disorder than straight people and that almost half of trans respon-dents
to an Ontario-based survey had attempted suicide at some
point in their lives. These facts are reflective of broader systemic
challenges faced by the community that include significant bar-riers
to employment. A quarter of Canada’s homeless population
identify as a gender or sexual minority, either due to disconnection
from their families at a young age, barriers to education, unequal
access to employment or a host of other factors, depending on
their specific identity.
An increasing number of employers are becoming vocal about
their support for this community, which has been a welcome
development. The recent and marked increased in Pride-themed
advertising campaigns certainly shows a willingness to engage
with queer and trans folks as consumers and an intention to be
However, when it comes to creating an inclusive environment
for employees, it’s not as simple as flying a Rainbow Flag. Many
employers misstep by starting with visible signs of support before
making efforts to determine where there may be gaps in their
inclusion strategy that leave out the specific needs of gender and
sexual minorities. Rainbow cupcakes in the lunchroom during
Pride season certainly are delicious. However, without an appro-priate
policy framework and an action plan to address biphobic,
homophobic and transphobic behaviour, those treats can leave a
bad taste in the mouths of some community members.
These signs of support, although enthusiastic, can be seen as
disingenuous if they don’t relate to how a company tackles issues
facing gender and sexual minorities on a daily basis. A Pride at
Work Canada survey found that 66 per cent of gender and sexual
minority job seekers would be more likely to apply for a position
with an employer that was transparent about their policies on gen-der
expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. Only half
as many said they would be motivated to apply based simply on a
company’s participation in a Pride parade.
Similarly, employers need to stay conscious of the broad diver-sity
of the gender and sexual minority community. The challenges
faced by people who are trans differ vastly from cisgender employ-ees
who are marginalized because of their sexual orientation.
Biphobic attitudes from both straight people and people who
identify as gay and lesbian leave many bi and pansexual people out
of inclusion efforts entirely. Add in that many community mem-bers
must also deal with racism, sexism, ableism and other types
of discrimination and you will start to see how nuanced solutions
must be to be truly effective.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to truly inclusive environ-ments.
Institutional and cultural change takes time and focused
effort from people who are willing to look outside of their own
experience and listen to the needs of others. Queer and trans peo-ple
who are out to everyone they work with often attribute their
decision to a strong network of allies. Being a good ally is not just
about wearing a button or posting something on Instagram. It
involves establishing trust, which doesn’t come overnight.
An ally is not simply someone who, in theory, believes in equal
rights for people who are different from them as an abstract con-cept.
A true ally is someone who confronts discrimination every
time they see it, whether it directly impacts them or not, anytime
it is safe for them to do so. When employers give their staff teams
the tools they need to enact cultural change in this way, they begin
to see meaningful results. Then it’s time to break out those rain-bow
Colin Druhan is the executive director of Pride at Work Canada.
Attend Druhan’s presentation, “Allyship in Action: Supporting
LGBTQ2+ Employees at Work,” on Jan. 30 at 3 p.m.
QUEER AND TRANS PEOPLE WHO ARE
OUT TO EVERYONE THEY WORK WITH
OFTEN ATTRIBUTE THEIR DECISION
TO A STRONG NETWORK OF ALLIES.
nito500 / 123RF
26 ❚ CONFERENCE ISSUE 2019 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL