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SAFE’s Trickle Up Effect is Creating Space for Conversations about Identity


SAFE’s course on gender, identity and inclusion offers a safe space to connect, be curious, and learn from one another.

SAFE’s Trickle Up Effect is an interactive workshop offering businesses and organizations the chance to get curious and have courageous conversations around gender, sexuality, and the importance of inclusion in the workplace.

 

Through Trickle Up Effect’s interactive lessons, participants learn how to be better advocates for LGBTQ employees and clients and how to respond to challenging and uncomfortable situations.


Developed in 2018 and brought to SAFE in March 2022, Trickle Up Effect has since trained 75 individuals. Now more than ever, groups are seeing the value of leveling up their knowledge on how to nurture inclusivity and promote authenticity in the workplace.


The program was developed by SAFE Director of Training and Development Oomiya Kawas (they/she pronouns), who has a background in diversity, equity, and inclusion, gender support resourcing, and LGBTQIA+ adolescent outreach. “When families struggle to accept their LGBT child’s identity, it can result in anxiety, depression, and suicidality–all these negative outcomes,” says Kawas. “I was working with families to put systems in place to reduce those negative outcomes, and the most effective of those were love, acceptance, and encouraging their kids to be their authentic selves. Those experiences really honed my skills.”


More than a lecture, Trickle Up Effect is a conversational space for asking questions and coming to a better understanding of gender, identity, transness, marginalization, and privilege. Kawas says they have witnessed these seemingly small moments of conversation offer a powerful impact. “Being able to facilitate spaces where people feel safe to ask questions and get vulnerable, it promotes learning and growing. Each time that happens, the ripple effect is powerful.”


Kawas has seen this impact in businesses as well. “Educating your teams on how to meet people from all different walks of life increases revenue,” she says. “And many companies are beginning to see that.” The program encourages new ways of identifying accessibility needs, helping organizations meet the goal of ensuring anyone–not just a few people–can say, ‘This place is built with me in mind.’


One Massachusetts-based medical group was motivated toward tangible change in their organization following their Trickle-Up Effect training. The team of doctors and nurses became aware of a need to revise their intake process and decided to consult with Kawas. Together, they went through the clinic's intake paperwork and processes and made sure that they were inclusive of trans and gender-expansive identities. “It was really moving knowing that patients who might have struggled going to the doctor because of the psychological implications of being misgendered or dead-named would have safeguards in place to prevent that," says Kawas. "I was honored to be a part of it.”


Businesses are increasingly seeking out the Trickle Up Effect with their bottom line in mind, an intent that Kawas says is paying off. “If I have to show up every day at my job and I can’t be who I am, I am using a big piece of my bandwidth to shield myself, privately build my own accommodations, and be this other person,” they say. “When we can show up as our authentic selves without fear, we are more creative, more innovative, and can more easily see our work in a new way. We all know that unhappy employees equal more turnover, which is more onboarding and training, one of the biggest internal expenses. So equity really is money in your pocket.”


One point of the Trickle Up Effect curriculum is to show the ways stereotypes limit our understanding of others. In one activity, participants practice telling their life story in gender stereotypes, holding back details that don’t seem to fit. One participant expressed how freeing this was for him. “He didn’t like cars, tools, or sports. He loved to garden, and considered himself very nurturing,” Kawas recalls. “He felt secure in who he was now as an older gentleman, but realized how much these stereotypes impacted him when he was younger. He had felt he needed to be something he wasn't.”


For Kawas, Trickle Up Effect is ultimately about seeing the value of everyone’s authenticity. “My greatest hope when teaching is that I can inspire folks to see the value in authenticity and to cherish it, both theirs and others” she says. “I want them to leave with permission to explore who they are, to live in their truth, and to encourage and honor the space for others to do the same.”


For more information on SAFE’s Trickle Up Effect see our website or email okawas@safecoalitionma.org.

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