Know what you need to be aware of, and the work that needs to be done, to ensure we’re minimising harm with marginalised youth and the practical steps we can take to ensure we’re holding inclusive spaces, from the way we design programs, how we hold space and even the venues we book! Topics covered include disability, race, gender, intersectionality and more. This is a powerful snippet of a longer guest expert class in our Youth Mentor Training.

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YMP S3 Ep2

Sound Bite

[00:00:00] We also have to recognize that for some teens living in marginalized bodies and experiencing marginalization that there are a whole lot of other issues that they are also facing as they’re growing up, compared to more privileged children and compared to white children.

[00:00:16] As a youth mentor, being informed is really important because we don’t know who is going to be in the audience if we’re speaking to a class or if we’re speaking to a whole school or even when we’re running a school holiday program or gathering.


[00:00:19] Hello and welcome to the youth mentor podcast. This is your short burst of inspiration tips and research about teens for parents, educators, and mentors. I’m your host, Amanda Rootsey, founder of teen personal development school Shine From Within and coach to incredible youth mentors all over the world. Now I certainly don’t know it all.

[00:00:38] So I interview the experts about what’s going on for youth today. From psychological insights to really practical advice, this is your moment of inspiration, motivation, and a few laughs amidst the ever changing world of teens and tweens.

I’m so excited to introduce you to Sharyn Holmes in this episode, or perhaps, , just reconnect you with them. Sharyn’s been a guest on the youth mentor podcast before, and this particular episode is actually a very powerful 20 minutes snippet of a two hour class or two, one hour classes that we have with Sharyn in our youth mentor training.

So, it’s not the whole conversation and just to give that a little bit of context, it’s actually part of the second class, uh, in the first class, Sharyn shared a lot about their lived experience as a biracial person, growing up and then leading into the work that, that they do now as an inclusion coach and all of the wonderful things that Sharyn does in the world.

This particular 20 minutes is, really powerful. We talk about, uh, actually I don’t talk much at all. This is just a really good snippet. And to be honest, it was hard to find just 20 minutes because when Sharyn gets talking about. Uh, inclusion, you know, they’re just so passionate about this topic as, as we all should be.

So this particular snippet, we cover things like a disability, race, gender, intersectionality, all sorts of things. And, um, there’s some really, really practical tips in here about how to get started when it comes to, , the self-awareness around unpacking privilege, as well as. The specific things that we can make sure that we’re doing as, as we create and design programs.

And, um, some of the things we can consider to try our best to minimize harm wherever possible, which of course is, should always be top of mind for youth mentors. So, uh, let’s get straight into it with Sharyn!

Interview begins

[00:00:31] Children are never too young to learn about racism. They’re never too young to learn about what it means to be anti racist either. As a parent to a teenager, I recognize that sometimes people don’t think that children can take some of the more, you know, adult or serious type issues. But, I think with the generation that we’re raising at the moment – they’re so switched on.

[00:01:02] Um, and they’re interested and they have access to a world of information that we didn’t have when I was growing up, you know, I was a teenager pre-internet, and it was only after high school when I got a computer and had the, you know, had the internet connected and it would make that motor me sound.

[00:01:29] So, you know, very early days and websites were a little bit, a hell of a lot different then to how they look now. So there’s information available everywhere, which means, one; it’s generally accessible to everyone. If you look, you can find information that you need. And two; in terms of giving us a lot more credit for their ability to be motivated, to mobilize, and to care about social issues, having greater awareness, it’s important that we remember that and, and also, have these conversations with them.

[00:02:02] Um, so in doing so we need to be informed as adults and as youth mentors, we need to be informed about what’s going on in the world, because when it comes to the youth and the teens that might attend our workshops or our high school talks or a high school conversations, we need to be informed because if they’re switched on and they’re always plugged in, we need to be as well.

[00:02:23] So. It’s just really important that yeah, as helping professionals and as educators that we know what’s going on in the world, and we know what the issues that kids are talking about and matters that they’re interested in so that we can still, to a certain extent, also lead the way whilst also recognizing that they are future leaders too.

[00:02:48] And some of them are already leading now.

[00:02:53] Amanda: Yeah, , that’s such a big point is they’re so informed and care so much – a lot of the young people today. So it’s yeah. As well as being really important, um, to ensure we’re holding a safe space and important for our ourselves too. And for building a just world, it’s also going to be beneficial to your business and to the way that you, um, yeah, the way that you can engage with young people, because they know this stuff and they want to be in conversation with someone that also knows this stuff and understands it, I think.

[00:03:33] Sharyn: Yeah. I agree. Absolutely. Um, And I guess the other part of recognizing the knowledge, the information access that youth have and their interest in sociopolitical topics. We also have to recognize that for some teens living in marginalized bodies and experiencing marginalization that there are a whole lot of other issues that they are also facing as they’re growing up compared to more privileged children and compared to white children.

[00:04:10] As a youth mentor being informed is really important because we don’t know who is going to be in the audience if we’re speaking to a class or if we’re speaking to a whole school or even when we’re running a school holiday program or gathering.

[00:04:24] We don’t know who might turn it up. And we can’t always tell by people’s names, who they are and what their identities are. So being fully informed ourselves, or at least doing as much as possible to be fully informed means that we can then read the room a lot better and have a bit more cultural awareness.

[00:04:46] Um, you know, from a land acknowledgement right through to, if we’re going to be talking about body image and body confidence, the lessons that someone might learn at home because of their cultural heritage might be very different to what might be taught in a white Australian context.

[00:05:07] Um, likewise when it comes to confidence and speaking up and communication, for those of us who are more marginalized, there is a lot of policing that happens with when we speak, when we speak up, when we have something to say, so being mindful as well that it’s not always safe for someone who’s marginalized to speak up.

[00:05:31] And because they’re also teenagers and they’re experiencing change and growth, not only in their bodies, but figuring out who they are, if they’re experiencing some gender, you know, gender matters, sexual orientation matters, they are also other ways that they’re going to be excluded or are going to feel marginalized and not safe and not comfortable to talk about things because they’re still processing, they’re still experiencing.

[00:05:59] I think obviously it’s taken a lot of time and a lot of progress where more conversations can happen around the gender binary, so I’m speaking about non binary people, gender nonconforming, gender fluid, um, as well as trans youth, um, and being mindful too, that, they’re the groups that tend to be excluded. And more so if they are black and brown with those other marginalizations. 

Um, and we also can’t forget disability too. So, just in bringing up the term disability, and bringing up the disabled community, one of the ways that we can be more inclusive is in ensuring that we are, as youth mentors practicing inclusion, is to book venues where they’re accessible, you know, to people who might be less able-bodied.

[00:06:57] So someone who might be using, a walking frame or a walking stick, or who’s in a wheelchair, won’t be able to use the stairs or might have difficulty using the stairs. And so choosing an accessible venue is important if you want to ensure that it’s not an obstacle for anyone who might be interested in attending.

[00:07:19] So that’s one small way that we can check ourselves when we’re booking a venue. Because there are, depending on where you live, it might be tricky to find more accessible venues, but generally speaking, if you’re living in a capital city, there are options to consider as well. A lot of community halls, in local suburban community halls, are wheelchair accessible.

[00:07:47] So, um, if you can’t find something that’s a private business that’s wheelchair accessible, or that has lifts, then, a council run venue is also an option.

[00:08:01] Amanda: It just seems silly to think that we wouldn’t do those things once you hear them, once you learn about them, it’s like, of course I want to be thoughtful and respectful and do things to make sure that it’s going to be an easy, comfortable, accessible experience for everyone, and not just the dominant culture.

[00:08:19] Yeah. And when it comes to disability, 20% of the Australian population have some form of disability. You might not be able to see what the disability is, but it doesn’t mean that, that there aren’t symptoms or something that’s present there that might impact someone from being able to attend or concentrate or get around the venue, for example. So it’s important to recognize those things as a starting point. Because, I have heard, there’ve been a few people that I’ve known of who live with disability, who have been asked to speak at events, who have had to attend interviews and there is no access, and it’s not even considered.

[00:09:13] So, specific to people who have disability, but also when it comes to other marginalized identities, don’t make us work really hard to find out whether you’re inclusive or accessible – make that very clear. Particularly if you’re booking different venues all the time, make it clear. So people don’t have to contact you and say, ‘Hey, are you actually accessible? Can I actually get in into the room? Are there, you know, facilities, disabled toilets and so on,’ as a starting point. Because it’s, it’s not nice to have to hunt for this information. Whenever I see an event pop up online or that’s, you know, run just by a solo business owner as well, or even if it’s like an organization, it’s really frustrating to have to hunt around to see, you know, am I going to be included?

[00:10:06] Is this going to be potentially a safer place, safer space for me to attend? And, particularly if we’re running events for girls and women, are those events going to be accessible to trans girls and women as well, or nonbinary, gender nonconforming, gender fluid, people who may have been, assigned female at birth but might not use that as a way of describing their, their identity. So there’s many considerations and layers, but once you get the basic understanding of social identities, what your identities are that we spoke about in part one, and recognizing the different ways that, certain social identities are impacted by being excluded or not considered or being regarded as an afterthought or not considered at all, so therefore exclusion and erasure happens. We need to really look at that. And that’s why I said in part one, the importance of it. Yes, it’s wonderful if we want to start being more inclusive and we’ll talk more about that tonight, but we really need to look at being more self-aware, understanding our social identities and the way that our social identities impact, or hinder, erase or silence or harm others. And then what our behavior is doing, you know, what stereotypes, behaviors, biases do we have towards different people.

[00:11:48] And when we don’t have awareness of those things, this is when we forget that the venue that we’ve booked is inaccessible and unsuitable for someone who might be using a mobility aid. If we, say for example with say rites of passage for girls, for teen girls – What about, teens who don’t identify as, as female and who have, you know, maybe the reproductive system and everything, but, would say that they’re non binary or that they’re trans, you know? So Rites of passage should be available to everyone, but when I see workshops with, in that regard, they seem to be very, very gender binary oriented and not really providing that, um, visibility.

[00:12:50] You know, it, it kind of invisibilizes people who don’t come don’t fit, you know, either one of the two genders, as opposed to recognizing that there is a spectrum of gender at play. So yeah, there’s a few different pieces there to consider. And  getting familiar with them, starting with yourself is a really good starting point.

[00:13:13] Um, yeah, I think that’s, that’s kind of what I was thinking of. Yeah. Amanda: And as you said, just now in this morning, it’s starting. Before you, before you go down that path, or like you said, it can, can happen alongside it has to be going within first so that you really understand the power that you have, um,

Sharyn: forward moving action, um, you know, to deepen your self-awareness.

[00:13:42] It’s really hard to show up authentically as being someone inclusive if you have not begun to understand yourself and your conditioning and your identities and the way that perhaps you have benefited from the existing systems in ways that some people will never, ever benefit. So, yeah, as someone who’s a helping professional, that’s supporting the next generation, we have to be mindful of the way that we show up, because it’s not just about being seen to be a youth mentor. It’s also about recognizing that we have an important role of influence where we can either show up for all teens and youth or show up for some and not others. And what does that say about us as helping professionals if we’re excluding people and excluding youth? It doesn’t feel too good being excluded or not feeling represented, not feeling seen and not feeling safe as someone, you know, that’s in a marginalized body with multiple layers of marginalization and that stuff affects you, you know, for the rest of your life.

[00:14:55] And unless you find a place of belonging, sometimes you’ll never feel home in your body, you know? Nevermind, you know, the place that you live.  

Amanda: It’s heightened isn’t it, during those adolescent years, that feeling of belonging that need for belonging and connection…

[00:15:24] Sharyn: And it doesn’t go away either. You know, that feeling doesn’t go away. I can only ever speak from personal experience and you know, some of the conversations that I’ve had and it’s just often described, like for biracial and mixed race people that I know. And we talk about these things. It’s like, you’re navigating two different worlds and you’ve got a foot in each one and you don’t 100% fit into both.

[00:15:52] And then sometimes you’re not accepted 100% by either. So you navigate that in-between space belonging, not belonging, you know? And so what happens is in terms of behaviour, as a biracial or mixed race person, person, you could internalize a lot of this racism and oppression and you might be more aligned with whiteness.

[00:16:17] You know, you might be more aligned with that because it, it feels safer and you know, well, Hey, you know, that’s the popular group rather than being, you know, more in solidarity with the people whose, identities you share and have similarities with. And then what happens there when, say for example, black indigenous people of color aligned with whiteness, we ended up harming people from our own communities because we haven’t processed our stuff.

[00:17:00] So that’s another consideration as well. Just because you’re in a marginalized body doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of harming others similar to you and otherwise. This is why it’s so important for all of us to really understand and get clear on what our values are.

[00:17:27] Because some of us are at many intersections. So, um, if you look up Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw, Dr. Crenshaw developed the concept of intersectionality, and that will give you a bit more background and information on, I guess, what it means in practice and in theory. Because sometimes someone might be marginalized in one way, but then be discriminatory towards someone else.

[00:17:59] So someone could be, say, for example, um, um, a member of the queer community that they could harm someone in the disabled community. So, you know, just having one or a few different ways of being marginalized doesn’t mean that you’re, you are incapable of harming someone else because I’ve seen it happened, you know, inter-community harm occurring.

[00:18:27] So it’s important to understand what intersectionality is and if you’re going to be a feminist of any sort, an intersectional one is a good place to begin,  because to be intersectional means to be able to understand the different intersections and therefore practice inclusion in an authentic, knowledgeable, genuine way.

[00:18:55] Amanda: It’s not something that can be covered in half an hour, is it? It’s getting, getting an idea that there’s a whole lot of stuff that you need to look at and if you haven’t started this, it’s going to feel big. 

Sharyn: Hmm. Yeah, that’s right. And it can feel overwhelming. So you just need to pace yourself.

[00:19:16] So, um, these two sessions, um, offer an introduction and a bit of an insight into like what my story is, why I do the work that I do and a bit of an introduction on social identities and ways you can be inclusive and also talk about, about this as well, looking inclusive, but it’s just about look so not so much about the immaterial deep changes that self awareness requires and that unpacking of privilege effectively requires…yeah, this is just like a start.

[00:19:54] If you haven’t begun this as really a starting point and I’ll provide a few resources for further reading, um, that that can be shared with everyone. Amanda: thanks Sharyn.  Sharyn: That’s okay.


What did I tell you? Hey, powerful 20 minutes with Sharyn.. As I mentioned, this is just a small snippet of, of two hours worth of, of training with Sharyn that we include in the youth mentor training certification, which is open for enrollment at the moment now as well. Um, but Sharyn does a lot of really incredible work in the world.

At the moment I’m working with her in the Feminist Coach Academy. Sharyn’s on the advisory board there and, and hosts the integration calls. Um, I’ve worked with Sharyn as a consultant and coach, when it comes to implementing a lot of this stuff across the business.

I really, really recommend working with Sharyn on, on this particular sort of stuff and she’s also got some great programs in the works and coming out and available now to book in for, in 2022. So let me tell you about those.

Firstly, I highly recommend Unpack Your Privilege. Um, this is a fantastic course that you can go through. I’ve done it. I’ve made sure that Leah who also supports our mentors has done it. Um, it’s a really great place to start. Um, or to expand, uh, this, this works or highly, highly recommend unpack your privilege.

And also the inclusive leaders collective. This is the annual membership, which has full access to unpack your privilege as well as extra content and resources, community calls with Sharyn each month to discuss matters and receive individual coaching on the calls with recordings and everything like that provided as well.

So, um, check out Sharyn. Um, the way that you spell Sharyn’s name is S H A R Y N, and then Holmes, H O L M E S. And, um, yeah, I really recommend checking out, unpack your privilege and the inclusive leaders collective, or a bunch of the other stuff that Sharyn does as well. Um, I recommend following Sharyn on, on Instagram too.

Oh, I’m so grateful that Sharyn could, could be with us today in this way and gave me permission to share this snippets of that class. And I’m really grateful to you for, for listening in, please. Um, please share it around with anyone that you think , would benefit from this or would enjoy this conversation.

Uh, and I, I hope that there have been some seeds planted for you as well. And I look forward to hearing from you on the action that you take from this conversation as well. Please reach out anytime and I’ll see you in the next episode!

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