Practitioners working in the wellness industry should know their personal impact on clients’ wellness. It stands to reason. But sometimes one person’s idea of being reasonable is received as wholly unreasonable by another. I recently experienced discriminatory practices in a wellness organization, and I am not alone.
Sarah Taylor is an LGBTQIA+ Trailblazers Coach based in the UK. During her coaching training and further professional development training, the prevailing belief was that students were cisgender and heterosexual. She saw this reflected in the tutors’ language and course materials. Class cohorts were referred to as “guys” which, as Sarah points out, can be harmful and distressing to trans women and non-binary folk. Sarah felt she constantly had to come out in an environment not deemed safe for all orientations and genders. Further, she experiences a lack of inclusive language in coach mastermind programs and coaching communities. We need to do better.
For my own story, I was asked to run a workshop in a location with little ethnic diversity. I noticed all pictures of past events were of white forty-year-olds, mirroring the organization and its team’s demographic. I asked about their practices on encouraging under-represented groups to access their offerings. They did not have any. I run diversity and inclusion training and, to their credit, they booked a session. A two-hour workshop is not enough to retrain ingrained thought patterns and behaviors, but it is a start. Sarah would like to see all wellness organizations reaching out for inclusion training as part of their business ethos.
Dalia Kinsey is a Registered Dietitian living in the USA, host of the Body Liberation for All podcast, and author of Decolonizing Wellness: A QTBIPOC-Centered Guide to Escape the Diet Trap, Heal Your Self-Image, and Achieve Body Liberation. Dalia agrees there needs to be more training, adding that a lifetime of believing inaccurate things about people outside of our in-groups is going to take more than just trying to be nice or inclusive. Dalia suggests one way to start diversifying our lives across the board is to consume media from many sources – reading books written from a variety of perspectives and attending webinars and trainings put on by people of different backgrounds.
I couldn’t agree more. Reading books by diverse authors, setting up bursary offerings, and dating outside of my own culture may bring me a little closer to understanding experiences, but there is always more to do. Spending time with some family members reminds me of what still resides in my cells, inherent discrimination. The internal and external fight for fair treatment is real, and ongoing.
This year Sarah launched The Wellness Evolution Festival in the UK. They set a target of 20% LGBTQ+ attendance, to demonstrate their commitment to making the festival a place where LGBTQ+ people are a priority. She wanted to bring inclusion to life and achieved this through the number of LGBTQ+ presenters and speakers, pronoun badges made available to participants, all-gender toilets, and inclusion principles displayed in every festival space.
I used to perform stand-up in Europe and not that long ago comics were vetoing events that only had all-male line-ups. You will still see one token woman on posters. It is simply not good enough. Change starts with awareness, leading to mindset shifts. And that is the focus of this blog, not to name and shame industries, but to highlight the pockets of change that need to happen, and how we can be part of the change process. So, in true coaching style, let’s focus on where things are at, where they need to be, and what we can do to get there.
One of Dalia’s drives is to eliminate health disparities in the QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community. Racism and fatphobia were two of the biggest barriers to Dalia getting an accurate diagnosis of a medical condition. When asked to identify barriers in wellness settings, Dalia mentions:
- ongoing experiences in yoga studios where there is an assumption Dalia has never been in a yoga class before
- being stared at or ignored by staff in yoga or pilates studios
- being told by white therapists and coaches to ignore experiences of discrimination because they believe it is the negativity not the discrimination that could harm Dalia
How can you use lived experiences to promote a shift in your own inclusive practices?
Amongst other things, my Client Intake Questionnaire asks the following:
- What is your learning style?
- Share any information to help me manage the coaching relationship effectively.
- What aspects of your identity are central to who you are? e.g., heritage/culture, religious/spiritual, disability status, gender, sexual orientation, relationship identity
I continue to examine my own filters and privilege as a cisgender white non-disabled woman, and educate myself and my practices regularly, and this is shared with my clients. I also ask what “safety” means to my client, because my understanding of creating a “safe container” comes from my experiences. My client may scan for risk every time they go outside, and how their nervous system responds to safety may be radically different from mine.
If we do not ask the questions we cannot provide the best service possible to cater for the needs of our clients. What questions do you need to ask your clients?
All my sessions are on zoom, and it takes no effort to put my pronouns (she/her) at the end of my name. I have never had to think about my sex (male/female) or my gender (society’s social construct) because for me they feel congruent (cis gender). When I am misgendered (I am tall, I have short hair, I wear trousers a lot, societal norms say this means “man”) it does not bother me in the slightest. But this is not everyone’s experience of misgendering. Therefore, if I can acknowledge and respect all people’s lived experiences by putting my pronouns, and not assuming others’ pronouns, and being confident in asking people to share their pronouns when I am running group coaching sessions, then I am being an active ally.
Sarah agrees, adding pronouns can be put in your website bio and email signature too. She encourages us to research the histories of underrepresented groups, and to not judge one client’s experience as representative of all experiences. She encourages us to learn from our mistakes instead of staying in a place of saying nothing for “fear of getting it wrong.” Dalia recommends allies should look at making their entire lives more inclusive, starting with where we gather our information about the world.
I chose to train under Radiant Coaches Academy because of their proactive approach to encouraging under-represented groups into the coaching industry. They have a Queer Coaches tab on their website and run coaching programs with disadvantaged groups.
How do you support inclusivity in the wellness industry? Share your ideas below.
INSTAGRAM: @sarahtaylorqueercoach Information on how to be an LGBTQIA+ ally
WEBSITE: https://sarah-taylor.co.uk/allies allyship courses
RESOURCE: https://www.daliakinsey.com/about Dalia shares personal experiences and book purchase details
PODCAST: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/body-liberation-for-all/id1523362245 Body Liberation for All, by Dalia Kinsey
BOOKS: firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a copy of my booklist by global majority authors
Ali Hendry (she/her), Education Director (Europe), Radiant Coaches Academy
Want to work with Ali either as your coach or inclusion training for your business?
Booking link: https://calendly.com/alihendrycoaching/initial-meeting