8 Simple Ways You Can Be an Upstander for the Queer Community This Year
You’re probably inundating yourself with New Year’s resolutions right about now. Here are some easy goals that you can achieve as a champion for your LGBTQ+ colleagues in 2021.
It’s no longer enough to say you are an ally or supporter of the LGBTQ+ community without bolstering all its members, especially those who face marginalization. The following are only a handful of the umpteen ways you can do your part to celebrate your queer colleagues, advocate for every member of the community, and amplify voices this year and beyond.
1. Display your pronouns whenever and wherever you can
An excellent and painless way for organizations to acquaint employees with and normalize the sharing of gender pronouns is by incorporating them into default email signatures. This nearly effortless act demonstrates your advocacy and support for those who are frequently misgendered. You can even make them part of your introduction to new and unfamiliar faces alike: “My name is Zac Gipson, I’m an analyst, and my pronouns are he, him, and his.”
TLDR: Take a moment to learn someone’s pronouns. They are no longer “preferred” pronouns; they must be used to foster a respectful environment.
2. Educate yourself on the difference between sex and gender issues
By challenging your gender assumptions and committing to understand terminology, you have already taken a giant step in recognizing your teammates’ unique identities. An ally and champion of the community is any individual who is willing to advance LGBTQ+ and gender identity and expression inclusion no matter their own self-identities. You should expect to make some mistakes and feel uncomfortable asking questions, but so long as you are respectful, your efforts are applauded.
TLDR: Demystify the LGBTQ+ acronym and work to develop an understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer peoples through reading and study.
3. Understand key intersectional and systematic issues
To familiarize yourself with and learn about the inequalities you may never experience is a must-do, particularly for your Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) colleagues and those of differing bodily abilities. By understanding the intersectional issues that influence and interact with overall perceived identity and status, such as violence, parenting, and unequal healthcare, you can build authentic and lasting solidarity among your queer coworkers in and outside of the workplace.
TLDR: Explore and dismantle your unconscious biases. Then, educate your colleagues who may lack knowledge of stigmas and inequality faced by those who are underrepresented.
4. Play a role in your LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG)
If your organization has an LGBTQ+ or Pride ERG, get in touch with the lead(s) or sub-lead(s) to find out how you can best serve the community at large. Donating your money and time are wonderful ways to assist those in need, but you may hear about a specific opportunity that never crossed your mind, such as life skill development. No matter your interest in community service or professional development, there will always be appreciation for partnership.
TLDR: Keep in the loop about your company’s LGBTQ+ volunteer activities by joining one or more email distribution lists.
5. Seek out mentoring relationships with queer colleagues
Whether you are the mentor or the mentee, lending your ear and heart can make a massive difference in your colleague’s day-to-day. Bond over common interests, share your expertise and career journey, and, of course, bring light to the intricate challenges of being a queer person at your organization, in the neighborhood, and in the world today. This is an arduous and isolating time for everyone. Stay connected with the community through snail mail, telephone chats, and virtual check-ins.
TLDR: Reinforce your own knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community by picking up and maintaining a new mentor–mentee connection.
6. Participate in LGBTQ+ networking and recruiting events
You can empower both your current and prospective coworkers by taking initiative during career and hiring events. Promoting inclusive culture to attract and retain a diverse pool of talent is as simple as emailing your alma mater, management leads, or staffing team to discuss opportunities and strategies that include members of the LGBTQ+ community. Even having a monthly coffee chat with a queer student from your school or college is a valuable endeavor that shows conviction and devotion to the cause.
TLDR: Reach out to your internal and external networks to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion regardless of your own sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
7. Make your goals clear in team meetings and conversations
It’s vital that you establish a safe and diverse environment on the job that involves those from all backgrounds. You can start by facilitating a conversation with members of your own team. Encourage your LGBTQ+ colleagues to engage in discussions and gatherings by actively seeking their input and allowing them a platform to share their situations. This visibility is highly critical, demonstrating an earnest and sincere care for equality in the workplace.
TLDR: Pass the mic to those who have not had a place or a voice to speak to disparate experiences, whether they pertain to family, health, work, or another space.
8. Challenge homophobia and transphobia every day
When you witness inappropriate behavior, hear disparaging comments, or discover hostile environments, leverage your position and voice to stand up and speak up for others. Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment is not always overt or on purpose. You can fight heterosexism and cisgenderism by addressing antiquated and offensive presumptions, such as limiting definitions of “family” or insinuations that someone is non-LGBTQ+ based on their appearance, behavior, or mannerisms.
TLDR: Confront and escalate actions, discourse, and situations that make your LGBTQ+ colleagues uncomfortable without being defensive or threatening.
Final thoughts and reflections
Nearly 50% of queer individuals are closeted and hide their identities at work, 30% have felt depressed or unhappy, and 20% even avoid social events, such as happy hours and holiday parties. Apart from the harmful consequences on your people, overlooking discriminatory practices towards the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace will be incredibly detrimental to your business.
Adding these queer-centric habits to your Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) goals will help you lead by example and express long-lasting dedication to your LGBTQ+ peers. Let’s set the bar high in 2021!
Zac Gipson is a senior management consulting analyst at Accenture Federal Services in Washington, D.C. His primary research interests center on machine translation, natural language processing, and voice user interface. He is also an OCB natural bodybuilder who is teaching others how to build lean muscle on a plant-based diet.