26 June 2023 posted by Recovery Partners

 [Content Warning: Mentions of Suicide]

Empowering LGBTIQA+ communities

Written by Akii Ngo – a proud, young, disabled, neurodivergent (ADHD, CPTSD & Autistic) trans non-binary, LGBTIQA+/Queer, person of colour from a refugee background with extensive experience as a health promotion practitioner, educator and consultant within the diversity, equity, inclusion, intersectionality, violence prevention and accessibility space. Akii works as an experienced keynote and public speaker, consultant and trainer (www.akiingo.com) and as Senior Co-Design & Community Engagement Advisor at the NDIA, leading the LGBTIQA+ strategy.

3 top tips on making workplaces Gender Inclusive

‘Why do I suddenly have to use pronouns now!?’ some may wonder or exclaim.

The short of it is: to be inclusive and create a safe space for all, especially those who are gender diverse in any way, that means being transgender, non-binary, gender fluid, pangender, gender queer or agender.

It means acceptance and respect. Ensuring that staff who are trans binary, trans non-binary or gender diverse in anyway don’t feel othered and unsupported for simply being who they are. Everyone deserves to be their whole selves and this means having their gender respected.

Gender, like sexuality is not a choice.

And don’t forget LGBTIQA+ status is a protected attribute like any other sort of marginalisation as per the Australian Human Rights Commission. It is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status under federal law.

Pronouns are also not something new. Remember, ‘He’ is a pronoun and is cited in texts as earlier as the bible.

[Image description: Three colleagues are sitting at a table in discussion. The person on the left is wearing a blue shirt underneath a grey cardigan, with their hands placed in front of them. They are looking at the piece of paper the person in the middle is holding. The person in the middle is wearing a navy shirt with white dots, and is discussion with their colleague on the right. The person on the right has a beard, and is wearing a pink shirt. The image has a soft blur composition to the right.]
[Image description: Three colleagues are sitting at a table in discussion. The person on the left has dark skin, medium length braids and is wearing a blue shirt underneath a grey cardigan, with their hands placed in front of them. They are looking at the piece of paper the person in the middle is holding. The person in the middle appears to be of Asian descent and is in the middle is wearing a navy shirt with white dots, and is discussion with their colleague on the right. The person on the right has a beard, light brown skin and is wearing a pink shirt. The image is taken in an office environment and has a soft blur composition to the right.]

Tip 1: Knowing the difference between sexuality, gender and sex.

What is the difference between sexuality, gender and sex?

Sexuality is who you are or are not attracted to (examples include heterosexual, homosexual (being gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual etc.) or asexual

You cannot assume someone’s sexuality based on their appearance or current relationship/partner.

Gender is about expression and feeling safe and right in your own body within the world – and this, aligning with how you move about the world. Gender includes the social, psychological, cultural and behavioural aspects of being a man/boy, woman/girl, non-binary or any other gender identity. 

People are generally either cis-gender or gender diverse which includes trans-gender. Cis means to be the gender that aligns with what was recorded against what your sex is at birth (based mainly on genitalia), and trans is any gender that is not cis.

Sex is biological and either male, female or intersex.

It’s also crucial to know that people are not ‘suddenly’ more queer or trans. And pronouns aren’t suddenly now a ‘thing’ – which seems to be a common myth or statement made nowadays. We’ve always existed and LGBTIQA+ history is extensive and transformative, but is also full of trauma, human rights violations and shrouded in pain. 

Our rights to exist and be ourselves have been a long battle and it’s only more recently where there has been enough awareness and education in society whereby people are slowly but finally able to be open to who they are.

Today’s society and  generation now have greater ability to express themselves, have awareness around language, knowledge and wits around LGBTIQA+ topics to be out about who we are. This is why it may seem like pronouns and Queerness is ‘new’, more common or there are ‘suddenly’ more LGBTIQA+ people. 

But it’s not – just finally (somewhat) safer to be who we are. Don’t forget, homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1967, that’s only 56 years ago!

Akii & Lorna Dunkley (Anchor) smiling in the Sydney ABC studios. Akii is sitting in their wheelchair, wearing a Sunflower Lanyard, black blazer, pink striped collared shirt, a pearl headband & cream jeans. Lorna has blonde hair & wearing a 2 tone navy dress]
[Image description: Akii Ngo & Lorna Dunkley (ABC Anchor) smiling together before a live interview in the ABC Sydney studios during Sydney WorldPride. Akii is sitting in their wheelchair, wearing a Sunflower Lanyard, black blazer, pink striped collared shirt, a pearl headband, cream jeans and  Rainbow Shoelace Project beads on their colourful shoes. Lorna has blonde shoulder length hair & wearing a 2 tone navy dress and black heels]

Tip 2: Don’t make assumptions which may cause harm, even if unintentional

Unlike sexuality which can often be private and not immediately labelled upon/known, pronouns are different and are used almost immediately when referring to someone. Therefore pronouns are very public and like sexuality, should never be assumed. A person’s appearance does not determine their gender. Masculinity, femininity or androgyny doesn’t determine what people’s pronouns are. The best way to find out what someone’s pronouns are, is simply by asking or introducing yours first, to affirm to people around you that it is a safe space for them to share who and what their pronouns are.

Therefore, sharing pronouns in workplaces (i.e. when introducing oneself, via name tags, lanyards, on meeting agendas/minutes, email signatures etc.) and having gender-inclusive policies, procedures and practices fosters an environment of safely and respect.

Being misgendered (which means being called/ labelled a gender that isn’t yours) can be extremely distressing and traumatic for some trans and gender diverse people, especially if they had to overcome numerous barriers and hardships to be open / ‘come out’ about who they are. Therefore, misgendering could be re-traumatising the person over and over again, especially if the person has made their gender clear and known to you (either verbally, wearing a pin or within email signature).

[Image description: A hand from the bottom left of the image is holding up an orange card in the shape of a text box. The orange card has white writing. The writing reads "Ask me about my pronouns".]
[Image description: A hand from the bottom left of the image is holding up an orange card in the shape of a text box. The orange card has white writing. The writing reads “Ask me about my pronouns”.]
 

Tip 3: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

It’s okay to get it wrong sometimes, as long as you genuinely try and show that you care. This means not being tokenistic and putting actions into your commitment to creating gender-inclusive and affirming workplaces.

Practice helps. If you have never used they, them or their pronouns when referring to a single person, practice. It may sound and seem unnatural at first, but by practicing often and using they/them/their pronouns by default in a gender neutral way when referring to anyone (before you are aware of what their pronouns are) will ensure you get it right.

When and if you do get it wrong, apologise without a fuss and move on. Don’t dwell on it, drawing attention to misgendering and making the person you’ve misgendered uncomfortable. Getting it wrong can happen to anyone (myself included and I’m a trans non-binary and Queer/LGBTIQA+ advocate and activist who’s deeply connected within my community). And this is because we are in a very cis-heteronormative society where binary gender (i.e. 2 genders – man and woman) and being heterosexual is the ‘standard/default’. 

Final takeaway

Creating a safe, welcoming and respectful work environment and workplace culture that is gender inclusive and supportive of LGBTIQA+ members is and can be life-saving.

The statistics surrounding LGBTIQA+ mental health and wellbeing are alarming, with almost 50% of LGBTIQA+ folk having attempted suicide (myself included) and LGBTIQA+ youth suicide rates 3.5 times greater than non-LGBTIQA+ young people, with trans youth suicide rates being  7.6 times higher. Therefore, whatever workplaces can do to be authentically gender-affirming is absolutely crucial.

The LGBTIQA+ community is large and diverse; it incorporates so many different types of people, experiences and identities. And they can also insect with other identities that impact our experiences of being LGBTIQA+ these identities include race, disability, socio-economic status, religion, cultural background, migrant and/or refugee status.

This is why intersectionality is also important when it comes to supporting and respecting all people, regardless of who they are – recognising that people can be multiply-marginalised and disadvantaged which makes LGBTIQA+ safe spaces and experience even more important. 

44 of 372

Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/