What is Cultural Humility?

Presenting at the Postpartum Support International Conference in Portland, Oregon in June 2019.

One of the things I love about my work is how much it grows and shifts as I learn and grow as a doula, as a trainer, as a parent, and as a person. I learn something new about babies and parenting with every family I work with. I also learn more about how to dismantle systems of oppression with every training I do. And the language we use about oppression and identities matters. This is central to the framework of my trainings. When I was younger, discussing LGBQ/T communities with a tolerance narrative was popular. But that never sat well with me. As I like to say in my trainings, I don’t want to be tolerated. There isn’t something inherently wrong or different about my queer identity. I think being queer is one of the greatest things about me. So I began to use the language of cultural competency. I understood this to mean that we must learn about the range of identities in any given disenfranchised group, their history, their language, their experiences, in order to be culturally competent and serve that community respectfully. But even this language felt incomplete because one of the great things about identity, anyone’s, is that it is ever shifting, and ever changing. I believe this to be true for almost any oppressed groups and LGBQ/T folks in particular love our identifiers. So when I came across the term cultural humility I was really struck by the focus on continued studentship. Here is how I define cultural humility.

  • Full picture of someone’s race, language, gender, sexual identity, background etc.
  • People can bring their whole selves into the space.
  • Requires an awareness of privilege, power, structural oppression and inequality.
  • Focuses on self-humility and awareness rather than achieving a set amount of knowledge.

I particularly love the emphasis on taking responsibility as a learner to grow and continue learning. Even as a queer person, I am fully aware of the fact that I will continue to learn and grow around the language people within my own community use. Something I love about these trainings, and the way that I run them, is that I am a facilitator not an all knowing expert. I encourage the participants to come into each training with all their knowledge, experiences, and biases. My job is to educate but more importantly to dig and dismantle the things that our white supremacists homophobic, transphobic, sexist society has taught all of us. I do that work with love, compassion, and honesty.

If you would like to learn more and dig deep with me, check out my upcoming training on May 1st on my Provider Support and Training Page.