As cinematographers one of the roles we play are to interact closely with the actors and crew on set, and as HODs we are responsible for establishing a safe and trustworthy environment where performers and technicians can give their best work. Mental safety and health as well as physical safety and health are paramount considerations onset.
On 6th March Amber (Executive Officer) and I attended a safety course around Rainbow inclusivity onset which falls under our gender diversity inclusivity philosophy. The four hour course was instigated by the Rurungi web drama series around LGBTQIA community funded by NZ on Air for Automaus Ltd. The session was run by Inside Out who you can find more out about here - insideout.org.nz
It is estimated that one in twelve people identify as a sexual minority, meaning they belong within the LGBTQIA community. This means on a crew of forty eight, there are likely to be four sexual minority individuals present.
Sexual minorities have a long history of feeling ostracized and persecuted for their sexuality. Statistically they are five times more likely to attempt suicide than cis gendered population, 59.4% likely to self harm and 41.3% likely to be depressed. This is attributed to minority stress from the following causes - stigma, discrimination, rejection from friends, isolation, disconnectedness and perceiving a lack of respect or understanding
One of the best ways we can support a vulnerable minority is to use language that is respectful of their position. Language is a powerful tool, you reflect what you hear, and language is loaded with traditional biases that the user is often unaware of when they speak. Using language that is mindful helps to make people feel respected and safe.
The session we attended put us through various exercises about understanding the categories of sexual minorities and what the potential misuses of common language may be . There are complicated and personal pronoun possibilities when it comes to ‘he’ or ‘she’ and we discovered how easy it was to fall into language stereotypes when we resorted to such binary identifiers in everyday conversation.
The simplest safe and respectful way is to refer to them by their name, so there is no need for a pronoun. It is also now considered safe and correct practice to use the pronoun ‘they’ or ‘them’ in the singular when referring to someone of uncertain gender pronoun.
It is considered ok to ask an individual upfront if they have a gender pronoun preference and it is also ok to make mistakes in the process of practicing respectful language.
So in summation, when being mindful of onset inclusivity, with sexual minorities it is all about the gender pronoun and practicing its correct use for the individual to feel included and respected.