Conversations for a More Civil Society: CWH and the LGBTQ+ Community

Feb 03, 2024

“Be who I am.”
~ Jeanie Cockell

In our Conversations Worth Having Learning Lab, Jeanie Cockell, Joan McArthur-Blair, Megan Robaina, and Melissa Robaina, joined by Jackie Stavros, explored the importance of building a more civil society, with a focus on LGBTQ+ issues. In the quest for belonging and rights, fear and othering too often divide people. These behaviors tear at the fabric of our nation states around the world and threatens others’ futures.

We delved into topics such as defining LGBTQ+, what might the conversations be about, the significance of allyship, and respecting others' boundaries when asking about one’s identity or experiences. Our conversation highlighted the need for inclusive and welcoming spaces, the power of productive conversations versus reductive and oppressive ones, and the complexity of identities as a community and individually. The panel offered valuable resources, including an article by Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair on navigating privilege and the Pivotal Moments HQ podcast, which has been nominated for a Rainbow Mic Award for promoting LGBTQIA+ visibility and representation in the podcasting community.

We started our conversations with commonly-asked questions about LGBTQ+:

  • What defines and the meanings of LGBTQ+?
  • What are the most important conversations people should be having?
  • What is “allyship”? How to be a great ally?
  • How might we educate others to promote connection, awareness, and acceptance of people who are not like us?

Here are some insightful highlights that emerged in this Learning Lab.  You will find sources and how to contact our panel at the end of this blog.

  • How we define the community and know its history as a place to start: Queer is a broad term used to cover everyone who defines themselves as LGBTQ +. There is the “+” such as IA that means those who do not conform to traditional identity. “IA” can stand for various identities and meanings based on the individual. LGBTQ+ acronym is inclusive and evolving, and different individuals may use variations of the acronym to represent different identities or concepts. The LGBTQ+ spectrum is diverse, and it continues to evolve to be more inclusive and reflective of the various identities within it. It is essential to be respectful and considerate of how individuals choose to define and use these terms. 
  • Having inclusive and welcoming spaces for conversations: There is a need to band together and prevent reductive thinking and oppression of rights. There is oppressive power in being reductive. Words like gay, lesbian, trans, etc. are terms that may be used to oppress, isolate, or conversely uplift people’s identity. Think about IA could be used to represent "Inclusive and Affirming," emphasizing the importance of creating inclusive and welcoming spaces for all, where identities can be discussed openly. 
  • Opportunity to come together as a marginalized community and engage in powerful conversations. There are challenges to LGBTQ+ rights, it is essential to discuss and understand the potential consequences of these challenges. By doing so, we can protect our rights and build a stronger, more inclusive society. Let us explore how we can ensure that our progress sets a positive, life-giving example for other marginalized groups and their rights as well. Have open conversations with empathy and respect. 
  • The significance of ‘allyship’: Allies are individuals who are eager to support, learn, and engage in meaningful and inclusive conversations with members of the LGBTQ+. They embrace the idea that the world is not just binary and choose curiosity over judgment. Allies play a vital role because they can bridge gaps and have meaningful discussions with people who might otherwise dismiss marginalized individuals without consideration.
  • How to be an ally while respecting others’ boundaries: It starts with recognizing that asking someone to share their experiences is a privilege, and we must accept their choice if they are not willing to share. Before engaging with or asking questions about a person, take a moment for self-reflection. Ask yourself about the motivation behind your questions, why you are asking, and how you would feel if you were in their place. Then, when framing your questions, consider starting with something like, 'Can you help me understand more...?' Additionally, it is crucial to understand that every person within the LGBTQ+ is unique. They hold diverse perspectives, opinions, and values, just like any other group.
  • A person’s sexual identity is an aspect of who they are, it does not define them: A person’s identity is an intricate tapestry of experiences, values, and life choices. To understand a person, you need to know more than just how they identify sexually or their pronouns. To ignore it, “I don’t think of you as gay” or only see that one aspect of a person, “this is my lesbian friend” disrespects the nature and complexity of the individual. To really understand a person, you must be able to see the interconnected aspects of their whole identity.

How do we educate others about LGBTQ+?

The panel offers these resources to promote connection, awareness, and acceptance of people who are not like us:

Article by Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair (November 2022). “Navigating Privilege as we DO and BE Appreciative Inquiry” in the AI Practitioner: The International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry, V24, N4

The article by Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair, titled "Navigating Privilege as we DO and BE Appreciative Inquiry," delves into the concept of privilege from the perspective of two lesbian Appreciative Inquiry (AI) practitioners living on the west coast of Canada. It invites us to understand where their privilege lies and where they may face a lack of privilege in their lives and work. The article serves as a call to action for individuals to actively navigate their privilege and contribute to a more equitable and just society through their actions and interactions.

At the onset of the article, they suggest taking some quiet time and thinking through your own privilege and how it manifests in your life and work.  How are you creating a space for your understanding?

Melissa is co-founder and co-host of Pivotal Moments HQ podcast that is up for an award. Notably, the episodes featuring Megan Robaina have garnered acclaim. The impactful dialogue on these shows has earned it a finalist spot for the 2024 Rainbow Mic Award, recognizing its efforts in promoting LGBTQIA+ visibility and representation in the podcasting community.  

Podcasts on Spotify and YouTube

Awareness, Adversity, & Advocacy (part 1 of 2)
On Spotify:
On YouTube:

Media and Self Image (part 2 of 2)
On Spotify:
On YouTube:

Update from Megan Robaina (about his top surgery)
On Spotify:
On YouTube:

Endometriosis and Transgender
On Spotify:
On YouTube:


A special thank you to Jeanie, Joan, Megan, and Melissa for the resources and gift of their time and insights. They have demonstrated that there is room for anyone in these conversations that can build bridges across differences, allowing people to find commonality in their humanity with their uniqueness, and understanding to move forward together. The CWH community and practices support this.

In closing, they were inspirational and offered much insightful wisdom. A take-away from each:

“The power isn’t in others being able to call me out, but, in my ability, to call myself out if I wish.” ~ Joan McArthur-Blair

“Have the courage to engage in bold conversations!” ~ Jeanie Cockell

“We need to come together with an understanding of who we are and the history of LGBTQ+ as a starting place for conversations worth having.” ~ Megan Robaina

“Before asking a question, ask yourself, ‘how would I feel if someone asked me this question?’” ~ Melissa Robaina 


About Our Guests

Megan Robaina (he/him) is a 27-year-old trans man who grew up in a poor, conservative, small town in central California. Committed to the idea of something more, he pursued excellence in sports and academia. It was then that he found a deep interest in STEM. Moving on from community college, he received a degree in Cellular/Molecular Biology at Humboldt State University. There, his desire for knowledge/meaning urged him to study diverse concepts, broadly ranging from genetics to the metaphysical. This ultimately led him to reconnection with his Cuban ancestral lineage, traditions…and his newly discovered identity as a trans man. Now, as the 6th year anniversary of his medical transition draws near, he approaches the world with a unique blend of scientific and spiritual consideration. This serves his current position as a Research Scientist at the University of Washington and his role as a leader/public speaker in the queer community. He speaks on podcasts like Pivotal Moments HQ where he discusses his experiences as a trans youth and his recent top surgery issues on LGBTQIA. [email protected] 

Melissa Robaina, a certified Appreciative Inquiry practitioner, specializes in designing engagements that invite collaboration, discussion, and inclusivity. She harnesses the power of Appreciative Inquiry to empower others in achieving desired change through generative discussions, resulting in meaningful outcomes. She wrote (to my knowledge) one of the first on-demand self-directed programs in the Appreciative Inquiry World. Melissa also cohosts Pivotal Moments HQ, a podcast dedicated to destigmatizing mental health and wellness issues. Through storytelling, it aims to promote self-awareness, broaden perspectives, cultivate empathy, share knowledge, foster connection, extend compassion, and amplify the voices of underrepresented and marginalized communities.   [email protected] 

Jeanie Cockell & Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, specialize in collaboratively designing strategies with clients to surface their wisdom as individuals, groups, and organizations in order for them to build positive futures and to respond effectively to change. They are Appreciative Inquiry practitioners and have co-authored the books Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry (2018) and Appreciative Inquiry in Higher Education: A Transformative Force (2nd Ed 2020). Find out more at

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