Safe Spaces: Love From a Distance
What is a Safe Space? My definition of a “Safe Space” is any place where individuals who share an oppressed identity can come together to share stories and experiences, relax into their shared identity, and celebrate who they really are without the pressures of the dominant culture surrounding them, as it usually does in daily life.
Within HAI, we have long heard the call to create safe spaces for People of Color, and for those in the LGBTQ+ community. Since launching our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) Connect Groups two weeks ago however, the concern that Safe Spaces feel too exclusive to exist within HAI has been raised. The sentiment being that while Safe Spaces are needed in general, HAI is fundamentally about acceptance, connection, and inclusion – so how do Safe Spaces fit into that mission?
As a White woman who has attended HAI workshops for many years now, I would like to offer my humble opinion, in response to anyone grappling with the purpose and exclusivity of Safe Spaces – within HAI, and around the world.
The comments I have seen or heard express concern that HAI should remain “inclusive.” I think I understand this, because for me – like many others – HAI workshops have felt like the safest, most accepting, most “all together” spaces I have ever been in. But I’ve learned something through my work in HAI that I think is especially applicable here. Which is that sometimes, expressing love, or being in relationship, means being separate. Sometimes the most impactful love is given from a distance.
For example, I have learned that when my partner needs alone time to connect sexually with himself, the best way I can love him is to support and encourage that. Or when a close friend needs space and doesn’t want my input on her life choices, so she can grow independently from my influence, the most loving act I can offer is to simply hold her in her choices and give her space. In both of these examples, our relationship remains strong. But our togetherness is not prioritized – and that’s okay.
The same is true for standing in support of Safe Spaces. Within the HAI community we have bonds and love for one another; even with those who are total strangers. But what I’m hearing when I listen is that People of Color, often feel alone, isolated, misunderstood, and emotionally exhausted in the HAI Room of Love. They are needing to separate, just a little, to love themselves and be loved by us. By asking for this safe space WITHIN the folds of our HAI community, they are actually remaining in relationship with us.
What a gift. Those of us who identify as White (or in another context, Straight, or Male) have the opportunity to lovingly embrace this request and make room for the need so that our Beloveds can grow, heal and expand on their own… and we can have their back. From a distance.
HAI’s mission is fundamentally about creating and fostering more love in the world. And yes, love does include togetherness, and touch, and listening. Love also means honoring boundaries, respecting autonomy, and making room for others to decide for themselves what they need. Supporting Safe Spaces is an act of love. It is an act of honoring the humanity of our fellow BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community members and recognizing their need for a space that caters to their unique experience of the world.
This isn’t about exclusion, from my perspective. It’s about embracing and encouraging Love in its many forms, with the many different needs that come with being human. It’s about embracing the full impact that Love can bring with just a little bit of space.
About the Author: Kate Gillispie is the Marketing Director for the Human Awareness Institute and co-host of May I Have This Dance, a podcast about love, intimacy, and sexuality. Find the podcast by searching for ‘May I Have This Dance‘ on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever else you find your podcasts. You can also join our active community on Facebook.
The Human Awareness Institute (HAI) holds a bold vision of a world where people live in dignity, respect, understanding, trust, kindness, compassion, reverence, honesty and love. We offer many online and in-person workshops designed to support you on your journey towards greater love and connection in your life. We hope to see you soon!