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As the modern world celebrates Pride month in June, and July marks the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Gazette presents an interview with our Kingdom Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. The DEI Office is new (read more here), and we thank Mistress Gytha for her service and her time. 

GythaWelcome! Tell us about yourself.

I am Mistress Gytha Oggsdottir. I am a Pelican and a White Scarf. I have been an active member in the SCA in Æthelmearc for over 15 years. I have been involved in the heavy, fencing, cut & thrust, thrown weapons, and youth fencing/fighting communities. I am the Kingdom Silent Herald and the new Kingdom DEI Officer.

Outside of the SCA, I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. Currently I work as a care manager for families in poverty with children who have mental illnesses. I have three kids, each with their own special needs from chronic migraines to autism/ADHD to being queer and trans.

What is a DEI Officer exactly? What do you do?

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office is committed to promoting the values of inclusion throughout the SCA.  Through education, training, and policy review, the DEI Officer will facilitate the necessary conversations and decision making that can lead to a more equitable and inclusive SCA. I will be offering training at events like Æcademy, but I am also available to offer training for baronies, shires, and groups. Also, people can personally reach out to me for assistance.

Our Kingdom seems to be LGBTQ friendly. Are there any areas there we can improve on?

Language is a huge aspect of inclusion, such as using gender-neutral terms like “consort” and “noble.” When addressing the populace as Lord and Ladies, make sure to include the term Nobles. In reality, you can just use Nobles and not use Lord and Ladies at all. Ask pronouns! (Garb does NOT give you clues to which pronoun to use.) This is especially important in the SCA where someone’s persona pronoun might be different than the one they use outside the SCA.  Another way we can make events more inclusive is having gender-neutral bathrooms and changing rooms. Also, provide menstrual products in ALL bathrooms.

The SCA in general seems to be welcoming to people of color, but looking around at Pennsic, it doesn’t seem like we’re very diverse in that area. Can you recommend strategies to recruit and retain more people of color?

This is a tough question to answer. There are multiple strategies that might help. One is to look at our policies, which the SCA is currently doing. Encouraging people who are interested in expanding out of European personas to do so. Part of recruitment and retention in general is making sure we have Gold Key at every event and having DECENT loaner garb and armor. Have newcomers meetings/activities. Do demos at more diverse festivals/celebrations. There aren’t very many people of color at Scottish games.

Finding disability-friendly sites is a real challenge, especially since the buildings we often use can be older and not ADA compliant. Do you have any suggestions for types of places that are most likely to be accessible and also suitable for our events?  

Another tough question. Start with buildings that are required to be ADA compliant, such as schools. But the big thing is no matter what site you use there are things you can do to make things better. COMMUNICATE – be very clear in any information that goes out what exactly accessibility issues might be. How far away are activities from each other? And if there is an elevator, how far is that from everything else? Where is check-in compared to the accessible entrance to the building?  The more information before an event, the more they can plan on what they need. COMMUNICATE on the day of the event: clearly label, and provide tons of arrow signs! Before the event, go take a look at all the bathrooms: is there one where you can get a wheelchair in and close the door? Label it clearly so people can find it!

What are one or two (or more) things on your to-do list as the DEI Officer? 

The two major ones I am currently working on are creating a Æthelmearc special harassment and bullying policy and creating a “best practices” for events stewards to make events more inclusive.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know, about you or the new DEI officership?

I am not the harassment and bullying police, but I can give you advice on how to deal with situations and am more than willing to mediate conversations. I have a ton of training ideas floating around in my head that I would love to do, so please contact me about a topic!

[Editor’s note: If  you or someone you know has been the subject of bullying and harassment in the SCA, contact the Kingdom Seneschal at ae.seneschal@aethelmearc.org, or the President of the SCA, or our Kingdom Ombudsman. ]

Are there other ways that we (seneschals, event stewards, the general populace) can help? 

When looking at sites for events or practices, when putting out a missive on email or social media, when speaking to a group of people… take a moment and ask yourself: Is there a way I can make this more inclusive?