I recently had a conversation with a genealogy colleague whose subtle comment about a gay genealogist made me uncomfortable. I think they assumed that because I was raised in a church that doesn’t perform gay marriages, I somehow disapprove of gays, but nothing could be further from the truth — and I politely made that clear. My gay loved ones are cherished beyond measure, and I personally believe that gays deserve to love and be loved, regardless of what the men who own churches preach from their pulpits. Protected populations are designated as such for a reason–because after centuries of horrific hate crimes, persecution, and discrimination, brave leaders are starting to take a stand to protect basic human rights. I believe that professional, credentialed genealogists should be held to the highest standard of commitment to diversity and inclusion in their speech about and treatment of people of all orientations, genders, races, and abilities, especially in genealogy circles.
Although I belong to a career field where I encounter these kinds of obstacles to diversity and inclusion (don’t we all? Certain generations/populations are still learning to embrace diversity), I believe that influencers with credentials and/or who educate and mentor the rising generation of professionals in our field must lead out, showing everyone a better way by example. This can lead to more inclusive policies and more peaceful, harmonious institutions (and world!) for everyone.
I studied the code of ethics for the APG, BCG, and ICAPGen, where I earned my Accredited Genealogist® credential. None of these institutions mentions diversity or inclusion in their code of ethics, though they do mention not disparaging other genealogists. However, the comment made by my colleague didn’t technically disparage them as a professional or as a person; it was a subtle dig at the genealogist’s sexual orientation. The person was admired even as their orientation was shamed. Note the dilemma here, when none of our codes of ethics has any wording about this type of treatment of our fellow professionals? I have since decided that it is up to me to draft my own, personal standard of diversity and inclusion, and post it where others can see.
Here is what I have come up with so far, and have posted to my web site’s homepage:
The section on repositories stems from the nine years I spent living in the rural south. There are actually government-funded historical societies (think: public library branches) that only curate historical records of white people (in counties that are predominantly black!), so while I lived there, I sometimes turned down research cases for certain counties and referred them to local researchers who did not find patronizing such establishments as abhorrent as I did. Also, I am somewhat leery of lineage societies, but with greater nods to diversity, they too can win me over one day in the future.
Recognition for LGBTQIA individuals is another issue very dear to my heart. There is so much I could say about this, but my pledge sums it up for me. I will further add: all the present-day focus on DNA and bloodlines (ie: journal articles requiring that authors include DNA evidence along with the paper trail), needs to draft policies allowing for inclusiveness of those who have chosen to recognize their legal family instead of their biological and still qualify for publication in our literature. For example, an article tracing two maternal lines (ie, the child of two gay mothers who prefers to identify with her adoptive parents) who chooses not to submit her DNA evidence because she chooses to identify with her legal and not biological ancestry. If she is gay and wants to research legal family as a matter of principle, or if her gay parents choose to identify with their legal and not biological parentage (due to adoption, foster care, disowning, etc), they should not be required to submit DNA results in order to publish, either. As long as the research is sound and performed according to standard, editors should not exclude such researchers from publication, simply because they choose not to furnish DNA evidence. Editorial exclusions based on DNA evidence requirements and antiquated gendered numbering systems in our publications might exclude LGBTQIA researchers from participating and publishing.
Because genealogists are renowned for researching and recording the life stories of little-known deceased individuals cast aside by other disciplines, we genealogists should be equally renowned for inclusiveness and embracing diversity among the living. We are, after all, the ancestors of tomorrow, and how we treat each other today is making history.