Diversity, Equality, Acceptance and Social Inclusion In Rotary: LGBT Rotary Fellowship

        

Steven Aquilina, Rotary Club of Southbank

In the spirit of our RI Theme this year: ”Rotary Making a Difference”, I wish to share with you some exciting news about a new global fellowship that is in the process of being charted with Rotary International and how you can be part of this opportunity for a more diverse and inclusive Rotary.

Our Rotary clubs across the world comprise of committed, passionate people of all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, faiths, political beliefs, personalities and vocations with the common motivation of doing good in the world through service above self. Amongst us are the LGBTIQ+ Rotarians and Rotaractors (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and other sexualities) who are a part of this diverse and rich tapestry of our membership.

The new “LGBT Rotary Fellowship” is being established and chartered with the aim of supporting and promoting the diversity, inclusiveness and equality of our membership across the LGBTIQ+ spectrum. The LGBT Rotary Global Fellowship serves to bring together LGBTIQ+ Rotarians, Rotaractors and our allies and supporters across our Rotary family, raising awareness and taking action to meet the needs of our community both within the membership of our clubs and districts and also outside of Rotary across the local and international communities we serve.

Please refer to the message below from Sean O’Hara (Rotary Club of Lake Charles, D6200, Louisiana USA), one of the founding members and President of the group, explaining the background and how to join as a charter member:

"Our group was born out of a session on LGBTQIA issues at the International Rotary Convention in Atlanta this past year (2017). The breakout session had a question and answer phase, and our President-Elect, Michelle Wilson, asked everyone why there wasn't an LGBT focused Fellowship or Rotary Action Group. So, we started the process in Atlanta and have been chugging along ever since on Facebook.

First here are the important web addresses and emails:

Group Page: https://www.facebook.com/RotaryLGBTFellowshipFormation/

Discussion Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RotaryLGBTFellowshipFormationGroup/

Email: rotarylgbtfellowshipformation@gmail.com

Since July 2017 we've been working together on the Fellowship Formation process. We held officer elections, created our Bylaws, had someone propose a very nice looking logo, and met our membership requirements to apply for the Chartering Application Process for Fellowships. We're working with Rotary International's Fellowship Department right now to get all of that underway.

We set Peace and Conflict Resolution as our area of focus for the Fellowship. The goal, once we have everything up and running, will be to institute service projects related to that focus in our Fellowship Members' home communities and beyond. 

We have about 211 members in our Discussion Group on Facebook as of this post, and 44 of those members have applied to be Charter Members of the Fellowship. It's an amazing start, but we want to keep increasing our numbers and the diversity of our voices. 

While the LGBT in our Fellowship name stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender it by no means is a definitive list of whom the Fellowship Represents. This Fellowship is for any Rotarian or Rotaractor that views themselves as being any part of the LGBT+ spectrum. It's a Fellowship for Rotarians with Friends or Family members that meet those criteria. It is a Fellowship for any Rotarian that wants to work with other Rotarians to make the world a better place and make some new friends along the way. 

Once we're chartered we'll be converting the Discussion Group above into an open forum so we can engage Rotary Alumni and Prospective Rotarians in our Fellowship's conversations. So, if for some reason you think this is an interesting prospect for yourself or someone you know and they aren't a Rotarian/Rotaractor now it doesn't mean they won't be one in the future!

If you're interested in joining the Fellowship please make sure and join the discussion group above and additionally you can complete our Charter Member Application Form:

Charter Member Application Form

https://docs.google.com/…/1FAIpQLSe6ebvrW5rM2ZzBYE…/viewform

We'll be accepting applications until we send off everything to Rotary International for final approval. I'll more than likely be back here to edit the link to our normal application form and engage you all in conversation though when that happens.

Thank you all for your time! We hope to see y'all in our Discussion Group and as members of our hopefully soon to be chartered LGBT Rotarians and Friends Rotary Fellowship.

Sincerely,

-Sean O'Hara”

For those of you who identify as a part of the LGBTIQ+ community or would like to show your support as an ally and friend of the community, I would encourge you to visit our Facebook group, sign up as a charter member, join the conversation and help promote diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance and equality across our clubs, projects and communities we serve.

Local Initiatives in Rotary District 9800

In addition to the new global fellowship group being chartered, there has been a lot of discussions and planning of other initiatives within our district and others across Australia promoting LGBTIQ+ local engagement let by Jason Ball and Suzie Cole (RC Prahran), DGE Bronwyn Stephens (RC Melbourne South), Grant Godino (RC Strathmore D9790), myself (RC Southbank) and others across our district and beyond. On Sunday 28th January, Rotarians, Rotaractors and friends will be marching with Rotary Club of Prahran at the annual Melbourne Midsumma Pride March. All Rotarians, Rotaractors, family and friends are welcome to join us at this fun filled colourful celebration of diversity, equality, acceptance and love in our community! This will be a first for Rotary in Australia, following other Rotary clubs and districts who last year marched in pride marches in San Francisco and London.

An article about this event can be found here:

Rotarians to break “Old White Men” stereotype and march in Midsumma Pride

Melbourne Rotarians will make history at this year’s Midsumma Pride March by marching alongside the LGBTI community for the very first time.

Donning pink vests with rainbow hearts, they will march behind the Rotary Club of Prahran banner, making it the first club in Australia to take part in Pride. Read More

Also please watch (and share!) Jason's video promoting the event:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php…

If you are interested in joining us for this special event, please register on the Prahran Rotary website. Many of us will be celebrating Midsumma Pride marching in fluro-pink Rotary branded vests. You can order yours too from https://rotaryprahran.org.au/

I look forward to further exploring ways of leveraging the spirit of change within Rotary in world of challenging events, economies, politics and social change. Please feel free to contact myself or any of the other Rotarians mentioned in this article to continue this very important conversation around diversity, social inclusion, acceptance and equality in our clubs as we embrace a changing and evolving Rotary. 

Yours in Rotary Service with Pride in Diversity,

Steven Aquilina
Past President, Rotary Club of Southbank


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