Including the LGBTQIA+ Community in the Workplace

Including the LGBTQIA+ Community in the Workplace

The acronym LGBTQIA+ comprises many different identities of people regarding their romantic or sexual orientation, gender identity or both. The acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and the Plus is meant to represent the many identities not covered within the initial acronym. The language surrounding these communities is always evolving, and each community is distinctly different in terms of their experiences. Read on for more context surrounding the community, its history and how you and your organization can be impactful allies for your peers.

The history of pride

While gender and sexuality are distinctly different, the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals oftentimes overlap and the fight for these rights encourages community building for all under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. Historically, same-sex relationships and dressing outside of one’s assigned gender were illegal in the United States. These laws encouraged the raiding of LGBTQIA+ establishments, which led to arrests and assaults, especially of transgender women.

In 1966, transgender women and drag queens who were arrested from Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco fought back against the police, marking the first collective queer resistance to police brutality and brought a spotlight onto the discrimination and violence faced by transwomen and drag queens.

Three years later, at The Stonewall Inn in New York City, police raided the LGBTQIA+ club and began arresting those in attendance. When an officer struck Stormé DeLarverie with his baton, it sparked protests and riots against the violence perpetrated against queer individuals by both members of society, structural racism and the policing system.

Transwomen of color such as Marsha P. Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera led these riots and protests in the face of the transphobia, racism and bigotry from society, and even from within their own community. The fight for LGBTQIA+ rights continues to this day, including the fight for gender-affirming care, transgender rights, and access to equitable physical and mental health care.

Opportunities for inclusion

Though cultural ideals have shifted drastically during the last 15-20 years, discrimination of LGBTQIA+ individuals is still a very prevalent issue. This extends to feelings of exclusion or even feeling tokenized within the workplace.

Ways to create an inclusive work environment for LGBTQIA+ include the following:

  • Policies & procedures
    • Dress code policies may box individuals into specific attire based on their physical presentation. This may inhibit individual expression through clothing. Try removing language that separates ‘male’ and ‘female’ dress and instead focuses on appropriate attire for all.
    • Benefits offered to employees can heavily influence their engagement at work and their overall wellness. Providing access to insurance that supports gender-affirming care is crucial, along with parental leave for either parent, regardless of adoption or being the parent to give birth.
  • Inclusive language
    • Sharing your pronouns may provide others space to share their own, which oftentimes can be anxiety-inducing for individuals who are transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming.
    • Avoid language that assumes someone’s identity, instead of focusing on language such as ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ or ‘husband/wife.’ If you feel comfortable asking someone about their relationship status and the situation is appropriate, use language such as ‘partner’ or ‘significant other’.

Inclusive behaviors in the workplace overlap for different communities and intersecting identities, but your organization can ensure its LGBTQIA+ members feel included and supported by reviewing and reforming non-inclusive policies and procedures, adopting welcoming language, recognizing their history, and celebrating Pride all year long.

BHWC Mission

To increase access to effective behavioral health services through coordinated initiatives to recruit, educate, and retain professionals in behavioral health.