VOCAL values the diversity of relationships. We seek to support carers in all relationship or family settings, be they defined by kinship, partnership, friendship, affection or obligation.

The line above is taken from our carer definition and diversity statement, it’s right at the heart of what we do. Describing the infinite diversity of carers in a few simple words is tricky, but hopefully any carer reading those words would be able to see a glimmer of themselves reflected there, and know that we’re here to support them in their unique caring role.

Caring inherently brings with it a unique and powerful perspective on diversity and inclusion. It’s a sad truth that most carers will be able to think of at least one occasion where their needs or feelings as a carer weren’t fully taken into account. When an individual or organisation overlooked the special impact caring has on their life, and failed to create a space where they as a carer felt heard and safe. Usually these occasions are due to oversights and not malice, but that doesn’t diminish their impact.

Since June is Pride Month we’d like to shine a light on that perspective, and on the potential insight that it gifts to straight cisgendered carers into some of the challenges that can face LGBT+ individuals. Knowing how it can feel to be overlooked, marginalised or even demeaned as a carer, you can start to imagine how it might feel to experience that for something like your sexuality or your gender identity. That’s a powerful insight that many straight cisgendered people never get.

Our aim is to make all VOCAL spaces – in person and online – comfortable and positive places for everyone, regardless of identity or background. The goal is for everyone to know they can expect to be welcomed, heard and respected when they’re joining a VOCAL event – be it real world or virtual – or (once we’re able to reopen them) when they visit one of our buildings. When everyone feels heard, recognised and above all safe, it allows everyone to participate fully, and reduces uncertainties and anxiety.

Reaching for this goal means looking carefully at the language we use, challenging the assumptions we make and – above all – listening to constructive criticism when we get it wrong, so we can do better next time. We don’t always get it right, but we listen and learn when we make mistakes.

This Pride Month, as carers we can all take a moment to appreciate the powerful insight that our experience gifts us. At VOCAL we’ll keep looking at how we shape the spaces we participate in, whether that’s interactions on social media, the language we use when talking with friends, or even the assumptions we might make when meeting new people.