Supporting Sexual and Gender Diversity in the Workplace

June 1, 2022

Keith Plummer

During June, one is hard-pressed to miss the avalanche of marketing flooding our inboxes, social media feeds, and favourite stores. Yet, while we revel in this outpouring of visibility that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQIA2+) activists and changemakers before us likely only dreamed about, we’re also cautious.  

 

We all know that generating Pride-themed logos, products, and organization swag does not equate to organizations doing the difficult internal work that makes their workplace safer and more supportive of sexual and gender diversity. At our most cynical, we worry that these external-facing affirmations of the community create a facade that enables organizations to attract people to their teams and cultivate a market segment without taking an inventory of their policies, personnel, procedures, and partnerships. Does Pride-themed branding matter when an LGBTQIA2+ person can join an organization and not find themselves reflected in leadership, how policies are written, how benefits are designed, or the resources and professional development opportunities available to other team members?

 

As many members of the queer community wisely remind us, Pride is a protest. It is not just a time for celebration but also a time to create change and challenge the status quo. Pride is about championing outsiders and recognizing that no one should be degraded or disadvantaged for who they are or love. Keeping these foundational values of Pride in mind, here are some things that you and your organization can do to celebrate Pride during June and year-round. 

Push Boundaries

 

Pride is not the time to play it safe and cautious. Instead, it is the time for thoughtful disruption and commotion around how to be more inclusive. For example, rather than defaulting to the standard rainbow flag, consider Philadelphia’s ’More Color, More Pride’ flag, originally adopted in the city of Philadelphia in the United States (U.S.). It is deliberately more inclusive of racialized members of the LGBTQIA2+ community with the addition of black and brown stripes. You should also consider the ‘Progress’ Pride flag created by Daniel Quasar (they/them), which celebrates the transgender community in addition to Arab, Asian, Black, Brown, Hispanic, Indigenous,  Latinx/Latine, Middle Eastern/North African (MENA), Pacific Islander, and Multiracial members of the LGBTQIA2+ community. These more inclusive incarnations of the flag are increasingly adopted by leading LGBTQIA2+ organizations and thoughtful brands that understand the importance of intersectionality or that no one can be reduced to a singular aspect of their identity. 

Pride is the time for some thoughtful disruption and commotion around being more inclusive. 

 

Society increasingly expects businesses to be socially responsible and vocalize their values, supporting a sustainable and equitable world. Organizations can embody this significant shift in how they choose to celebrate Pride and affirm the LGBTQIA2+ community year-round. For example, is your organization taking a stance on LGBTQIA2+ inclusive legislation domestically and in other international regions of operation? Is your organization ceasing any donations to political figures that voice anti-LGBTQIA2+ views and support harmful laws that would harm members of the LGBTQIA2+ community? Are you taking advantage of organization opportunities to volunteer and donation-match for LGBTQIA2+ nonprofits and community organizations? Pride requires us to move beyond symbolism and into tangible action.

 

Embrace The Acronym & All The Diversity Within It

 

We can sometimes fall into the trap of utilizing the entire LGBTQIA2+ acronym when we disproportionately focus our efforts on certain strands of the community. Every character represents an identity, and sometimes we use the acronym when our programming or representation is only reflective of select queer realities. Pay special attention to how you are centring racialized queer people, trans voices, and bi+ experiences in addition to white gay men and lesbian women. Interrogate whether your discussions, events, and educational offerings engage with the breadth of community struggles, including those faced by intersex people, people on the asexual spectrum, or people who identify with non-Western queer identities, such as the North American Indigenous Two-Spirit or South Asian Hijra communities.  

Every character represents an identity, and sometimes we use the acronym when our programming or representation is only reflective of select queer realities. 

 

Now could be the time that you push for your organization to embrace an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and Human Resources Information System (HRIS) inclusive of genders outside the binary. This could be when you start to include your pronouns in introductions, email signatures, videoconferencing usernames, and organization biographies in solidarity with your trans, non-binary, genderfluid, and nonconforming team members and commit to correcting your team members when they misgender someone. Now could be the perfect moment to push for collecting Voluntary Self-Identification (Self-ID) Data relating to sexuality, gender, transgender status, and intersex status. Voluntary Self-ID helps to promote data-informed strategies that advance LGBTQIA2+ inclusion through actionable metrics and information around the recruitment, retention, promotion, and experiences of queer team members. 

If you are a member of an LGBTQIA2+ Employee Resource Group (ERG), this could be a moment to take stock of who is and isn’t at your meetings and events and think of ways to address those gaps in representation. Finally, urge Human Resources (HR), People, and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) leaders to forge strategic partnerships to ensure LGBTQIA2+ diversity is an integral component of your organization’s recruitment pipelines and supplier/vendor diversity programs.

  

Seek Justice For Queer Communities In The Present

 

Just as advocates at the first Pride protests rallied against prevailing injustices to the LGBTQIA2+ community in their time, it is our responsibility to use Pride as an opportunity to address salient issues affecting LGBTQIA2+ people presently. Similar to 2021, where we witnessed the senseless murder of 6 Asian women in Atlanta, Georgia as well as the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former Canadian residential school site, 2022 presents us with numerous opportunities to reignite the revolutionary spirit of Pride in service of those who continue to experience marginalization in our workplaces and world. 

So far, 2022 has been unrelenting in its delivery of tragic, regressive, and distressing news for people of all genders and sexualities, such as:

These developments require awareness and action by the LGBTQIA2+ community, whose members are intimately affected by these realities.

Codifying Rights & Advocating for the Well-Being of All 

It should give us pause that rights that have been settled for around 50 years can still be so precarious or that communities that already experience significant challenges and disparities, like transgender people, are being targeted by laws that will inevitably further these inequities and create new ones. During Pride, we cannot ignore our individual and collective opportunities to challenge rising sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, including:

  • Pushing our organizations to sign joint statements, publicly share support for inclusive policies and initiatives, and unequivocally denounce hateful and exclusionary actions and decisions, especially those relating to restricting abortion access or access to gender-affirming medicines. 
  • Calling on our organizations to cease any monetary contributions to political figures that spread harmful ideas about the LGBTQIA2+ community or advocate for hostile or discriminatory legislation
  • Discussing reproductive health and pregnancy gender-inclusively, acknowledging that things like pregnancy and menstruation are not only the experiences of women but also numerous transgender men and non-binary people too. 
  • Encouraging our organizations and businesses to donate to organizations working for reproductive rights and transgender inclusion. 
  • Designing inclusive policies and benefits that help to address systemic injustices, such as:
    - Ensuring your organization has at least one healthcare plan inclusive of a comprehensive range of gender-affirming therapies, surgeries, and procedures (e.g. counselling, voice-training, Hormone Replace Therapy (HRT), bottom surgery, top surgery, permanent hair removal, etc.).
    - Providing relocation benefits for people who want to move away from a jurisdiction that legally restricts abortion access or gender-affirming care. 
    - Giving specific Paid-Time Off (PTO) for when people get an abortion and for their partners.
  • Validating the experiences of transgender, non-binary, genderfluid, and nonconforming people through behaviours and benefits, such as:
    - Always using a person’s chosen name and correct pronouns.
    - Giving every team member access to facilities and spaces that align with their gender.
    - Ensuring there is at least one all-gender restroom in your office and in the venues and spaces you choose to host events. 
    - Having a process in place at your organization to support a transitioning team member and for them to co-create a tailored, individual plan for their workplace transition. 
    - Remembering to factor in the cultural and legal climate relating to the LGBTQIA2+ community when assessing the risk of different international assignments and global travel. 

Conclusion

As this Pride comes to an end, never forget that Pride is so much more than rainbows and a party. It’s an opportunity to celebrate and elevate queer lives while tackling the issues affecting the most vulnerable in our community. Let this truth be a guide as you and your organization plan Pride initiatives and continue the journey toward an LGBTQIA2+ inclusive office. 

For more important insights around fostering LGBTQIA2+ inclusion across your organization, check out our comprehensive resource: 

A Guide to LGBTQIA2+ Inclusion for Human Resources (HR), People, and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Leaders