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This Is What Consensus Looks Like:

First Openly Transgender Ohio Public Official Sworn in on School Board

As the landscape continues to grow more and more concerning for our transgender youth in schools, there is a major victory for the movement coming out of Ohio. Dion Manley has become the first openly transgender public official in Ohio, serving as a member of the school board.


Manley, who has a daughter with experience in the school he now serves, marks an important step forward towards a consensus. The conversations around gender and sexuality and the school system are rarely so positive so I wanted to take some time to discuss this encouraging news.


What Does ‘Consensus’ Mean?

‘Consensus,’ in this case, refers to the societal acceptance of all lifestyles and creeds. As disagreements form around topics as personal as a person’s own identity and gender, our culture as a whole moves further from this consensus.


This doesn’t mean that anyone has to make any changes about the person they are or how they experience life. Rather, consensus means that the community considers everyone’s ideas and needs and then bases all decisions on a mutual understanding and respect for them.


One way in which communities stifle consensus is through a lack of inclusion.


The county of Gahanna decided to be a more inclusive community when they elected Manley. Manley represents the transgender community but he's also uniquely suited to help all marginalized groups.


In a quote to USA Today, Manly made it clear that his community values consensus and representation:


I really think Gahanna deserves a lot of credit. They've been inclusive and open as a district. I've seen that in the years I've lived here, and the voters choosing to be a voice for diversity and moving forward is really special.


How Inclusion Fosters Better Communities

The inclusion of marginalized communities helps strengthen all within it. Each of us only gets to experience a small fraction of a tiny speck of existence in our time on Earth. Even if you spent your whole time – birth to death – traveling and taking in different elements of life, you’d never come close to reaching 1% of all that the world has to offer.


Whether it’s rooted in ignorance or fear, when we withdraw into others who act, look, believe, and think like us, we’re limiting how much we get to experience. In a real sense, we’re shortening our life.


By removing ourselves from the potential to live it fully, we miss out on valuable experiences.


The main thing that sets us apart from other animals on this planet is our ability to talk with each other and learn from shared experiences. A shared experience with someone who has lived a similar life to yourself doesn't add much to your life.


Manley showed his valuable addition to education by saying he would bolster the trade and apprenticeship options for his students.


Stating that “college isn’t for everyone,” Manley showed that he intended to foster a community of inclusion for all his students. Had the board elected another cishet representative, who knows if they would have had the same focus on the students that aren’t aiming to go to college?


That’s a consideration for a class of students that schools often leave behind.


Even more, that’s a direct example of how inclusion is for the benefit of the community as a whole. This isn’t simply about making up for marginalizing communities – this is about all humanity coming together and helping each other upward.


Time to Focus on Consensus?

Getting to a place of consensus takes time and intention. All parties must come willing to listen and learn about the true, human experiences of their fellow earthlings.


Don’t wait for the world around you to shift, take action now to focus on fostering a community of inclusion and consensus in your organization. As a motivational and diversity leadership speaker, I have had the pleasure of meeting communities of students, colleagues, and other groups of people for this very reason.


I have a deeply personal connection with the issues that define consensus. As someone who has come to meet, accept, and integrate my own radically evolved identities, I’m uniquely equipped to discuss them.


My upcoming book, White Girl Within details my personal experience with transgender and transracial identities and how I came to accept mine. These concerns are more than just a passing interest of mine, they have defined much of my professional career.


Sign up for my newsletter on my website for free content on how you can celebrate the many faces of humanity that exist within your community. Or, if you want to take a proactive approach to inclusiveness, reach out, and let’s start a conversation about me coming to speak to your group.


However you handle it, make sure that you’re taking the time to include everyone and move towards a period of consensus. The only thing that is standing between you and a community of empowerment and acceptance is work and education.

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