5 ways to show support for your LGBTQIA+ colleaguesPride month has come to a close, but that does not have to mean an end to the constant battle for inclusion. Thanks to some improvements, a large number of people now openly identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, these people continue to suffer discrimination as well. According to various studies, a significant proportion of people from the LGBTQIA+ community have faced difficulties in accepting their identities at their workplaces. Instances of mental harassment are unfortunately common as well. Discriminatory behavior extending to or arising out of the workplace is detrimental to individuals. It can impact them economically too. Therefore, it is vital to create inclusive workplaces that include a diverse set of people. A diverse workforce is more likely to be efficient and innovative. Historically, the LGBTQIA+ community has faced discrimination and exploitation in all areas of life. Until the previous century, people from the LGBTQIA+ community were effectively barred from workplaces and limited to some contemptible professions. The legal matters have been resolved. But, the community is still subject to prejudice and stereotyping. The presence of LGBTQIA+ people in workplaces results from a long and arduous struggle, parts of which are still going on. While discussing this, we should also keep the international differences in behavior towards LGBTQIA+ people in mind even when our country and society fare relatively well in terms of openness and inclusivity. Homosexuality is constitutionally banned in several places. Our employees from the LGBTQIA+ community would find such work assignments dangerous. Therefore, as a manager, you must ensure that your employee belonging to the LBGTQIA+ community is not facing microaggressions or bad behavior from any work-related interactions involving prejudiced minds.
What can you do as a manager?You will then ask, “but what can I do?” However, as members of society, we must show our support to the community in day-to-day activities. And as nothing but mere individuals, we can do that by engaging in constructive dialogue with other society members. Through our relentless efforts, we can change the minds of those yet to accept and support the LGBT+ community. Even after many companies have brought out notices declaring that they provide Opportunities for All, members of the LGBTQIA+ community still hesitate before being open about their identities, especially in workplaces. This is because the changes are required not at the policy level but the social level. A manager can take several steps to handle diversity in the workplace effectively. Apart from that, day-to-day support can come from peers as well!
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Here are some steps that you can take to support your colleagues from the LGBTQIA+ community
Use inclusive languageYears of usage of gendered language have conditioned us not to pay much attention to it. However, as reliable allies, we must use inclusive language in our communication. For instance, gendered language recognizes only two genders – male and female. Gender-neutral language, on the other hand, includes people of all genders. This is important for people who do not fit precisely into the two genders or are non-binary. Hence, next time give preference to gender-neutral words like “parents” over “mom/dad” and “partner” over “husband/wife.”
PronounsPronouns are central to a person’s identity. They are an expression of one’s gender identity. Therefore, it is crucial to get them right. Even unintentional misaddressing can upset people. That’s why while addressing someone, you should take care to use their preferred pronouns. If you are not aware of their preferred pronouns, just ask! Asking instead of using the wrong pronouns shows that you respect them and their choices. You can also show support by mentioning your own pronouns and adding them to your social media or your email signatures.
Educate yourselfThe LGBT community has a long history of struggle and oppression. They have fought just to be themselves openly. A person in the LGBT community being open about their identity is committing a brave act. Unfortunately, it is still deemed criminal in several places. The community is complex and intricate. As an ally, you must understand who they are. You can learn about their struggle to get recognition, access to fundamental rights and education, the meanings of the colors in the flag, etc. Beyond that, you can increase awareness and educate others about the community and its rich contributions to the world.
Tackle harassmentMany organizations have implemented welfare programs for the community. However, unfortunately, the discrimination persists. At workplaces, people from the LGBT+ community commonly face microaggressions, lack of respect, and condescending behavior directed towards their identity. These things can mentally affect these individuals and curtail their access to workplaces in the most extreme forms. Therefore, ensuring that such behaviors are not permitted at your workplace is essential. You should raise your voice against such actions.
Be kindMost importantly, it would help if you were kind to others. Mold your behavior to avoid causing any unintentional harm to anyone. Similarly, advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community without disrupting the existing goodwill of the workplace. Remember that the goal is to be inclusive and friendly with everyone. Hence, keep kindness along with you in all your interactions. At times, you will have to face stiff resistance. But dialogue is, first and foremost, the essential step even there.
ConclusionThe fight for equality in the LGBTQIA+ community has come a long way. Yet, there is work to be done. Even within the LGBTQIA+ community, some groups need more support than others. Institutional programs and legal provisions work at the macro level. Employee resource groups are a great tool to use at the organizational level. While at the micro-level, intervention from people acting as allies works to enable improvement. But, as ordinary individuals, you can take small steps to make every space around you a safe space for everyone. Follow the motto of diversity, equity, and inclusivity at workplaces to its fullest extent to make the workplace comfortable for everyone.
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