Entering a new semester, Global would like to introduce you to the Diverse Identity Alliance (DIA), a service learning group dedicated to advocating LGBTQ+ awareness in school. Student leaders Fidan (G12), Kumud (G12), and Thiri (G9) continue to start and maintain conversations that open space for inclusion and representation of the LGBTQ+ community at ISY.
Meeting weekly, DIA aims to educate and talk about important issues the LGBTQ+ community faces and addresses with group members and the school community. DIA is hopeful that such conversations will help students and faculty who are unfamiliar with such topics be more comfortable and open to the LGBTQ+ community.
So far this year, the group has engaged in weekly activities ranging from educating themselves with interactive presentations led by the three student leaders to discussing the role of LGBTQ+ representation on social media, in the news, and in films. They have also focused on the concept of more inclusive wording, such as pronouns, and what they mean and how there are alternative ways to express oneself.
Fidan has expressed that “It’s brave of them to do,” referring to the (largely middle school) group members who had joined at the beginning of the school year, “a lot of people, especially those who are a little bit older, may feel uncomfortable talking about sensitive topics… I’ve had conversations where they think, ‘Oh, I’m sorry did I say something wrong?’ This motivates me to continue educating myself and those around me so that these conversations come more easily.” Thiri also added that, “[This club is] not only for queer students… we talk about queer issues, but these conversations are not directed exclusively towards queer people… it’s open to everyone.”
DIA continues to give members the resources to better understand themselves; “Just because you might not fall into the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn about how various types of relationships differ from each other,” Fidan noted, “I believe everyone should have this knowledge…we want to help people discover who they are.”
After running for a little over a year, DIA is ready to take on bigger projects that engage with the school community. They are in the beginning stages of collaborating with Chinthe Roar to create an animated, episodic series that aims to educate the student population on LGBTQ+ related topics that people may not be aware of. Topics include labels and pronouns, as well as debunking LGBTQ+ “myths” (for example, “being trans means you’ve had surgery”). “We want to make sure that people aren’t relating labels and misconceptions this way,” said Thiri, “these episodes will hopefully answer some questions that not everyone is comfortable with asking.”
DIA is also looking forward to a compassion conference upcoming in March, where they will be running a workshop for teachers from various international schools in Yangon and educating them on how to approach LGBTQ+ issues in a school setting. This workshop parallels one that the group ran with the ISY administration in the 2020-21 school year. As that workshop was a success, both DIA and the ISY faculty wanted to engage with an even wider audience. “[That workshop] was definitely one of our proudest accomplishments,” Kumud reflected, “we got really good feedback from the administrative team and I look forward to speaking with more of the community.”
DIA operates on three values: creating a safe space, focusing on mental health, and raising community awareness. Global eagerly anticipates the continual growth of DIA as a group and the conversations they have started. The leaders have left a final note, “We are advocating right now so students in the future have their own safe space in our community.”
If you are interested in joining DIA, please contact Fidan (firstname.lastname@example.org), Kumud (email@example.com), or Thiri (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information. Also, don’t forget to look out for DIA’s appearance in our upcoming issue of the Ripple! We dive into the very beginnings of DIA and how far they have come along from the previous obstacles they faced.