Spiral Chat themes for Lived Experience Leadership workshop series announced

The selection of the themes for the Spiral Chats for the Gender, Body, Kinship, and Sexuality (GBKS) programme for Day 2 of PACFA’s Lived Experience Leadership Workshop Series reveals the depth, nuance, and urgency of the event.

06 June 2024 

The four spiral chat themes were chosen collaboratively by the team of eight key collaborators based on their pivotal importance to contemporary therapeutic practice.

Curated by Dr Gávi Ansara (He/him), Convenor of the Diversity in Gender, Body, Kinship, and Sexuality (GBKS) Leadership Group, the Day 2 spiral chat workshop series will follow this sequence:

Spiral Chat 1: 10:00 am-11:15 am. Moving beyond the Myth of the Alphabet Soup
According to the Myth of the Alphabet Soup, ‘LGBTQI+’ people constitute a single group in which everyone has the same needs and interchangeable experiences. Despite the Anglocentric umbrella categories like ‘LGBTQI+’ being widespread and sometimes beneficial in public policy contexts, practitioners’ uncritical adoption of the Alphabet Soup myth in therapeutic contexts can undermine cultural safety and effective support. We’ll explore some problems that occur when people with excluded or marginalised gender, body, kinship, and sexuality lived experiences are treated as a single “community” with identical needs. We’ll examine some reasons why many lived experience communities are shifting away from this Alphabet Soup. Our key collaborators will discuss some more promising models that lived experience practitioners locally and around the world are using to recognise nuance, depth, sanctity, and diversity across the domains of gender, body, kinship, and sexuality, as part of establishing genuinely inclusive practices.
Spiral Chat 2: 11:30 am – 12:45 pm. Addressing racism, colonisation, and ethnocentrism in professional models of GBKS lived experience
Dominant professional models for therapeutic work with people with minoritised GBKS lived experiences were developed based on Anglocentric and Eurocentric societal norms. These models rely on culturally non-universal beliefs about genders, bodies, kinships, and sexualities. When practitioners apply these models to practice with people from racialised cultural and linguistic communities, this can be a vector through which systemic racism, colonialist ideology, and ethnocentrism from the wider society are enacted unknowingly within therapeutic contexts. In this spiral chat, our key collaborators will combine practice wisdom and/or lived experience insights to interrogate everyday practices that cause unintended effects and share ways that well-intentioned practitioners can use anti-racist, de-colonial, and culturally safe practices to translate good intentions into action.
Spiral Chat 3: 1:45 pm-3:00 pm. Queer kinships and GBKS community care
The concept of queer kinships refers collectively to a wide range of chosen and found interpersonal bonds and relational structures adopted by queer folks and communities around the world, often in response to rejection and hostility by biological relatives and the societies in which they live. Queer kinships and GBKS-specific forms of community care are expressed through unique and dynamic vocabularies of emotion and relationship, invoking nuanced concepts and relationship models that are absent from normative therapeutic ways of thinking about relationships and families. Although queer kinships and GBKS-specific forms of community care have been widely researched and discussed within queer communities and other GBKS lived experience communities, they are often unfamiliar to practitioners without lived experience—even queer practitioners trained in dominant therapeutic models that exclude queer kinships and GBKS community care. This spiral chat provides an opportunity for all practitioners to learn more about queer kinships and forms of community care among people with marginalised GBKS lived experiences. We’ll critically reflect on the drawbacks of “we’re just like you” respectability politics, how normative models and concepts of ‘relationship’ and ‘family’ can function to erase and devalue queer kinships in therapeutic practice, and how integrating an understanding of queer kinships can be essential for inclusive and culturally safe practice.
Spiral chat 4: 3:15 pm-4:30 pm. Good intentions, harmful practices: Making the shift from performative allyship toward accountable solidarity
Many practitioners express good intentions and the desire to be inclusive and non-discriminatory. Some self-identify as ‘allies’ to people and communities with marginalised gender, body, kinship, and sexuality lived experiences. Unfortunately, these same practitioners often react with hostility, denial, or blame when the marginalised folks whom they’re trying to support share that these professed good intentions have not translated into practice. This spiral chat will explore some common ways that practitioners with good intentions can cause unintended harm and how practitioners’ negative reactions to being notified of this harm can deepen ruptures, perpetuate exclusion, and reinforce dominant societal power dynamics and systemic forms of oppression. Our key collaborators will share lived experience wisdom to guide practitioners in identifying and shifting away from performative forms of allyship and developing the practices of accountable solidarity.

Deepening and broadening practitioners' understanding 

Past Deputy Convenor of the GBKS Leadership Group PJ Menon (they/she) expressed excitement about collaborating with the group again, this time as a key collaborator. Describing their hopes for the day, PJ said, "through our collaborative spiral chats as practitioners drawing on insights from lived experience, we hope to deepen and broaden practitioners' understanding of our distinct vocabularies of emotion and kinship, cultural protocols, needs, and communities."

Noting the need for Spiral Chat 1, PJ explained that "the Alphabet Soup model prioritises certain excluded or marginalised lived experiences while deprioritising and excluding others. This approach can often result in confusion about the range of distinct lived experiences being described. Many practitioners are unfamiliar with more inclusive conceptual models from around the world. I'm looking forward to multiple perspectives on how to find inclusive and accurate language that centres lived experience perspectives and makes deeper and broader understanding of our distinct experiences as folks with excluded or marginalised GBKS lived experiences."

College of Creative and Experiential Therapies (C.CET) member Rae Sabine (they/them), an arts therapist, psychotherapist, and accredited supervisor who is featured in PACFA’s June edition of the Day in the Life Series, noted that the Day 2 lived experience leadership workshops offered practitioners an opportunity "to move beyond the conventional relationship models dictated by dominant societal norms."

Rae also shared their reason for wanting to attend both the Indigenous Healing Practices workshops on Day 1, and the Day 2 Spiral Chat 2 on Racism, colonisation, and ethnocentrism in professional models of GBKS:

"As a practitioner with white Anglophone privilege and settler privilege, I feel it's important to learn from those who are directly affected by racism, colonisation and ethnocentrism in order to decolonise my own practice. This is why these Learning from Lived Experience workshops are so important", Rae said.

Rae also reflected on the importance of Spiral Chat 3: 

"As a queer practitioner, queer kinships are a significant part of my life and wellbeing. However, numerous practitioners are lacking personal experience with queer communities and may not fully grasp the importance of why queer forms of kinship and queer community care are vital to us. It is crucial for professionals working with queer participants to comprehend the fundamental significance of queer relationships in our lives, and to familiarise themselves with the roles, ideas, and cultural dynamics that shape our relationships."

Convenor of the Diversity in GBKS Leadership Group and curator of the Day 2 workshop series, Dr Gávi Ansara (He/him), highlighted the value of Spiral Chat 4:

 “So often, folks in our communities share experiences of attempting to raise concerns with their ‘well-meaning’ therapist or clinical supervisor, only to be met with denial, blame, or hostility that shut down possibilities for healing and growth. Genuine good intentions give people a reason to transform their practices, not an exemption from accountability. I’m passionate about developing a professional culture in which we as practitioners can acknowledge unintended harm to marginalised people without denial or blame, prioritise the feelings and needs of marginalised people who raise these valid concerns, and develop the skills to hold each other accountable with respect and support. Spiral Chat 4 is an invitation to be part of this essential process.”

Reflecting on his hopes for Day 2, current member of the Diversity in GBKS Leadership Group, Francis Voon (he/him) said, "Join us as we speak about themes from our lived experience. Spiral chats are always an interesting journey, so we look forward to seeing what unfolds in the conversation."

In addition to their comments about Days 1 and 2, Rae added: 

"As a neurodivergent practitioner, I also look forward to attending Day 3, as I aim to challenge oppressive, pathologising perspectives that could unintentionally affect my work. Depathologising mental health matters to me, because I am passionate about people's autonomy to interpret the meaning of their own lived experiences."

Click here to learn more about and register for PACFA’s 3-day Lived Experience Leadership Workshop Series.