A man sitting on a wall looking at the water with a city skyline in the background, promoting inclusivity and equality.

GriefSPEAK: Inclusion by exclusion – Mari Nardolillo Dias

By Dr. Mari Nardolillo Dias, contributing writer

“There is no such thing as diversity.” This was the introductory statement made by our guest speaker, a twenty-six year old transgendered person whose pronouns are “he/him”. Nick is a former student who I knew as Nicole eight years ago, and I asked him to talk to my “budding therapist” students about DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) in counseling.  This was an unexpected and potentially controversial statement to make in this age of mandatory DEI.  

“Think about the least common denominator in all of us… We are all human. It’s society and government that puts these labels and priorities on us: in education, hiring, federal assistance, etc. When a client comes in with a gender orientation issue, you need to remember the interaction is simply human to human,“ explained Nick.  

I agree that we have more similarities than differences. There are 5 basic emotions that everyone experiences. Strip us of the labels of white supremacy, xenophobic, racist and homophobic ideologies and we all laugh, cry, bleed and breathe. The idea of “equity” is misinterpreted as equality, which it is not. A DEI Trainer attempted to explain the difference.

Equality is when everyone has the same opportunities, Equity is when the disenfranchised, marginalized individuals who have been not been treated equally in the past now need to be favored:  These groups need reparations on all fronts. 

Inclusion: “The practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise excluded.” (dictionary). Notice the use of the phrase “Equal Access.” If human resources (HR) has to hire someone for a position under the new DEI mandates, they must hire someone who meets the criteria of “formerly disenfranchised.” In other words, if you are white, you probably will not get the position if you are up against a person with disabilities, a person of color, or a transgendered individual. That’s equity. Not equality. Meritocracy in hiring has gone by the wayside.  

I have many LGBGTIAQ clients who are grieving a gender identity and feel that from a macro view, society seems to be accepting and actually favors them. It’s in the micro view where things get sticky. Parents may not be as accepting as society. Transgendered people tell me that they are in agreement with the Florida statute. Although they may have recognized their gender identification in preschool, they do not feel that a discussion of gender identity is an appropriate discussion before 9 year-olds.  

“Our government is preaching inclusion, but practicing exclusion. There is little to nothing that is mutually exclusive. Take the Nashville shooting. Why does the government harp on gun control, while others focus on the gender of the shooter, others on possible mental health issues, steroids or hormone use, and others see it as a hate crime against Christians? None of these are mutually exclusive. Why don’t they entertain a “perfect storm” of factors? (Anonymous Client 1). 

“Books are banned, teachers are not allowed to discuss their students with their own parents, there really is no freedom… and this is not hyperbole… I may be grieving a country where the right to free speech is honored… we were more united before the government interfered and created derision. I am angry, sad, scared and disbelieving of what I hear. For example, why is it only now that we learn of the exponentially high rates of unexplained deaths associated with the COVID vaccine…?” (Anonymous Client 2). 

I will end with my client’s statement this afternoon. 

“Leave me alone, government. Leave us alone, politicians. We were doing better when you didn’t intervene.” (Jonas) There is more diversity in opinion than union in our humanness.”


NOTE: Ashaway event moved to May 17th

Dr. Mari Nardolillo Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief. Dias is a Certified death doula, and has a Certificate in Psychological Autopsy.

She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI.  For more information, go to: