When it comes to community, safety is key. Creating an environment where people feel welcome, around people they can trust. In order to do that, you need guidelines. Great guidelines.
John Voss and Rebecca (Becks) Brooker are queer designers who met over Twitter and quickly realized they had a shared vision for a community that brought together queer designers from all over the globe.
From those mixologically enhanced beginnings, Queer Design Club (QDC) was born. QDC started as a Slack channel that quickly and unexpectedly grew “out from under” John and Becks into something much greater.
Along the way, the two have used their design background to, well, design a community that's effective and inclusive. They've intentionally made QDC a place where the most marginalized folks in their community are centered.
So about those community guidelines? Well, as you'll see from Jillian's effusive praise, QDC's guidelines and moderation policies are a masterclass unto themselves.
John Voss (né Hanawalt) is a gay designer who teaches, writes, and advocates for a more inclusive, just design industry and world. He is a senior design manager at Stitch Fix. He also cofounded Queer Design Club, a group that promotes and celebrates all the amazing work that happens at the intersection of queer identity and design worldwide.
He’s worked with nonprofits, social enterprises, and other good causes over the last decade and believes a good designer isn’t just a decorator—they’re a troublemaker. He’s an alum of Mule Design, the OutCast Agency, Elefint Designs, and Fenway Health. He splits his time between San Francisco and Sea Ranch and has an English bulldog/pug mix with more Instagram followers than him.
Rebecca (Becks) Brooker
Rebecca (Becks) Brooker is a queer woman of color born in Trinidad + Tobago and currently based in Buenos Aires. She designs across branding, print, and digital through her freelance practice, Planthouse Studio, and as an art director at Ghost Note Agency. She has worked for clients such as Nike, Facebook, Compass, Thinkful, Pachama, and more.
She is the cofounder of Queer Design Club and enjoys building communities of creatives—bringing them together to form connections and spark new opportunities. Queer Design Club is the global online community for LGBTQ+ designers and spearheads the Queer Design Count, the first and only survey of LGBTQ+ people in design. Through this research, Rebecca aims to provide the industry benchmark for understanding the queer experience in design and bringing more visibility and representation to the LGBTQ+ design community.
In This Episode:
- Queer Design Club's (QDC) origin story
- Centering the most vulnerable and marginalized community members in your code of conduct
- A designer's approach to writing an effective code of conduct
- Laying the foundation for a strong community culture
- How John and Becks would launch QDC differently (in retrospect)
- Creating a metaverse between other communities and QDC
- Using datasets to support queer designers
- Boostrapping a community survey
- Queer Design Club Code of Conduct
- Where Are the Black Designers?
- The Community Roundtable
- 2021 Queer Design Count
- One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie [Amazon affiliate link]
- Ruined by Design by Mike Monteiro [Amazon affiliate link]
The CX 019: Codes of Conduct and Community Safety with Queer Design Club
Tony Bacigalupo: So when it comes to community, safety is always such an important thing. Creating an environment where people feel welcome, where they feel like they're around people that they can trust. And in order to do that, you need to create that right kind of environment, you need guidelines, good guidelines, internal and external, and a good code of conduct.
And our guest today, Becks and John of Queer Design Club, have some of the best stuff out there and really great perspective to bring. As you can imagine, creating a club like Queer Design Club definitely comes with just a lot of need to make sure that everything is buttoned up, that everybody feel is good in their environment. They're wonderful people who've built a beautiful community, they have a lot to offer us.
So let's get into the conversation with Becks and John from Queer Design Club on The Community Experience.
Welcome everyone to The Community Experience. I'm Tony and with me, I've got Jill.
Jillian Benbow: Oh, hello.
Tony: Jill. I just always love when I hear of a story of people who met on Twitter and then ended up just doing something amazing together. And so the story that we're going to hear today of these two wonderful folks is heartening for me. I love it.
Jillian: Yeah, same. There's something just really sweet about their story. I'm looking forward to talking to them.
Tony: So we're going to get into a topic that is so important, so valuable, one that I know you have some strong feelings about, community guidelines, codes of conduct, so important.
Jillian: It is the cornerstone to your community, no big deal.
Tony: And I think one of the things that when I got started, I feel like I was tempted to avoid having to do it. Thinking like, "Oh, everybody's going to get along, it'll be fine." And it really, I think the perspective that we have here is one of, no, if you want your space to be accommodating and supportive of different kinds of people or anyone really, then it really helps to get everybody on the same page and establish some shared language of what it is. So they're going to tell us a lot more about how to do that well, I know you're fawning over the document they have on their website. So we'll learn a little bit about that.
Jillian: It's true. Yeah. And I just have to say, I'm glad it worked for you Tony to not have rules but...
Tony: Oh no, I quickly learned.
Jillian: Okay. I was going to say, you are the exception. [crosstalk]
Tony: No. It was just what I was getting started. It was like, "Ah-
Jillian: And then it blew up in your face.
Tony: Yeah. I was disabused of that very quickly.
Jillian: Okay. I was going to say, I was a little impressed that you could even get away with that because to your listener, it's a terrible idea.
And just a final point before we get into the interview that I want to make is another advantage to having those is it helps people determine if it's the right community for them, people can self-select in or out. And there are many people out there that are very hesitant to join communities because of past experiences or life experience.
And so to see that they are seen and protected, if you will, through zero tolerance policies of harassment, things like that, you'd be surprised at how much importance that has for many, many people. And it's always a great idea to have that in place.
Tony: So I'm excited to get a little bit of their design perspective on how to design things great to make a community more accessible and talk a little bit about how to design for LGBT folks in an organization community as well. So buckle up, we're going to have a great conversation and stay tuned for our conversation with Becks and John of Queer Design Club on this episode of Community Experience.
Okay. Becks and John, thank you so much for joining us. We're really excited to have you on the program.
John Boss: Thanks for having us.
Rebecca (Becks) Brooker: Thank you for having us.
Jillian: Yes. Welcome.
Tony: So first, just maybe tell us a little bit about the two of you, the work that you're doing, how you came to be in the position that you're in, and then we'll kind of go from there.
John: So I'm a designer, I've been a bit of a generalist for over a decade now. And I've always been really passionate about the intersection of design and community, I actually got my start in my design career was in house at a nonprofit health center serving the LGBTQ+ community.
And so that's something that's always stayed really close to my heart, how design can be used for social impact. And that was one of the thing that led me to co-found Queer Design Club with Becks.
Becks: And I'm Becks. I am a Triny Graphic Designer and art Director now. I studied design in New York city and realized that I didn't know that many... I went to a very Catholic university at St John's, so I did not know that many queer graphic designers of study design at a Catholic university in Queens.
So when I left college, that was basically when I was really looking for a community and I took to Twitter and ran into John randomly. And we had both been noodling on ideas of meeting other LGBTQ designers, thinking about that, and that was when we teamed up and formed Queer Design Club.
John: Yeah, it was very random, our connection. We didn't know each other before. And I was actually at a community presentation around designing community, it was being held by a pair of conference organizers and talking about how they built their community. And I had similarly been thinking... I don't know that many queer people in design, I don't know, who in the history of design was queer really. And maybe I should just form a community to answer those questions.
And the event was open bar, I was a little enthusiastic, I grabbed a Twitter handle that night and tweeted out an intention to do this thing without much thought. And then it turned out that Becks also had had that idea and she had a decks going around what this community could be. And we really shared a lot of the same vision, and vibed well together, and it just took off.
Tony: That's so amazing. I feel like it's an important story to tell that sometimes when you are seeing that there's a gap, when there's a need for a potential community, there's probably somebody else out there who feels the same. And if you're lucky, you can spot them early on and then maybe become collaborators, and that just makes everything easier for everybody.
Jillian: On Twitter's such a great place to find those people, we're so lucky, there's the good and the bad that comes with the social technologies, for sure. That's a whole conversation, but to be able to send a tweet or search a hashtag and be like, "Oh, this person is thinking the same thing." Suddenly, you have a partner in crime, if you will, to build that idea, doesn't feel so lonely. So it's very beautiful.
Becks: Yeah. I think one of the most magical things that we really figured out about QDC was that, we started it at least just as a little side thing as like, "Oh, it's just a little Slack channel, and it's just a little directory," and it very quickly grew out from under us in a way that we totally, I don't think we expected.
And that's when we, I think realized the need for that community outside of our immediate wants for a friend group or a circle. A lot of people actually needed QDC more than we ever knew.
And I think there's something really beautiful and that's what's still bringing people together today is that students who come out of college, students who don't have access to a queer community where they live, a lot of people who are maybe middle of their life and coming out for the first time or seeking community for the first time. And I think it's nice that it's niche to the design industry, but it's also just something that everybody needs at some point, right?
John: I think the queer community too, has always been very participatory. I would say, our members have really not just looked to us to provide this resource and this space for them, but they're very engaged with it, and they've really shaped it to what it is today, to the point where I've actually stepped back from the management of the community, such co-founding it, Becks has been running it entirely herself and with a community board. And the fact that the community picked up that momentum so quickly was really impressive to me.
Jillian: It's a sign of a very healthy community.
Becks: We're trying, we're really trying.
Jillian: I think you're there. I mean, looking at... I'm actually curious. So you mentioned, you launched it and there's kind of this rapid growth that maybe you didn't expect. When I look at it now, just coming in not knowing any history, I mean, you have it dialed, it's very clear purpose. Your code of conduct is like a plus so thoughtful, everything I help people build community guidelines and codes of conduct all the time and looking at yours, I'm like, "This is actually going to become one of my examples of this is the best, it's so good."
And I'm curious, how that came about, did it organically grow with you or did you put that in place afterwards as things grew, and you were trying to figure out what the boundaries were of your community, and what acceptable behavior versus non unacceptable? Talk me through your guidelines.
John: We started with them before we even launched. We knew that they would be so important to the space that we were trying to create in the work we were trying to do. I think that's maybe an advantage that we have compared to other people who are founding a community, being so close to tech and design. You get to see it done wrong a lot. You get to see on platforms like Twitter or Facebook, companies grappling with the reality of large communities on a daily basis.
And while we were really optimistic for the type of community we were going to build, we wanted to be realistic about the challenges that come anytime you get a large group of people together. So that was one of the first things we did from a content strategy point of view was really figure out what our standards for the community was going to be.
Becks: And I can... I think that they've really laid a great foundational vibe for the community as well, because I think that we have actually to my surprise, experienced a lot less incidents than we had initially anticipated. We've probably had one or two off the beat incidents where we actually need to moderate someone in some form or fashion. And it's usually just someone's a little heated and it's a misunderstanding, it's not actually someone attacking.
I remember in the beginning of this project, I felt very vulnerable in a sense that we were putting ourselves out there to say, "Hey, we're queer, come join us in this group, come join us in this." And this could very possibly invite trolls. We could very possibly be inviting people to abuse us, to harm us in the way that we are we experience that outside of a safe space, right?
So it was a moment where for me, in my personal identity, being able to create this space and hold space for other people who are looking for community is something that I had to accept in my own space and in my own personal identity of being queer.
And I think a lot of people who come to QDC have a similar realization that we're all here because we're around a space that is at the intersection of our personal identity but also our professional lives. And how do we really build space in that intersection? And that's something that I think is just very, very fascinating.
Jillian: I do too. And talking with community builders, who trying to figure out what... I always say, what is your purpose of your community? Who is it for? And what behavioral expectations do you have? It's a whole process to figure out. And I think it's especially important for communities that are created for a broader scope of people.
So it might include, straight, cisgendered, it might include, LGBTQ+, it might include all sorts of people from all sorts of walks of lives that you have to remember that how we perceive safety can be different and how important it is to really, whether it's do research or talk to a group, just to make sure are the people I want in this community feeling safe? Especially the people that maybe I don't have that same identity or personal journey, and so I don't maybe realize it.
I know that's an experience I've had to personally go through to look through the lens of different people and think, is this enough? Is there enough clarification here that someone's going to feel safe in this community? Or are they going to keep walking? Because they've been through enough already in their personal life and they don't want to experience it here too.
Especially if it's digital and there's that level of anonymity that unfortunately gives a lot of people... I hate to use the word courage, but the gumption, I don't know, to be horrible, be much more horrible than they would face to face. So I think, I mean, anybody listening, if you're working on guidelines community safety, this is top notch.
John: I think one of the really important things about the way we approached our guidelines compared to some other code of conducts, a lot of code of conducts sort of try to satisfy the most people. So how are most people going to behave? What do most people want in terms of boundaries in this space? And for us, it's really important to center the most vulnerable people in the community in our code of conduct.
And so really explicitly saying things like, we are going to prioritize the safety of marginalized members of our community over comfort of more privileged members. And making that just part of our ethos so that we're not in this situation where we have taken a vague stance on an equitable community, and now we have to pretend that a member coming from a place of privilege who's upset because that privilege has been challenged is as justified in their feelings as a marginalized person, who's actually been harmed by something they may have done. So that was a really important orientation for our community as well.
Jillian: Yeah. I also, I mean, your onboarding also just really reinforces this. I looked at how to apply to join and there's a process. So you're already creating a bit of a barrier for people to knock out maybe the bad actors that are just trying to check it out. But I love like first question.
So have you read our code of conduct? Do you agree? And again, this is something I recommend to people building community about all the time, because then you have this foundation... You have the receipt. So when something happens and they're like, "I didn't know," you can be like, "Well, you did agree to this. So let's look over these guidelines and make sure you're cool with them. And if you're not, maybe this isn't the community for you." And I really like that you spell out your moderation policy.
And looking at yours, I was just like, "This is a masterclass in community guidelines and moderation policies." and putting those into your onboarding, so from the get go, it's very clear. So I'm just giddy with excitement because sadly I love community guidelines.
Tony: Yeah. So I think that's actually, that leads to a great just education that we can get from you two while we're here, and you bring a design perspective. And so I think your professional training informs your thinking when you're going into this in a way that maybe other community people might come in and not even think to create guidelines or not have a design oriented mentality around how to create guidelines.
So can you tell us just a little bit about your thought process, what's really important for you to have in there? How you've approached all that?
Becks: Yeah. I think that for me, at least, and this is something I learned from John very early on, but it's just being very intentional about your language, and the way that you refer to people and refer to situations and things, and there's an eloquence that John has to his writing that is able to be very straightforward and pointed without being mean, or harsh, or too stark.
And I think the code of conduct is a really great reflection of that, just the tone and the voice really is conversational, friendly, but also not mixing matters and beating around the bush of what the rules really are. And I think expanding on that is really just thinking about how, in a layman's conversation, you may refer to something and then thinking about, is there a more inclusive way? Am I leaving out or excluding people when I talk about this and how can I approach this same sentence in a way that makes more sense and is more generalized to fit more people's lived experience?
And that's something that we try to prioritize in the way that we speak about our community. I think, especially because within the Queer LGBT community, there's so many different identities, and as a Queer Design community, we have one voice. So how do we make that voice represent everyone in a way that doesn't feel like we're taking away from anyone's experience as well?
So I think we've done a lot of work around making sure that we maintain a voice that feels inclusive, that feels friendly, that feels open, but also feels direct and straightforward, and tells you what we really feel.
John: Yeah. I think that intentionality is something that sort of... Is a skill that you hone as a designer, this idea of crafting a vision and a strategy for what you want to create. And that was something that we had conversations around upfront, not just in the code of conduct conversations but also coming up with the brand. What sort of personality do we want this community to have outside of ourselves as individuals? Are we more of a professional community? Are we more of an activist community?
And we really landed on this sort of really special blend that was focused more on those personal connections. And that comes through in the way we chose to brand ourselves, the way we've written our code of conduct. I think the other thing that has really helped is this sort of sense of informational design that you get as a designer.
When you're designing, you have to know the hierarchy of actions a user might want to take or information that they need to understand on their journey throughout the thing that you are designing, and you can't present it all at once. And I think that getting really clear on, what's the most important thing about this community? Or what's the most important thing that somebody who wants to join it needs to know? Really helps clarify what and who or for in a way that makes it feel less intimidating to get started with us.
I think trying to be everything to everyone or wanting to let the community develop entirely organically, ends up creating a hairball or a Hornets nest of a situation where maybe it's not as cohesive as it could have been, if you had taken that initial stand.
Tony: I'm also curious about how this translates to the people who have joined, especially early on and their commitment to reinforcing these norms, because you could write a terrific code of conduct, house rules, all of these things, but then it's of ends up being about people showing up and actually caring enough to embody those things and then holding each other to those standards as well. So can you say a bit about the role that those first few or the first several members played and how that's played out for you?
Becks: Yeah, I think our first members are still our best supporters, to be honest. And some of the people that really joined initially were part of John and I's immediate Twitter circles. So it would've been people that were familiar, we were initially just organically promoting the community on Twitter, saying, "Hey, we're hanging out in the Slack, come join us if you're LGBTQ designer, throw up a profile on the website."
We didn't have many goals in the beginning because we were kind of, well, we had goals, but we were just like, "We don't know what this is going to be in five years, we had no long term plans." We were just like, "This is something fun that we're doing right now and it's a good project." And it was those initial people that really joined that helped us to craft that first voice.
And the thing that QDC members have said all along is this is my favorite Slack because it feels authentic, it feels genuine, it feels like I can come in here and there are no stupid questions. No one is going to judge me if I ask something very basic, it's always been a vibe of openness, eeriness, friendliness, and really approachability.
And that's something that I think code of conduct helped to lay down as a foundation and then we just kind of built on top of that. And those people are still with us today, and I think they've helped us to reinforce that that is our vibe, that is our voice.
Even as we've grown now to over 2000 members in our Slack, it's been unbelievable that we've been able to keep that same culture. It's something that we work on maintaining but we don't try to overwork and make it feel like robotic, if that makes sense.
John: Yeah. I think a lot of it has to do with some of the structures we put into place early. When the Slack had started up, we preceded it with a number of channels basically broken down into like this channel is around a specific design topic or a particular identity, and putting in the descriptions who it's for, and what sort of conversations happen there.
And I think that gave early members a sense of, "Oh, this is what we use this space for, this is what this community is for." And then they would suggest new channels, and new topics, and the nature of the conversations grew. But it was almost like planting a trellis for the community to climb early on.
And I think there were ways in which we were very intentional and that shaped the community in one way, and I think there are other ways in which when we first launched, we were more organic and just seeing who we could reach. And like Beck said, it was mostly people from our social circles, and so even as we grew, there was sort of that initial connection.
And we realized at one point that the Slack channel and the community was representing a fairly limited slice of the queer community. It was diverse but it was definitely not as diverse as the queer community itself, because we had been really organic in reaching out to new members. And so I think if that's something we could go into a time machine and relaunch Queer Design Club, we would've probably done more targeted outreach to communities of color or disabled queer people, and really early on that intentional about that.
Becks: Yeah. That's something that we are still struggling to do better today basically. I think that organically, over the past couple years of QDC's existence, like John said, we've just naturally seen that the people who gravitate towards the community even today are primarily Cis, and white, and most likely gay men.
And we've done a little bit of outreach to specific communities but we're really interested in forging deeper connections with other design communities. We have an ongoing partnership with where are the black designers and we so are familiar with different smaller communities like API who design. But we really... It's not my ultimate goal, at least, it's not to make it like a competition between all of these different communities of identities or anything, but really to craft a space like one unified metaverse space where everything can be unified and people can all be respected for their own identities.
And I've thinking about this in different forms of what does Queer Design Club evolve to be? It can't just be the same thing. Where does this go in the next five years? And parallel to me, where are all the other communities going as well? And are we all going to the same place? I don't know, that's a big question mark.
But I think that it's really interesting because we've not done that work to be intentional in the beginning and now we're feeling the effects of it, but we also see how necessary that space is for queer people of color. Because in all of the data, in all of the research we've done, we found that they are the most marginalized, even within the queer community.
So how can we write that as we go along, as we try to also forge other partnerships with other communities and build that collective space that we all dream about, what does that even look like? What is that future? We're figuring it out.
Jillian: I mean, just being aware that that's the place you are. I love that idea of a collective because like you said, it shouldn't be a competition but a collaboration. So how do you work with those other communities to benefit both groups and enrich both groups?
And I'm sure you both seem very thoughtful, so I'm sure there's some group ideas already spinning in the works. Yeah. I'm curious if you're comfortable sharing, have you thought through what that could look like?
Becks: I've been thinking and I think the both base level idea I've had so far is just like community conference and really putting all of these communities on a one collective stage and being able to… Because the thing that I've noticed in the past couple years is there's just so much overlap. The people who are in other communities are in our communities and your identity is not one thing it's multidimensional.
So how can we really embrace that overlap? And that those intersections where you're bringing such unique perspectives and what does that look like, not just in the lane of queerness, or the lane of blackness, or the lane of Asianness, but what does it look like as a multidimensional person?
We have very little spaces that allow you to express dimensionality of your personality, and I'm interested in figuring out what that space looks like in the future. I have no idea past community conference, whatever that may turn out to be.
Jillian: I mean, that sounds like the most fun conference ever made. That would be amazing. I'm curious, are you familiar with the Community Roundtable, that organization?
Becks: Not really.
Jillian: So, I mean kind of a similar idea with the... Well, you'll love them Becks because they're super data driven, they have a lot of really great reports, the state of the community industry, but it's kind of like a collective, anybody who works in community, they have something for you and they put on courses, and master classes, and whatnot.
And so people in all the different community roles, which are all over the place depending the industry and everything, but anyways, you can all come there and learn. And so that might be inspo for some collective ideas.
Becks: That's awesome.
Jillian: Yeah. It's great.
Becks: I'm definitely going to check that out.
Jillian: Yeah. Well, and of course, I'm always happy to talk this through with anybody, anytime. I love talking community. So speaking of data, before we started recording, we were talking a little bit about the reports that you do. And once again, I mean, my gosh, it's like community A plus work because I know I personally am not a data person, I'm more the creative flighty kind.
I like looking at the data but I do not like compiling the data. So why don't you tell us about the data collection you've been doing and how it's helped you kind of inform programming or next steps and things like that or what you've learned from it?
Becks: The one thing that being able to have information about our community is, is just like you said, it helps us set our goals and helps us understand where we need to focus our efforts on improving.
There's myriad of problems to touch in all of these industries and communities and things that we can solve but we can't solve them all. So how do we really have a targeted focus on what is important to our community right now, especially the Queer Design community? And what does that look like and what are we positioned to take action on versus what do we need to advocate for? And our data really came out of there not being anywhere else on the internet. And John can speak a little bit more to the original inspiration for the Queer Design count.
John: Yeah. So we were looking to other design communities and one of the more prominent ones is the AIGA, which does an annual survey of the design industry, and just sort of the state of the field in terms of where are people working? How much are they making? How satisfied are they?
And only recently, I think it was 2017 was the first time they actually asked about LGBTQ status. And it was just one question, it was like checkbox, yes or no? And so that was the first time we had this access to dig into like, okay, what is the LGBTQ+ design experience like?
And so my now husband is a data person, I'm also... I love data, I am not first and foremost a numbers guy, but I happen to have someone in my life who I can send spreadsheets to and ask if anything interesting is in there, and we found some things around pay discrepancy, satisfaction discrepancy.
One thing that was really interesting from that initial data set was around the length of time in the design industry, queer designers were newer in their career than cisgender, heterosexual designers. And there are a number of interpretations of that, like queer designers could be leaving the field earlier.
And so only more junior was respondents are replying or maybe there was a big influx of queer people to the field. And those sorts of questions really made us feel like there was something more there that we could be looking at. And we of course knew that a single checkbox to cover all of that diversity within the queer community was also probably hiding even more information within it, if we could tease that out.
And so that was really the inspiration behind the first queer Design count, which was a survey that we ran that asked a lot of the same demographic stuff, we wanted to be able to do some apples to apples comparison with AIGA, but then dug deeper into the specifics of the queer experience, and the design industry, and what sort of things were people in our field experiencing? What was helpful? What was harmful?
And that really turned out to be super interesting and fruitful. Becks alluded to the fact that that first count really illustrated the importance of intersectional identities on your experience in Queer Design with trans people and queer people of color, experiencing much more bias on the job than white cisgender men.
And also pointed a way forward for some concrete actions that we could take to support our community. One of the things that we saw in those initial responses was that having visible out leadership in a company made people feel more comfortable to be out themselves.
So we saw a correlation between visible leadership and whether or not people were open about being LGBTQ+ themselves. We also saw that DEI Programming corresponded to less experiences of bias on the job if that DEI Programming addressed LGBTQ+ identities specifically.
And that was an interesting little tidbit where if your diversity and inclusion program only addressed gender and race, it didn't really benefit the LGBTQ+ community. And in some ways, potentially sent a tacit message that well, this community is okay to be biased against.
And so those were both things that we could then take to the companies that were reaching out to us saying, they wanted to support queer designers, how can they do that? And we can say, hire queer leadership and make sure your DEI Programming, addresses sexuality and gender identity.
Becks: I think the other interesting thing is now that we understand the importance of this data, it's kind of put the groundwork down for us to continue this research. And what I would love to do in the next five years is really use this research as an industry benchmark, and really understand how the needle is changing over time.
Maybe we do it every year, maybe we do it every other year, but I think that it gives us a good sample set to really refer back to and say, "Hey, in the past five years, we've not seen any improvement on how LGBTQ people are being treated at work. We have not seen companies actually hiring more queer leadership, even though they're verbally committing to doing that. And then we have this data that really backs up our assumptions." So I think it's a really important thing that we continue this work.
And the flip side of that is the survey is not just quantitative, it's we also intentionally left a lot of open-ended questions for people to qualitatively write about their experience as well. And I love it because I think people really needed that space for someone to ask.
And this is especially true of what I've been noticing in our 2021 survey, which for the first time includes a COVID section, and ask people about their experience during the pandemic, and the pandemic affected your work and your queer identity.
And what we found a lot of data around was that in the pandemic, during the middle of lockdown and quarantines, a lot of queer people had to return to homes where they were previously maybe not accepted, to homes where they were not allowed to be openly and visibly queer, to places that put them in a very deep poor mental and emotional state, because they could not continue living their authentic lives.
A lot of people lost work during the pandemic, a lot of people lost houses, just there are so many stories that we've collected in this year's survey that more than anything, I think people are willing to write in their testimonials because they're looking for a place of refuge as well. And that's what the community survey has also become, is it's not just become about, we are interested in the numbers but we're also interested in having people feel seen and heard.
And that's something that we also reflect in the report. So when you read through our report, you'll see some of the qualitative insight, and you'll see anonymized tidbits of what people have said about their experience relating to these topics.
But it really helps us to drive home that human element of our community and help people understand that behind these numbers are real stories. And these aren't just anonymized figures that we've made up behind the scenes, these are real life experiences that people are having, and this is why we need to take action and advocate for better conditions for LGBTQ people.
John: I think that human element is really so important too, and something that is missing from a lot of other community reports... One of the things that I think we struggle with or took a lot of effort to decide how to address is actually trying to measure identity, we're asking people to do check boxes or free form text answers to describe something that may be very fluid or hard for them to put into words.
And there's a real tension between the sort of clarity, and cut, and dry nature you need in a data set to make it meaningful. And the complexity of real human lives, and the fact that we feel like we need a huge data set to get people to care about a set of human experiences is something that is itself... Something I feel a little bit of resentment towards, this bias towards data instead of people's lived experiences and what people from various communities tell you being enough to believe them.
And I think that was one of the things that we really wanted to get out of this, was something that people could have to back them up when they're sharing their own experience and say like, "It's not just me," this is something that's happening to other people, it's documented, I'm not alone in this. And it's a shame that we need data to do that but while we do, I'm really glad that the count is able to provide that.
Jillian: Yeah. Well, and I think too, and I completely empathize with the sentiment. We shouldn't have to compile all this data to show people what's painfully obvious to our community, that would be very frustrating. And I feel that, I also wonder on the bright side of going through that process, as people within your community being validated to be like, "Oh my gosh, look at this statistic, this is 86 percent of people who identify as bisexual."
And I am making this up, I was just looking at your 2019 report so big great result here everyone. But if I identify as bisexual, there's 86% people reported that they were treated differently at work because of it. And to see that, if that was my identity to see that, that would be really powerful to be, I mean, to me, it would be enraging because that's a very high number.
But it would also, there's something about feeling it's not just me and maybe I can talk about this because it is a common thing that seems like a great start anyways at acknowledging it. And
then, okay, what can we do to drop this number as low as possible?
Tony: And recognizing that if there's that many people that identify this as a real thing, then there's that many people who might have a motivation to participate in some action to change that.
Tony: So unacceptable as the status quo may be, having that number tells you, "Hey, there's a lot of us out there, let's find each other and let's take action."
Jillian: I'm curious. So kind of a final question for me anyways, regarding the survey, because you obviously get some really impactful data through this, just from a backend admin side. How are you distributing this and what kind of participation are you getting? How do you get your community—I think your community sounds super healthy and engaged so it's probably not super hard, but I'm just curious what your process is for announcing it, distributing it, getting enough responses?
Becks: That's a good question. The first year we did a bit of... Our community was a lot smaller, so we had to do a lot more external outreach and we were like bootstrapped it the first year. I have to say, John and I did the whole thing on like $300. So thank you, AngelList, by the way, AngelList sponsored the first year.
But we did it on like 300 bucks, we paid for one of those survey softwares. And we really just started telling everyone about it. We sent a few emails to press outlets to try to get them to cover it, people were starting to get some interests, but really just relied on the Design community and social media to be able to amplify this. And we came pretty close at... How many responses did we get? Close to 900, the first year.
And then this year, the thing that we did differently, and now that it's our second year doing it, we had one of them under our belt so we definitely had something to show and say, "This is what we're going to produce again." So that was great. And we put together a little bit of a sponsorship deck and we actually were able to raise about $8,000 to be able to produce this one.
So this year we, we hired an analyst, we hired a writer, we were able to put some money onto Facebook ads, not Facebook, Instagram ads and Twitter ads to be able to reach to more LGBTQ designers. I've specifically reached out to partners in certain communities to be able to reach more people, especially queer people of color. I think I've been focusing our campaign on making sure that queer people of color understand that there is a survey that they know.
I think I always feel a little bit like, because I'm aware that our natural audience is just gay white men. We have to put in that effort to go further and find people who don't directly engage with our community in Slack, or on email, or something. So I've been trying to partner with other communities to spread the word about the survey.
We ended this year at close to 1500 respondents. So that's pretty awesome. And we're analyzing and trying to put out the best and most inclusive survey that we've done yet. So really organic is the answer, really organic and just trying to reach people where we can.
Jillian: And that's yeah. Organic's often the best way.
Becks: Yeah. I mean, I think that we get a really genuine set of responses from people that way, it doesn't feel like this is something that's overly promoted, this is something that there's a ton of money behind. I think just the fact that it still feels very homemade is the vibe that we wanted to give, because we are homemade, we're... That's it. That's who we are.
Jillian: Yeah. Well, any of the freedom, you don't have to have the stuffy corporate style. You can, you can have fun with it, it's a design community for queer folks. It should be pretty, and beautiful, and well thought out. And so the community identifies with it. Cool. Well, we are going to transition a little, Tony is going to lead you both. We've never done this with two people at once, so we'll just play it by ear but we are going to go into our rapid fire questions. There is no math. Thankfully.
Tony: Was great. I mean, there could be math but- [crosstalk].
Jillian: But it's frankly. No.
Tony: All right. So we're going to have just both of you can just jump in with your answers as you see fit. Whoever's ready first, can just jump right in. And this will be fun. So first off, starting off, we are going to talk about, what did you want to be when you grew up? When you were younger?
John: An actor. Was very, very into the idea of being on stage or in movies when I was young.
Becks: For me, as cliche as it sounds, when I consciously wanted to be something, it was an artist or designer.
Tony: Yeah. Amazing.
Becks: I had no idea what that meant at that time though.
John: I didn't know, you could be a designer for a job until my mid twenties, so actor until then.
Tony: Yeah. I feel like I knew that those jobs existed, but I feel like there were jobs that I just never thought I could actually go for, for a long time. Cool. And let's talk about community. How do you define community?
Becks: A place where people keep coming together to share amongst a... Place where people keep coming together around a shared experience. And keep coming to together it's a key phrase there. You got to, it's not a one time thing.
John: Yeah. I would say for me, I think of it as a network of relationships around something shared whether it's profession, or an identity, or a set of values. And then once you have the community, it can make space.
I think that's one of the really interesting things about the queer community is that it's not geographic. We really are everywhere and we've come together as a community not just because we're nearby. There's something that really connects us across geographies.
Tony: It is really amazing when you're a part of a community where there's a unifying identity that's not geographically based, that you can go anywhere in the world and find people who you can connect with and feel some of, "Hey, oh yeah, you're a part of that community too. Awesome." It's a nice feeling. All right. So onto our bucket lists, and our first question for you is what is something that's on your bucket list that you have done?
Becks: Skiing at the end of the world. Skiing, so I usually live in Argentina in Buenos Aires, and recently my partner and I went down to the tippy point of the continent, which is this small town called Ushuaia, it's the literal end of the continent.
And it's basically the end of South America. And it's always cold, it's where you get the the cruise ship to go Antarctica. And we went skiing down there and it was incredible.
Tony: That's so cool [crosstalk].
Jillian: I want to have a whole side combo about this.
Tony: Well, when you said the end of the world, I was like, "Oh, like if the earth is flat, on the edge of the-" yeah.
Tony: That's amazing though, I'd love to go visit one day.
John: I got married, I guess I don't keep a much of a bucket list but not dying alone was on there and I'm on track. So I'm going to consider that one checked.
Jillian: I mean a lot of [crosstalk].
Tony: Yeah. That's totally counts. Yeah.
Jillian: Yeah. I think that's pretty great.
Tony: I feel like there are probably a lot of people who don't think to put that on their bucket list, but that absolutely counts. Yes.
John: Yeah. I mean, I was in Massachusetts for college when the state legalized gay marriage. And so I never took it for granted that that would happen.
Tony: Yeah. I was going to say, I feel like you grew up with the feeling that it might... To hope that it would be possible. And here we are. Yeah.
Jillian: Legally, anyways. And according to the government.
Tony: Yeah. Right. Yeah. According to the... For whatever that means. Yeah. Let's talk about your bucket list, things that you have not yet done.
Becks: Road trip through the American west or road trip America, I guess I would say.
Jillian: Like a route 66 kind of thing?
Becks: Yeah. I don't know. I've never seen, I've only seen the coasts, I don't know what's actually in the middle of your country.
Jillian: Oh, well, stop by Colorado on your way, we'll go ski.
John: Yeah. I think mine would have to be some kind of travel, I've done so little of it compared to some people. So maybe when it's not quite as mass contensive, there's quite a bit of the worlds that I'd still like to see in person.
Tony: Amen to that. And on the topic of books, what is a book that you're just absolutely loving right now or that you just love to recommend?
Becks: I just picked up one at Catholic on Libras, here in Brooklyn that I found by Trinidadian author by Caroline McKenzie, I think is her name. And the book is called One Year of Ugly. I am on the first page, I literally just picked it up. So I will let you know how it goes.
John: I would have to recommend to any designers listening, How Design Ruined to The World by Mike Monteiro. He is my former boss, and mentor, and a good friend. And I designed the artwork for the cover actually. But it's a really good look at what design can do when you aren't intentional and responsible about it. I think it's really important for people in the field to think about.
Tony: Oh yeah. Lots of implications there, I feel like we could have a whole long conversation about that. And finally, how do you want to be remembered?
Becks: Wow, that's a deep one. Hopefully, well, I don't have a better answer.
John: My husband in his vows describe me as somebody who is always fighting for other people, and that really moved me, and I would like to actually live up to that description. And so hopefully people remember me as feisty and also someone whose heart was in the right place and was feisty for the right reasons.
Becks: You can see who's the much more thoughtful one between the both of us. I'm just like, "Hope people like me."
John: I mean, I also [crosstalk].
Tony: No problem with that. Yeah, no, I think there's nothing wrong with just hoping to be remembered fondly. I think that's poignant.
Jillian: Yeah. That says a lot.
Tony: And then, finally, finally, how do we find you on the internet personally? Professionally? Where do we find your awesome community guidelines? Give us your links.
John: You can find me personally at, heyjovo, H-E-Y-J-O-V-O on Twitter and Instagram or jovo.design, if you want to see my work and some of my writing around design. And then you can find Queer Design Club...
Becks: At, QueerDesign.club. You can find our community guidelines there down at the bottom of the homepage. You can find the code of conduct. I am Becky Brooker on Twitter, and you can find me at, rebeccabrooker.com on the Interwebs. But please do follow us Queer Design Club on all of our handles. And you can search for us as well on the Google.
Jillian: Got to love the Googles.
Tony: Amazing. Thank you so much for your time. It's been so, so, so great.
Jillian: It's been really great.
Becks: Thank you.
John: It's been great combo.
Tony: Okay. So that's a conversation with Becks and John from Queer Design Club. So, so useful. So I don't know affirming, is that the right word? Jill, how you feeling?
Jillian: Feeling good. What a lovely crew.
Tony: I always love collaborators that meet through Twitter. I just love when there's like a productive Twitter relationship that just comes from people who follow the same hashtag or have the same interests.
Jillian: Yeah. People who start their friendships on Twitter and then turn it into a legitimate friendship, it gives me a sense of glee that I can't describe because 10 years ago that would sound really creepy. And now it's just like it's a legitimate way to find friends and colleagues and forge relationships in a positive way.
I love that your geography doesn't matter. And so if you live in a culture or environment that isn't aligned with your interests, it doesn't stop you from finding connection about those things.
So it can get pretty niche, you can be specific and there are other people out there, and it's not like the olden days where you might have to put an ad in the paper or who even knows what people did. To organize, you can create a hashtag
Tony: And it can spin off in a lot of different directions. You can see how with Queer Design Club that you could have sub clubs that spin off from that group for folks with different kinds of identities, where they want to be able to find more folks that they can talk to, who share that in common.
Jillian: And what a wonderful challenge to have that niche of a group. And like you said, it will even from there, subdivide into smaller, more specific niches, and so many people want to have a big all encompassing community. And this is a great example of how going the opposite and having a very niche community can actually serve both yourself and your members so much more.
Tony: Yeah. And then building on that, with the proper documentation and communication. And I know we could talk a lot about the importance of a code of conduct, house rules, the member guidelines, those kinds of things, but it really does send an important message about the intention that you've put into a community.
Daniel, upon that we had interviewed earlier from Courage Collective Talks about not only are we trying to be welcoming to everyone, we have designed this for you, we've designed this with you in mind. And I think when you document something right up front to say, this is how we expect the folks here to behave.
And that is because we are on a mission to create an environment that achieves a certain degree of safety and trust.
Jillian: Yeah. Member safety, feeling safe is so important. And especially if you don't identify as queer or in any sort of, "Marginalized group," you probably have a blind spot to it.
But regardless, they started with very concise rules of engagement, very concise code of conduct. And they just set themselves up for success because someone coming in who might not totally understand who's running it, what's really going on. When they see all those pieces together, they're going to feel safe enough to share. And that's really important with a potential community member.
Tony: And also, this doesn't have to be harsh. It can be done in a way that's very friendly and accessible. And what they said is that we can be friendly and conversational but not beating around the bush and being direct about what's okay and what's not.
And I feel like that just makes everything so much easier for everybody to get on the same page about. And getting into a little bit of the design side of things and the language there, John said something about you can't present all the information at once.
And I feel like that is a nuanced thing for a community organizer to learn how to do, because we can be so tempted when somebody joins our community to try to just dump everything we think they need to know into their brains immediately right away.
I think it's just really useful to think in terms of how do I structure what I tell people? So I tell them the most important parts first, and then the other parts when the time is right.
Jillian: As you're talking about this, I'm like, "I'm so guilty of that." It's so easy to just be like, "Hey, welcome. Here's this, here's that, don't forget about this event." And everyone's just like, whoa.
Tony: Okay, I'm going to contradict myself for a minute because I will also say that oftentimes when I join a new community or even something like if I rent an Airbnb, it's a good example. When I rent an Airbnb, I want to make sure I know exactly what I'm getting into and exactly what's expected of me.
Jillian: Airbnbs are a great example, of they provide probably all the information, you just have to want to find it. They're not, I think they do a pretty good job of not bombarding you, but they're very clear on where to find the resources and find the answers.
And maybe that's a good takeaway for us as community builders, right? Do the same, make it very clear, here's the tome, hopefully not a tome, hopefully a very pretty Notion document that has tons of information that you can look at if you want to, or if you're more like me and you just like to shoot from the hip and see where it goes for better or worse, it's there and you're probably never going to look at it, but there it is. I mean, I want my community members to look at it, of course.
Jillian: But am I the type of person that does that? No.
Tony: And I'll still say one last thing, which is if you are designing your organization to be supportive of the LGBT members of your organization or of your community, one thing... We heard a couple pieces there that I think are really valuable.
What is that if you're going to conduct a DEI study or DEI training that you want to make sure that you are training specifically for LGBT and that having visible leadership that identifies in that realm is really, really helpful, it goes really far. So just some handy things to keep in mind.
Tony: And that about does it. Hope you enjoyed the conversation with Becks and John of Queer Design Club. And let us know how you are incorporating what you've learned into what you're doing. What are you putting into your member agreements, into your house rules, your codes of conduct, where are you getting your inspiration from? Let us know, we're @TeamSPI on Twitter and we'd love to hear from you.
This has been The Community Experience. For more information on this episode, including links and show notes, head over to smartpassiveincome.com/listen. Still if you want to look up Queer Design Club, they are on Twitter and Instagram. They are on Twitter and Instagram @QueerDesignClub. No dots, no underscores, no dashes, just @QueerDesignClub on Twitter and Instagram.
And for their website, it's QueerDesign.club, because .club is the top-level domain, and that's cool. So QueerDesign.club. Our Executive Producer is Matt Garland, our series producers are David Grabowski, and Senior Producer Sara Jane Hess, editing and sound designed by Duncan Brown, music by David Grabowski.
Jillian: See you next time.