Creating 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusive workplaces benefits everyone
News & Updates | December 30, 2022 | Tiana Dargent
We are currently living with the first generation of 2SLGBTQIA+ people, who are out about their sexualities and genders, who are aging out of life. Life expectancy in our communities are still significantly lower than in heterosexual and binary-gender-conforming communities, due primarily to violence and lack of socio-economic supports. These expectancies are further reduced at intersections of race and disability, among others.
As more and more of us are living to the point where we seek retirement homes, nursing homes, hospice and other forms of palliative care, we are finding that we need to advocate for ourselves in ways that are quite taxing. Most end-of-life care providers truly want to provide quality service to 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and yet continue to fall short. This is often because the working environment is not conducive to the retention and uplifting of out 2SLGBTQIA+ staff. Having some representation at all levels of an organization truly helps inform direction, policy, and action for the benefit of our communities. What’s more, it is often found that increasing access to quality care for often marginalized communities ameliorates the care for everyone. It truly is a win-win! Additionally, 2SLGBTQIA+ people often find their experience of care is more satisfactory when they see themselves represented by staff, even if the care is technically the same. We all feel more at ease when we can connect with someone we perceive as being similar to ourselves.
If your workplace does not have an equitable rate of visible 2SLGBTQIA+ staff (current rates suggest 20%), it may be time to make some changes to both attract new staff, and provide a sense of safety for any existing 2SLGBTQIA+ staff to be open about their identities. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Offer pronoun pins for all staff to wear. Everyone has a pronoun, even cisgender people! When everyone is freely sharing their pronouns, no one is singled out, which can cause much anxiety and feelings of needing to be closeted, for people who use a different pronoun than may be expected. Remember that just like someone’s name, you can’t tell what a person’s pronoun is just by looking at them!
- Seek and offer trainings related to orientation, gender diversity, bodies in transition, intersectionality, and alternative kinship models. It can be taxing to always have to give a disclaimer or an explanation of who you are and how you live your life, when those items fall outside of the narrow expectations of hetero-normative culture. Having a basic understanding of how others live goes a long way to provide a welcoming environment.
- Update forms to include pronouns, preferred names in addition to legal names (even the removal of the legal name field if it is not legally required), and important relationships outside of hetero-normative nuclear-family models. It can be alienating to be faced with rigid boundaries about who we consider kin. Even a simple change to using gender neutral language, such as spouse instead of husband or wife, can have a significantly positive effect. Additionally, remove gendered salutations like Mr. or Mrs. These salutations are quickly becoming outdated and extraneous.
- Most workplaces offer benefits which center on the nuclear family model. One example is that bereavement leave often has narrow definitions regarding whose deaths are important to us. For instance, a queer person who is estranged from blood family may not be inclined to use the ample bereavement leave often provided at the death of a parent, but may have no leave available to them for the death of a romantic partner to who they are not married or do not cohabitate with. These assumptions about who can be considered “close” create deep structural inequalities. Other things to consider include offering benefits which include coverage of gender affirming procedures and devices as well as ensuring that drug plans cover HRT and medications related to HIV/Aids, such as PrEP
- Support the establishment of Employee Resource Groups and develop mechanisms for receiving and integrating their feedback into your operations. When people feel that their efforts yield results in an organization, they exhibit increased loyalty, the quality of their care is demonstrably improved, and they are more motivated engaged through their sense of partnership.
- Internal policy paints a portrait of your workplace culture. Develop anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies for your workplace. Be explicit about expectations and consequences, and ensure that all staff have access to this information. Implement diversity hiring targets at all levels and actively recruit to meet them.
Lastly, don’t expect to achieve this all alone. Reach out to local 2SLGBTQIA+ community groups to build collaborative partnerships. They are the experts in identifying the needs of your local 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and are always looking for allies and partners in delivering quality, accessible, and community-centred services. Work together and you can achieve more than you each would individually. You may also choose to invite a diversity and inclusion consultant into your workplace to assess the specifics of your work environment, and make suggestions for positive, inclusive, and accessible change
Tiana Dargent (she/her), of Queer Community Deathcare, is a white, cisgender, Queer Femme. In addition to hosting regular 2SLGBTQIA+ Death Soirées, she offers training and consultation to end of life practitioners and organizations with the aim of removing roadblocks to equitable and culturally competent care.