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Posted by Philip on 14 June 2017, 6:46 pm in , , , , ,

Turning inclusion inside out

Inclusion. Such a buzzword of our time. But, as I've written before, inclusion is but a whisper away from assimilation and colonisation. Currently, inclusion asks, "How can we include others in the mainstream? But, what if we asked, "How can we include the mainstream in others?" instead?

One of my clients, Be. Accessible, is achieving this inside-out version of inclusion admirably by referring to disabled people as access citizens and pointing out that, at some time in our lives (whether due to ageing, temporary or permanent injury or illness), everyone will be an access citizen. This disrupts the conversation about one in four people having 'special' needs (them) and the rest (us). It reframes the conversation — we're all in the same boat in regards to needing spaces and places to be accessible. This framing invites the mainstream into the access community.

Similarly, the recent adoption of the term cisgender, meaning having a gender identy that is the same as your sex (biological gender), disrupts the conversation that asks, "How do we include transgender or gender-fluid communities into a dual-gender mainstream?" Naming the 'normal'/'usual' gender identity (male or female) as cis welcomes the mainstream into a spectrum of gender identity that includes all.

For a long tive I've felt conflicted about using terms like gay or queer to describe my sexual orientation, because it polarises my preference and makes me other to the heteronormative discourse that it's 'normal'/'usual' to be straight. I would favour terms like same-gender-attracted, opposite-gender-attracted, fluidly-attracted, non-attracted, etc. because, again, the conversation is disrupted to consider a spectrum of attraction.

Were Aotearoa to effectively embrace the value of a bicultural society that honoured the indigeneity of Mana Whenua and Tangata Whenua, terms like NZ European and Other European might disappear from demographic surveys. Māori or Pākehā (or at least non-Māori) may become the default, with sub-categories such as Mana Whenua, hapu, iwi etc sitting under Māori. Other ethnicities would then sit under Pākehā.

Skeptics may argue that this is all an exercise in semantics. However, given that language is so determinant in shaping culture, reframing the default categories we use to define ourselves may well shift unconscious biases and create a more genuine interpretation and expression of inclusion and diversity.

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