Implementation of Promising Practices for LGBTQ Inclusion: A Multilevel Process


  • Daniel Theriault Benedict College



Diversity, Sexuality, Social Justice, Youth, Theory/Practice Linkages


Recreation professionals have moral, fiscal, and legal incentives to ensure that individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) have access to safe, beneficial services that respond to their unique needs. Scholars have responded to these needs by developing a set of recommendations to create safe, welcoming recreation experiences with LGBTQ youth, such as supportive policies or stopping instances of harassment. However, current promising practices for LGBTQ inclusion are generally not reflective of the complex challenges to enabling inclusion experienced by recreation professionals. Recommendations to develop anti-discrimination policies lack attention to the ways a prejudicial organizational culture or resistance from employees may undermine that policy. Therefore, practitioners who utilize promising practices for inclusion may unintentionally reinforce LGBTQ discrimination. In this overview of education, social work, diversity management and leisure studies literatures, the author presents potential constraints and supports that may arise during the implementation of promising practices for LGBTQ inclusion. Those factors are organized according to Ferdman’s (2014) multilevel inclusion framework. At the individual level, participants’ perceptions of inclusion are shaped by the ways their various identities are experienced in recreation contexts. Practitioners who focus solely on LGBTQ identities may miss opportunities to support participants through significant challenges such as racism or ableism. At the interpersonal level, heterosexuals are often motivated by past experiences with discrimination to advocate with LGBTQ youth. However, some heterosexual employees may require training to effectively advocate with LGBTQ youth. At the group level, recreation professionals should expect both resistance to and support for inclusion initiatives. Understanding resistance and points of support within and outside of the organization may prepare practitioners for roadblocks and assist them in leveraging points of support. At the leadership level, recreation administrators exert unique influence on inclusion initiatives by modeling desired behaviors and establishing organizational priorities. Administrators who lack experience or comfort with LGBTQ populations may unintentionally stall inclusion efforts. At the organizational level, administrators must be cognizant of both who an organization has historically served and how organizational culture can support or undermine inclusion programs. At the societal level, cultural norms about LGBTQ identities influence who is authorized to speak and how LGBTQ participants should be treated. Recreation practitioners who intentionally disrupt these norms by implementing promising practices may frame their program as a site for social justice. Practitioners who pursue inclusion in light of the above issues may be able to enhance the intended outcomes of promising practices and avoid unintended consequences.

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