Wear It Purple Day – advancing inclusion and awareness for rainbow young people

Tetra Tech International Development Indo Pacific is celebrating Wear It Purple Day. Taking place on August 26th, it is an annual LGBTQIA+ awareness day, especially for young people.

Wear It Purple is a volunteer and youth-led not-for-profit organisation working towards raising awareness for our young LGBTQIA+ communities. Founded in 2010 in response to global stories of real teenagers, real heartache, and their very real responses, Wear It Purple Day is about showing LGBTQIA+ young people that they have the right to be proud of who they are.

Wear It Purple has four key focus areas; awareness, environment, opportunity, and collaboration. Dr. Ann-Maree Nobelius shares insights about how to support inclusion this Wear It Purple Day, and every day, in the context of international development organisations.


How do we raise awareness of the importance of creating inclusive experiences?

Wear Purple! Purple anything, and take the opportunity to tell people why you are doing it: On the bus, in the office, in the supermarket, everywhere.

Celebrate diversity, the only unifying factor we have is our difference, so let’s embrace it.

In an office environment, put up posters of the SOGIESC Graphic. Know what it stands for! Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression and sexual characteristics. It is the inclusive version of LGBTQIA+ where we all declare our SOGIESC, rather than only those who don’t meet the binary norms of male/female, man/woman, and straight. This is called compulsory Heterosexuality. It’s highly marginalising to rainbow youth, their self-esteem, and mental health and we should ALL reject it.

SOGIESC is an inclusive term that applies to all people, regardless of their Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression & Sex Characteristics. All people fit somewhere within this diagram.

SOGIESC is an inclusive term that applies to all people, regardless of their Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression & Sex Characteristics. All people fit somewhere within this diagram.

Many rainbow people still prefer LGBTQIA+. Know what it means: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and more (+).

In the Indo-Pacific, most cultures have 3 or more genders. Our Western-dominated binary notions are in the minority.


How can we provide safe digital and physical spaces for rainbow young people to feel secure and proud of who they are?

Use pronouns in emails and announce your own in meetings to normalise the practice.

Have the humility to apologise if you inadvertently ‘misgender’ someone: be aware of the preferred pronouns of your colleagues and use them. If you make a mistake, apologise and acknowledge it to the group, don’t just move on. It’s a more powerful role-modeling exercise if you do it in public, when you become aware of it, rather than doing it privately later on.

Be an ally and call out others whose behaviour is discriminatory when it’s safe to do so, and celebrate staff diversity through company communications.


How do we provide meaningful opportunities for rainbow young people to develop their skills, expand their network and contribute to their communities?

Be inclusive and discuss all genders (non-binary) rather than ‘gender’ signifying ‘women’, in all policies, practices and programs.

Make space for diversity of experience in head offices and in programs; most of the countries within which we operate have a traditional 3rd (or more) gender. With sensitivity, make space for that by asking the question as to whether we could do better supporting rainbow youth in our countries of operation.

Give them the same opportunities as their peers, and don’t make assumptions about their thoughts or needs – ask! Then, treat them like any other colleague – with respect.


How can we collaborate with other organisations to further the inclusion and support of rainbow young people?

Ask! Engage with rainbow youth groups and ask them if our collaboration and relative power can benefit them and how. In company communications, clearly articulate that we provide a safe workplace for rainbow young people and welcome them to contribute (especially in job ads).

Adhere to the ancient wisdom on inclusion, ‘Nihil, de nobis, sine de nobis’ – nothing about us without us.

Read more about the work that Wear it Purple do to foster supportive, safe, empowering and inclusive environments for rainbow young people: https://www.wearitpurple.org/ 


Associate Director Inclusion, Justice, and Transformation Practice, Asia-Pacific Region

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