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Supporting LGBTQ+ employees

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Supporting LGBTQ+ employees – not just during the Pride Month.

Workplaces worldwide have come a long way in embracing diversity and inclusion, but there is always room for improvement. As June brings the month of Pride, let’s consider what could be done by employers to create a more welcoming environment for their LGBTQ+ workforce.

But before we can dive deeper, do you know the definitions? As it turns out, a lot of people don’t know the LGBTQ+ abbreviation and some of the terms can be confusing. Here are some definitions:

LGBTQ: The first four letters of this standard abbreviation are fairly straightforward: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.” The Q can stand for “questioning”- meaning still exploring one’s sexuality – or “queer,” or sometimes both.

Queer: Once considered a demeaning slur for being gay, “queer” is being reclaimed as a self-affirming term, especially by some of those who consider other labels restrictive. However, some still believe it’s a homophobic insult, so it’s always best to be careful and either ask or wait for the person whom you’re speaking with to use it. Don’t go around calling people queer- they might not be comfortable with the term.

Intersex: People born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia or an internal reproductive system that is not considered standard for males or females. Parents and doctors usually choose the sex of the child, resulting in surgery or hormone treatment. Some intersex adults want this practice to end because one’s sex at birth may not align with their own sense of gender or identity.

Gender identity: A person’s emotional and psychological sense of their gender, which may not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. The most common examples of gender identity are male and female, but there are several terms for people who don’t fit into those categories, such as:

Non-binary: One of the more common terms to describe people who don’t identify as male or female. Some may have a gender that blends male and female elements, or they may not identify with any gender. Common synonyms or alternatives to non-binary terms include genderqueer and gender nonconforming. This is where “he” and “she” don’t fit and are replaced by using the pronoun “they”.

Transgender: Unlike non-binary people, transgender people may identify as male or female. What the two groups share is the innate sense that their gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.

Cisgender: The prefix “cis” means “on this side.” Adding it to the suffix “gender” creates a word for someone whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. Or, in other words, someone who does not identify as transgender.

Sexual orientation: One’s sexual attraction to other men, women or others who identify as non-binary.

Heterosexual: Means attracted to a person of the opposite sex, meaning men attracted to women and women attracted to men.

Homosexual: When someone’s attracted to people of the same sex- so men attracted to men and women attracted to women. But these are not the only options when it comes to sexual orientation.

Bisexual: Someone who is attracted to more than one gender.

Asexual: Asexuality is a sexual orientation characterized by a lack of sexual attraction, but it doesn’t rule out romantic attraction.

Pansexual: The prefix “pan” says it all. Pansexual is an adjective for those who are attracted to all types of people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

Hopefully, you’ve learned something new or had some clarification. With definitions out of the way, let’s talk about what can be done in a work environment and why it is so important.

As an employer wanting to be more inclusive, you can create comprehensive policies that explicitly protect LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination and harassment. Spread the word about these policies to ensure everyone knows that you have their back, no matter what. Regular training sessions are a great way to educate employees about LGBTQ+ issues, lingo, and the importance of respectful communication. Let’s foster empathy, understanding, and allyship among the team.  

Educate and celebrate – if everyone in the company has a good understanding of the community values and understands the terms, knows how to address their LGBTQ co-workers without offending anyone, but also joins in when celebrating them, that creates grounds for a great team. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to the Pride Month in June, but it is most definitely a good start.

Sending the following message is a must: We won’t put up with any discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. We have a strict zero-tolerance policy. If anything happens, we’ll take immediate action to investigate and address the situation. We’re all about respect and equality. Make sure that everyone in the company knows that this is what you stand for and, of course, when it comes to it- you react accordingly.

And what are the benefits? Or why is it so important to support inclusivity in your workplace? Employees who feel comfortable and safe, will naturally be more productive. Knowing their voice is heard, they can focus on the work they were employed to do for your company, instead of wasting their energy fighting ignorant or aggressive co-workers. They will also be more loyal as their job satisfaction increases. In addition, by actively showing your company as a safe and inclusive work environment, you encourage new talent and are seen as one of the top employers on the market.

Supporting LGBTQ+ employees isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s the awesome thing to do! When you actively implement policies, provide training and support, and foster a culture of acceptance and respect, you create workplaces where everyone feels valued, celebrated, and empowered to bring their best selves to work. You unlock the full potential of your diverse workforce and make a positive impact that reaches beyond your office doors. Let’s build a future where LGBTQ+ individuals can thrive professionally while being true to who they are.