July 19, 2019 is the 26th anniversary of President Clinton’s announcement of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for the United States military. This policy was implemented as a compromise to allowing homosexual and bisexual individuals into the military. It didn’t solve anything and in fact caused more issues with discrimination because the decision implied that the entire LGBTQ community was bad and should be hidden behind a curtain.
As we continue to see discriminatory practices in both private and government employment, what can we, as business owners, do to promote diversity and inclusion in our organizations?
The simple answer is, use your common sense. “Gender identity in the workplace remains a complex issue, and the legal landscape remains somewhat uncertain in some regards. Nevertheless, by treating employees fairly and not acting arbitrarily, employers can limit potential discrimination liability while fostering positive employee morale.” advises Tim Reed of Ford Harrison.
There are some language changes or additions that you may be asked to deal with. One is the Preferred Gender Pronoun;(a preferred gender pronoun, or PGP, is simply the pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual would like others to use when talking to or about that individual.) For more information about PGP’s see this article: https://www.gsafewi.org/wp-content/uploads/What-the-heck-is-a-PGP1.pdf. Please note that the article was written in 2012 - so this isn’t new. Another word you may not be familiar with is “cisgender”. According to Wikipedia: Cisgender (sometimes cissexual, often abbreviated to simply cis) is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth. For example, someone who identifies as a woman and was assigned female at birth is a cisgender woman. The term cisgender is the opposite of the word transgender. The word was first used in the early 90’s
You never want anyone to feel uncomfortable when they are around you - whether at work or play. Pay attention when someone tells you they prefer a specific pronoun and do the best you can to remember what to say. It can take some practice and you’re probably going to make some mistakes, but that’s OK, you’re trying and that counts for a lot.
How you handle this with your employees is crucial. It’s not just you who should be willing to accommodate a request like this, but the rest of your staff as well. If you have set the tone of your company culture to facilitate inclusion, diversity and equity, the rest of your staff will follow along. They don’t have to be 100% on board, but the rules of good manners and the general atmosphere will prevail until even the hardest to convince relaxes and accepts the changes. After all, the person who has determined that they have been living as the wrong gender hasn’t really changed how they work, or how they interact with their co-workers.
Ways that you can provide inclusion and equity for LGBTQ employees are: