LGBTQ+ people, leaders at all level (club, district, zone, and international) should stay connected to what it means to be LGBTQ+ in Rotary. This means:
- Asking a local LGBTQ+ organization to speak at your club
- Downloading and discussing some of the educational resources developed by the LGBT Fellowship
- Contacting the LGBT Fellowship to make a presentation
Once these conversations start both internally and with the communities your club serves, you may see that there are LGBTQ+ people in every community, and maybe already in your club.
Set a meaningful public example
We need to do this to become more welcoming to LGBTQ+ communities. This could include:
- Small gestures like putting a rainbow flag at the bottom of your website, using the LGBT Fellowship’s rainbow heart logo on event flyers or Rotary’s global statement on DEI to make a bold statement that we are accepting of everyone.
- Asking members to include their preferred pronouns on name tags at club meetings and in email signatures. This signals support for the LGBTQ+ community and is a powerful education piece, helping people understand the importance of using individual’s preferred pronouns. It reduces the chances that people will mistakenly misgender someone who is trans or gender diverse.
Support projects that address key issues for LGBTQ+ communities
When you are thinking of your next project, consider issues like HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, addressing mental health issues, and homelessness in LGBTQ+ communities, or preventing violence toward LGBTQ+ people
Support and promote the LGBT Rotarians and Friends Fellowship
The LGBT Rotarians and Friends Fellowship is dedicated to promoting global friendship, service, and education, aiming to create an inclusive, understanding and welcoming community, fostering goodwill and peace, and realizing a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for LGBTQ+ people.
DEI is complex, and Rotary is taking great steps forwards. We have started to address gender, generational, and cultural diversity. There are still other aspects for us to discuss including LGBTQ+, disability, indigenous people and others, and then also how these identities can intersect. For example, how someone can be both LGBTQ+ and disabled. I’m excited about our progress and encourage people to reach out to the LGBT Fellowship, leaders, and district membership committees to continue the discussion.
Grant Godino (he/him) is the charter president of Gateway Rotaract, a member of the Rotary Club of Strathmore (Australia) and president elect of the LGBT Rotarians and Friends Fellowship. Grant identifies as a gay cisgender male and lives with his partner Lee (he/him) (also a Rotarian) in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne.