Dear Wedding Vendors,
I’m tired. Tired of the excuses for bigotry, tired of folks excusing hateful beliefs, tired of folks wondering if their love can be celebrated. There is a local photographer that for defamation purposes will remain nameless, who openly rejected a couple based on their same sex relationship. This couple was inquiring about a photographer for their wedding next year and was met with blatant homophobia and judgement. “I mean absolutely no disrespect, but if it is a same sex marriage, due to my religious beliefs, I refrain from shooting them…and if, in case I have assumed wrongly I am available on this date and am happy to send over my pricing”. Let’s break this down shall we?
This goes for anything, but your impact is more important than your intent. Even though the photographer quite literally did not see any problem with what was said, the impact is harmful. It is literally saying that you are refusing someone’s love because of who they are. We are in 2020 and quite frankly there has been plenty of time for folks to hop off the homophobia train. Even so, if something doesn’t agree with you there are much kinder ways of not working with someone. Say you’re booked. It’s that simple. Yes, businesses do have the right to refuse service based on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court Ruling, but don’t be surprised when people call you out for being harmful.
I’m guessing this photographer didn’t think anyone but the couple would read her words. However, if you wouldn’t say something in public, then don’t say it on the internet. Hiding your problematic words and actions behind closed doors isn’t an excuse for that behavior. You might have LGBTQ friends, or friends of color, or Muslim friends etc. So unless you are ok with saying something to them directly, don’t say it when you think no one is watching.
I’ll be honest, I have a lot of issues with religion, but I still recognize that it’s important to many people. While I can understand religion being a big part of how you see the world it doesn’t give you a pass for saying harmful things. Unfortunately religion, specifically Christianity, is often weaponized in the name of bigotry, and it causes a lot of issues. If you’re someone of faith that is absolutely fine and dandy but remember the core of it, love for one another.
Cancel and call out culture can definitely have its downfalls and while staying silent and ignoring your own problematic behavior can seem appealing it’s not the best way to grow. I can give the benefit of doubt to someone who’s been confronted with their own actions and takes that as an opportunity to learn and reflect. When a call out happens and you silence those trying to help and educate you then you’ve shown no intention of learning and growing. That’s the issue. Not that someone made a mistake (as horrible as it was), but that they’ve blocked comments, messages, and people trying to make them aware of the problem. The journey of being inclusive is one of unlearning, which takes time and effort. Saying you’ve grown or learned means nothing without action.
I’ve had countless couples reach out and thank me for asking for pronouns, showing diversity in my portfolio, and being open about my own journey as a queer person. They tell me they didn’t want to have to ask their vendors if being a same sex couple was ok. It absolutely breaks my heart that while planning what should be one of their best days that they’d have to even think about that. If you truly want to be inclusive, show that. Let your business leave no doubt in people’s minds where you stand.
To those reading this with their own wedding businesses I encourage you to really dig deep in your own beliefs and practices. While your intent may be good what really matters is how it impacts those coming to you for business. You shouldn’t just be inclusive when you feel you’re being watched, be inclusive in every interaction, always. Folks are really good at smelling out who’s being fake and who isn’t, believe me, they’ll know. Don’t let one aspect of your beliefs negate human rights, if your religion is telling you to be exclusionary to folks then maybe you shouldn’t be in an industry full of diversity and love. If you do make a mistake and have someone bring it to your attention, taking the time to listen and grow is far better than trying to push the problem away. If you want to take the steps to be more inclusive then start by showing diversity and love to all. There shouldn’t be anyone asking you if you’re comfortable with their love. Small things like asking for pronouns, removing gendered language from your forms, putting people of all kinds front and center, these all play into building a truly inclusive business. Not just because you want their money, because it’s just the right thing to do.
So where do you go from here? If you’re looking for practical steps in making your business better and more inclusive then I have just the thing for you. I’ve spent countless hours putting together a go at your own pace online workshop aimed at helping photographers take that next step towards inclusion. The Inclusivity Workshop includes posing tips, how to approach model calls, gender neutral language, and much more. I understand that a lot of these things just aren’t widely shared or known so I want to help that. I’ve talked to lots of actual members of the LGBTQ community to get their feedback on what they want their wedding vendors to know. This way you can take steps in furthering your education without relying on your clients to teach you. I also offer one on one sessions for people with specific questions or places in their business they want to grow in. Every couple deserves to be celebrated, let’s make sure that happens.
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