PrideVMC’s Gender Diversity Guide has arrived
Earlier this week, PrideVMC published its Gender Diversity Guide (GDG) in an effort to provide a broad perspective on gender diversity, and to give more context to their Gender Identity Bill of Rights (GIBOR), said Ewan D.S. Wolff, PhD, DVM, DACVIM (SAIM)–small animal internist, Blue Pearl NE Portland, who is not only the PrideVMC industry liaison and co-author of the GIBOR, but the GDG project lead, editor, and contributor.
“PrideVMC has always strived to provide advocacy for the queer community and allies within veterinary medicine, whether that be through presentations, marches, meetings, statements, or publications. This is another resource that we hope will help,” Wolff said. “There are many references out there to choose from, we hope this will provide some centralized materials. I hope that the GDG can help to promote inclusion and belonging for gender-diverse people in the profession.”
Now is the time
That need for inclusion is more important now than ever, they added. “It is, objectively speaking, a very difficult time for transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people to exist in the United States,” Wolff said. And while they say the groundswell of support in the veterinary community has been overwhelming, it’s crucial that this support continues.
“Given that the newest people in our profession from Gen Z are 20–40% LGBTQ of which 1 in 4 are nonbinary, it is clear that the future of veterinary medicine will include a lot of gender-diverse people. We want to be ready for this future while supporting the many people—out and not out—who are already here.”
Although this guide is only now public, the impetus for it actually came before the GIBOR, and its creation began several months after the GIBOR was published in 2021, Wolff said. There are numerous reasons why it’s been such a challenging and time-consuming process: The pandemic made for slow going, not everyone who wanted to participate was able to continue being involved as time went on, and, as with the GIBOR, they’ve made it a priority to bring together gender-diverse voices and well-established allies to work on the project.
And then, there’s the guide itself, which is full of crucial—and often evolving—information that simply cannot be rushed.
Changes and challenges
Certain sections (such as the rights section, which is still under production) have layers of nuance that continue to change, said Wolff. Also, they added, “Certain information is very pertinent to transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming existence but shouldn’t be discussed simply to satisfy curiosity.”
And even for those within this community, it was sometimes difficult to know what to include and what to leave out. “We had several sections that were cut because they distracted from the streamlined message that we wanted people to understand,” they said. Beyond that, PrideVMC is still hoping partnerships will materialize, and that some of the contributors who were previously tied-up will become available to assist with the guide’s evolution.
Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, is at the very heart of this guide: The new and unexpected challenges gender-diverse individuals continue to face. “I think we need a section that addresses how we can help to meet some of these challenges,” Wolff said. “That ultimately sounds like something we’ll work out at PrideVMC.”
A charge to readers
The GDG is designed to help organizations and companies, affinity and industry groups, schools, specialty colleges, and individuals that signed the GIBOR by providing them all with more resources to work with and support gender-diverse people. Additionally, Wolff said, “some organizations wanted more input from the GDG in consideration of providing support for the GIBOR,” and this should deliver that input.
Although the main audience for the guide will be individuals and organizations that identify as part of the gender-diverse community or are actively working to support gender diversity, a charge to readers kicking off the guide provides instruction for potential allies who might find themselves questioning or reducing the concerns in the guide, asking them to take the time to consider why they’re reacting that way and to reflect on their own internal bias—conscious or unconscious.
“You don’t have to understand other people in order to try to be kind to them,” Wolff says. While being gender-diverse doesn’t hurt anyone, they say, it’s hard for gender-diverse people to even survive when they can’t live as themselves.
Wolff said that, for those in a privileged position, it may be hard to accept how much harmful carryover there is from the past—and how much active harm gender-diverse individuals face today, but they encourage those people to put aside opinions and stereotypes to see people for who they are.
“Gender-diverse people are people, and there is nothing magical or vastly different about us,” they said. “There are no secrets to be uncovered, no agenda to be revealed. We want to maintain and advance veterinary medicine, go home, go to bed, and wake up and do it again tomorrow. We just want to do it as ourselves and be safe. We also want to be part of the conversation in leadership in the profession. Very few things change without inclusive leadership, and we’ve seen this struggle from time to time in our national discussions about the GIBOR.”
Aside from signing the GIBOR and utilizing the new GDG to better understand how to support the gender-diverse community, there’s one more thing we can all do, Wolff said: Check in with your gender-diverse colleagues to see how they are and if you can do anything.
“Your gender diverse colleagues are not OK right now. There is no way to be OK in this current scenario,” they said, adding: “To everyone reading—out or not out—you are valid and loved.”
Stay tuned for an interview with Ewan Wolff on Central Line: The AAHA Podcast, coming out on Tuesday, March 7! Find links to audio, video, and transcript at aaha.org/podcast.
Kristen Seymour is a freelance writer based in Sarasota, Florida. She's a frequent contributor to many pet-focused publications including HealthyPet Magazine, USA Today's Pet Guide, Vetstreet.com, DailyPaws.com, Happy Paws, and more.
Photo credit: © Vladimir Vladimirov E+ via Getty Images Plus
Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.