Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQ Youth in Dance Studios
Dance studios should be a welcoming and inclusive space for everyone where individuals can feel accepted in expressing themselves freely and being comfortable and confident in their own skin.
Unfortunately for LGBTQ+ youth, some traditional dance studios can feel unwelcoming or even unsafe. As dance educators and studio owners, it is our responsibility to foster an environment that celebrates diversity and ensures the well-being of every individual.
In this blog post, we will explore practical strategies to create a safe and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ youth in your dance studio.
1. Educate Yourself and Your Staff
It is important to familiarize yourself and your team with LGBTQ+ identities, terminology, issues that at-risk youth may face, and laws and legislation.
Attend workshops, read books, and seek out resources to learn more about creating a safe and welcoming environment for all students and enhancing your team's knowledge and sensitivity.
Here are some resources which I've found to be helpful.
LGBTQ+ identities and terminology
The identiversity provides a digital learning hub surrounding topics related to gender and sexual identity. It's a comprehensive and informative guide, and I love it. Their glossary provides an A-Z of relevant terminology, and they even have a quiz for you to test your knowledge.
Issues that LGBTQ+ youth face
Gender dysphoria, family rejection, and discrimination are just a few of the huge challenges which our LGBTQ+ youth face both in and out of the studio. The Trevor Project recently published a report highlighting data from a survey answered by LGBTQ+ youth in 2021. Just Like Us provides a detailed article on LGBTQ+ youth, who have experiences with bullying, school challenges, and mental health.
Laws and legislations
If you have a chance, take a while to read up on legislation in your region that could affect LGBTQ+ young people. This heat map from the Trevor Project breaks it down by state.
2. Use Inclusive and Appropriate Language
Using language that embraces and respects the diversity of bodies, genders, and relationships is a simple but powerful way to create a welcoming environment.
Here's how you can use inclusive language in your studio:
Acknowledge all gender identities, sexes, and sexual preferences
Make sure to use words and phrases that respect and acknowledge each individual's preferences and know there is a difference between someone's gender identity, sex, and sexual preference.
Avoid generalizations, assuming someone's gender, or using gendered terms
Try not to use language such as "girls" and "boys." Instead, opt for gender-neutral terms like "dancers" or "students." It is appropriate to ask students what pronouns they prefer, so go for it!
Lead by example
If you want to foster an inclusive environment, be sure to use LGBTQ+ inclusive language as much as you can. This can help encourage your fellow dance teachers and students to do the same.
3. Create a Non-Discriminatory Policy
Implementing a clear and comprehensive non-discrimination policy is essential in harnessing an inclusive dance studio. Be explicit in communicating that discrimination or harassment based on sexual preference, gender identity, or other protected characteristics will not be tolerated. Communicate this policy to your staff, students, and parents/guardians, ensuring that everyone understands the studio's commitment to inclusivity and the consequences of any violations.
Here's an example of how to create an effective policy.
4. Offer Diverse Dance Styles and LGBTQ+ Specific Programs
Get creative and avoid choreography and music choices that do not reflect different cultural backgrounds and experiences. Get your students involved and ask them what dance styles align with individual passions and identities.
If you have the resources, offering classes specifically for the LGBTQ+ community can help create a dedicated safe space where students are surrounded by their peers and allies. Try making some workshops or programs to help empower your students to be comfortable and confident in their own skin.
5. Create Visibility for the LGBTQ+ Community
Promoting visibility is key to creating a safe environment for LGBTQ+ youth. Here are some effective ways to do it.
Share your favorite LGBTQ+ dancers, choreographers, artists, and role models' stories and achievements through your studio's Facebook and Instagram pages. Consider partnering with ambassadors and accounts that empower your students.
There's no better way to create a sense of inclusivity and community than hosting an event occasionally. Have your students help to choreograph special performances that promote diversity and inclusivity. Invite other LGBTQ+ people from the community, and charge a few bucks for a ticket which you can donate to your favorite organization.
Communicate with your parents and students about what you're doing to represent the LGBTQ+ community and why it's important to the studio.
6. Highlight Your Studio as a Safe One
7. Partner with LGBTQ+ Organizations
Contact local LGBTQ+ organizations or community centers to establish relationships and collaborations. By partnering with these organizations, you can gain valuable insights, resources, and guidance on creating an inclusive environment. Additionally, consider hosting workshops or events led by LGBTQ+ advocates or professionals to further educate and empower your students and staff.
Small Steps Make a Huge Impact
You can do so many things to protect LGBTQ+ youth, and although they require intentional effort and ongoing commitment, try not to overwhelm yourself. Start with strategies that feel accessible to you, and go from there. Most importantly, thank yourself for taking the time to celebrate diversity, nurture creativity, and empower our LGBTQ+ youth.
Thanks for reading.