As the same-sex marriage debate lurches from one calamity to the next, community management company Quiip’s GM Julie Delaforce (pictured below) offers some wise words on how to protect everyone in the debate.
On 13 September the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) started rolling out a postal vote to Australians registered on the electoral role. This voluntary postal vote, which isn’t actually a vote at all but rather an opinion poll, is to determine whether Australians support a change in the law in order to allow same-sex couples to marry. From all of us at Quiip, it’s a resounding yes for marriage equality, and we’ve pledged our support on the Australian Marriage Equality website.
Over the coming months we’re likely to see an increasing number of discussions around the marriage equality issue and the LGBTIQA+ community. As community managers, it’s our job to ensure the communities we manage are safe and inclusive for all. This is particularly important for vulnerable members who are at risk of bullying or vilification.
Here are our tips for creating safe online spaces for LGBTIQA+ people:
Stay strong and stick to your guidelines
The behaviours and values you want to see in your community, should be expressed in your guidelines. Your community guidelines outline the kind of behaviour that will and won’t be accepted. Having these dos and don’ts clearly listed also gives you a rule to point to when you are editing or deleting posts. This reinforces positive behaviours within the community by demonstrating the consequences of not adhering to the community guidelines.
Make sure LGBTIQA+ voices are prominent
A community that is largely void of conversations about LGBTIQA+ relationships, issues and interests can signal to a newcomer that the community is not welcoming of them, nor is it a place where they can ask questions or share on such topics. Working with LBTIQA-identified members of your community to ensure that their voice is heard, and the types of content and conversations they want to see are visible.
When faced with homophobia, many LGBTIQA+ people won’t engage
Be aware that when creating a safe space for LGBTIQA+ people, even a small amount of homophobia or anti-LGBTIQA is too much. A safe space has to be a place that is free of judgement. It should be the place where an LBTIQA-identified community member can relax without having to defend their life choices or their right to marry. For example, a comment such as “I have nothing against same-sex couples but I don’t think they should get married,” is often seen as a community member stating an opinion, and is therefore permissible. However, if your aim is to create a safe and welcoming community for LGBTIQA+ people, comments like this must be dealt with quickly via clear moderation processes.
Be mindful of the language you use
The language you use in your community is a powerful tool for inclusion. For example, in a relationship conversation, encouraging people to talk about their “partners” invites unmarried and LGBTIQA+ people to join the conversation. You can also help by not making assumptions about someone’s gender, use the they/them/theirs pronouns and ask members to confirm which pronouns they prefer.
Back yourself and your communities’ values
Where ever necessary, politely and persistently, shut down homophobic statements. Don’t be afraid to delete posts and ban users that aren’t in keeping with your communities’ values. Reward and engage with the kind of positive and inclusive conversations you would like to see more of in your community.