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  • Writer's pictureMcKinley

Safety for Self-Advocacy

There is an art to [birds] flocking: staying separate enough not to crowd each other, aligned enough to maintain a shared direction, and cohesive enough to always move towards each other. (Responding to destiny together). Destiny is a calling that creates a beautiful journey.

- Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown

Advocacy is defined as “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy”. Self-advocacy, as defined by me, is supporting ourselves publicly - something that we are deserving of in every facet of our lives. We, women and marginalized genders, are especially socialized to believe that we are not deserving of the space to advocate for ourselves. An added layer of internalized belief of inferiority is often socialized into other marginalized groups and those who experience intersectionality among their identities.

We are socialized this way and not extended the space from others where it is safe to advocate for ourselves. Because of this, communicating our needs and boundaries becomes challenging at best, and unsafe, violent, and deadly at worst.

Speaking up for yourself is an act of courage and bravery.

Existing in an environment that doesn’t welcome your self-advocacy is an act of courage and bravery. This is for those of us who exist in these spaces.

Those who maintain and have power in these environment are quick to protect their positions (often with at least one dominant culture identity - white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, male). This may be in romantic relationships, friendships, within the workplace, church, healthcare system, or just about anywhere. Even something as simple as setting a boundary can be seen as a threat.

The strategy of “divide and conquer” is very common, especially within workplace environments - there is power in numbers, and maintaining the status quo of toxicity or harm is nearly impossible when those on the receiving end come together in collective self-advocacy. It is easy to dismiss or ignore one person, two people, or even five or ten. It becomes exponentially more difficult to disregard with each person who adds themselves to the efforts.

Right now, teachers across the US are feeling isolated, afraid of retaliation, and that their lives are not being valued. Parents and caregivers are also feeling ignored. But there is power in numbers. Whether you are a teacher, parent, or other caregiver of children, we all need self-advocacy right now - and children need us advocating for their wellbeing, too.

Coming together to demand safe environments is no easy feat, but it is one worth undertaking. Sometimes an environment that is safe for us in some ways may be unsafe for another in every way. When we have a greater degree of safety than someone else, we can leverage that to press for more change, push back against those in power. They won’t like it. It will be uncomfortable. It may be scary. It may feel lonely. But you are not alone.

You are brave. You are courageous. Your perspectives and experiences are real and valid.

If you believe you could benefit from the support of an advocate for trauma-informed care and equity, my inbox is always open to hearing from you and exploring how to navigate your own self-advocacy.

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