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How to BraveSpace 1/3

We would like to turn Antwerp (and beyond) into a beautiful brave space! So… What is a brave space actually? Who gets to create a brave space? Who can create such space? In this chain of blog posts we will try to answer these questions for you and help you better understand what brave spaces are and how you too can contribute to creating them!


Brave space, what?

Well, it can be defined as a space (physical or online) where people can have meaningful conversations with each other. They can share their opinions and personal experiences while being mindful of and being respectful to other people who may not share the same point of view. An open mind and (self) awareness are keys to creating a brave space. This means that one’s aware of their own privilege and ignorance. And we don’t mean this in a condescending tone. After all, nobody is perfect, nor can we know everything. Mistakes do happen. It’s what makes us human. And the wonderful thing about mistakes, is that they allow us to learn and do better next time!


Why is it necessary?

By having brave spaces in Antwerp, we hope everyone will be brave enough to be themselves and make room for others who may not share the same identity.

So, who can create a brave space? Everyone! You don’t have to be queer to create a brave space. Better yet, more than ever is it important that non-queer people help us build these spaces. At schools, hospitals, the workplace, etc. As an employer you can play a vital part. But also on a very personal, individual level you can help create brave spaces all around you.


Okay, now how to create it?

Glad you asked! We’ve tried to compile a few common practices you can apply to almost any situation. Be it at school, your work or even at a family dinner!


There are three overarching sets of practices that we’ll dive into through three separate blog posts. This blog will expand on the first set. Want to know about the other two sets? Stay tuned and be on the lookout for our next post!


AN: Remember, brave spaces constantly shift and change and evolve. A brave space isn’t strict or static. A brave space exists because of the people who create it and keep it alive. It’s a verb, it’s something you do.


How to brave space

Be AWARE (1) of your surroundings, learn how to talk the TALK (2) and make sure that you are going to SLAY (3) the runway.



1. BE AWARE


These steps or tools, if you will, are useful not only when you’re creating a brave space with others, but also when you are by yourself. This first set of practices will help you expand your (pre-)knowledge and be aware of these things when you interact with others.


Analyse your source of information

Be aware of the bias around you (news outlets, TV programs, colleagues, family members, friends,...) when it comes to conversation about LGBTQIA+, racism or other societal issues before using them in this space.


Work to recognize your privileges

Use this space to recognize and investigate your privileges (for example: race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability). Honour the different experiences we all bring to this space.


Acknowledge your unawareness

You can't know everything, and that's okay. No one possesses all the knowledge in the world. Therefore, sometimes it is better to listen to the other person with an open mind without prejudice.


Read to expand your knowledge

You can't know everything but take accountability for your own learning.


Embrace the moment

Be present, notice and name group dynamics in the moment. We are all responsible for this space. Be aware of how others are responding or not responding. Ask for a “time out” or dialogue if needed.


Elaborate please!

In this section, we will give you a few concrete examples of each of these AWARE steps.


Analyse

It’s always important to fact-check and understand the article you’re reading/seeing. For example, there’s a news article about trans women competing in sports, stating that it’s unfair.


These are some questions you could ask yourself:

  • What do I know about trans women and this specific sports related topic?

  • Who wrote the article? Was it a cis person, a trans person? What is their knowledge on trans women, their issues? What is their knowledge on sports?

  • What do they try to achieve with this article? Is it purely informational? Even the most neutral sounding article, can have unchallenged and subtle bias from the author.

  • What do trans women have to say about this issue? Have you listened to their opinion? Have you looked at trans sport athletes and what they have to say?

  • Do you know trans women in sports? Do you know what they’ve achieved?

Whether we want to or not, our own bias and in extension also the bias of an author, can and will seep into the content they create. That’s why it’s important to not only believe or read one article, but look for multiple. Especially when it comes to articles about trans people. Often, these articles are written by cisgender people. Well-intended or not, these authors do not have the lived experience trans folkshave. Besides, ignorance and the major misunderstanding of trans people and their issues, often lead to incorrect assumptions. Schuyler (@pinkmantaray on Instagram) is a trans male athlete and activist who has made countless posts about trans people, specifically trans women, in sports where he debunks several myths regarding this assumed “unfair advantage”. Here is a link to such a post.


Work

As Peggy McIntosh described in her essay “"White Privilege and Male Privilege" that privilege is like a backpack full of advantages you get without having earned them, but you get these advantages because of a certain identity you have.


It’s not easy to be aware of one's own privilege because said privilege often goes unnoticed and then you know it’s working: when you are mainly unaware of it.


An exercise to recognize your privilege could be by asking questions


White privilege

  • I can easily turn on the TV and see people like me reflected on the screen

  • When I go to a job interview, there’s a small chance people cannot pronounce my name correctly

  • I can easily express my emotions in public without fearing that I’m seen as a potential threat to others

  • At school, I learn about people looking like me

  • While talking about social issues, my experience is rarely challenged

Cisgender privilege

  • I don’t have to worry about going into a public restroom and being thrown out for not looking a certain way

  • I can go to the gynaecologist and nobody will give me weird looks in the waiting room

  • My gender identity is never questioned or ridiculed

  • Nobody asks me what genitals I have or how I have sex with them

  • I am not required to undergo an extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.

Male privilege

  • I can go for walks at night without fearing my safety will be compromised

  • I can be shirtless without people asking me to cover up or social media censoring my photos

  • My confidence is hardly ever assumed to be arrogance

  • My promotion at work is never questioned because of my gender

  • I do not fear to be fired for having children

Straight privilege

  • I can talk openly about my partner without people feeling uncomfortable or saying I force my sexuality down their throat

  • I can walk hand in hand with my partner in public without fear of being harassed or attacked

  • When I share my sexual orientation, I am not sexualized or be invited for threesomes

  • Nobody tries to convince me they can change my sexuality

  • My sexuality is not deemed inferior or a mental illness

Abled privilege

  • When there are roadworks going on, I can easily make a detour

  • I don’t have to plan a trip into the city because I’m sure I can access every building

  • People do not spontaneously ask or immediately help me when they see me

  • People do not question whether I’m abled or faking it

  • I don’t fear being excluded of social group activities


Acknowledge

As we’ve said in the beginning: nobody is perfect and we simply cannot know everything. That’s okay! It’s great to acknowledge and accept this about yourself.


Read

Read to expand your knowledge

Here are a few links and resources to a few issues that will help you understand some of these issues better


Embrace

For example, you’re a teacher. Then it’s important to acknowledge the different identities and dynamics in the class. The fact that you’re a teacher already makes interacting with students different from being a boss in a company or being in a student group.


Understand that maybe not every student has access to their own computer, if they have one at all. Not all students have two parents, or both a mom and a dad. Maybe not all students celebrate Christmas. So when you talk about certain holidays, keep in mind some students have a different religion and thus celebrate different things.


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