This year’s Pride Month has been filled with festivities all around the globe in honour of LGBTQ experiences and voices. However, the celebration and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people should not be a once-a-year affair, especially in the workplace. So how do we ensure that we are showing support beyond Pride Month?
We caught up with community member Emma Arcos (they/them), an HR Consultant based in Washington DC, to get their perspective on this. Emma’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) training, ‘Breaking the Binary: Gender-Inclusive English at Work,’ teaches organisational leaders to practice using nonbinary pronouns and other forms of gender-inclusive language in a safe space for asking questions about LGBTQ+ issues at work.
1. What does Pride Month mean to you (as an individual and an HR professional), and why is it important to observe it?
I was born and raised in New York City, home of the Stonewall Inn, where our queer and trans mothers responded to police violence in 1969 by birthing the modern pride movement that we celebrate today in the US. As an individual, Pride Month is a month of reflection for me. I observe the celebration by honouring the civil rights movements in the past, present, and future that make our society a safe place for the marginalized among us. Who came before me and fought for my rights without even knowing me? Wherever I am, do I cultivate my community? How can I be a good ancestor? Pride Month also puts me in the spotlight as a queer HR professional. My role in organisations is to champion people of all backgrounds and develop a sustainable work culture. Pride Month is a good time to focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for LGBTQ+ stakeholders. For the reasons I listed above, it is important to observe Pride Month and continue the DEI learning year-round.
2. What everyday practices should organisations adopt to support the LGBTQ+ community?
Here are some suggestions for supporting LGBTQ+ community members in your organisation. Even before the point of hire, you can get to work promoting the values of your employer brand. When recruiting, consider asking questions about lessons learned from intercultural communication at work and really listen to the answer. Ask the candidate to define what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to them. Every single new hire should raise the bar for the whole team, and making sure that your culture continues to grow is key to your organisation’s success. It is illegal in many jurisdictions to discriminate against protected classes such as gender, ability, and race. In some countries, it is also a human rights violation to repeatedly misgender (=use the wrong pronouns to refer to someone) an employee, so don’t wait until you hire your first nonbinary employee to begin doing this DEI work! Lay the groundwork for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion at work by hiring an HR consultant such as myself.
3. How can we get people to be more open-minded about LGBTQ+ people regardless of their cultural and/or religious views?
The culture and religion I was raised in did not affirm LGBTQ+ people. Part of my growth journey has been learning about the rich lineage of global civil rights champions that I am a part of. Stepping into that power has helped me figure out how I re-engage with the cultures and religious beliefs in my life. Remembering that I model self-love as a member of the LGBTQ+ community has helped me stay grounded and keep myself safe when engaging with people in my life who use their cultural or religious beliefs to denigrate my existence or prescribe a monolithic way of being in lieu of celebrating a pluralistic society.
4. For the allies, how can they authentically support the LGBTQ+ community?
If you are an ally reading this blog post, you can authentically support the LGBTQ+ community by listening and learning about the local, regional, and national political issues that curtail or expand access to services in the public and private spheres. Create community and remember that solidarity is stronger than allyship. Like a mycelium network, which communicates and shares collective resources, commit to caring for one another. One of the ways you can start is by requesting my DEI training, ‘Breaking the Binary: Gender-Inclusive English at Work’, a 90-minute workshop that gives you a safe space to ask questions about LGBTQ+ issues and practice using they/them pronouns and other gender-inclusive languages.
5. In your opinion, what critical data about the LGBTQ+ community is missing in public discourse?
Visibility is a double-edged sword for queer and trans people. Sometimes it leads to advancement in human rights, and sometimes it leads to greater targeted violence. So I think that data collection and storytelling are important, but not nearly as important as exploring the ethics behind doing so. My understanding of the critical data that is missing from public discourse is limited to my scope and experience. From my view as a citizen of the US and EU, I would like to see more nonbinary inclusion. Taking a non-binary approach can help with eliminating gendered approaches to data collection in public discourse. This creates a larger and more accurate picture of all the ways men, women, and gender non-conforming (GNC) individuals move through their lives. So, I’d encourage readers of this blog to wonder about who and what is missing from the public discourse from their perspectives.
6. How can we bridge the information gap to ensure better legislation around LGBTQ+ rights?
Bridging the information gap looks like figuring out who and what is missing from legislation around LGBTQ+ rights. For example, I’d like to see fewer material barriers for anyone to access free public services and participate in civil society; LGBTQ+ folks who are targeted for community organizing face greater danger when incarcerated and suffer consequences exacerbated by a lack of legislative protections. So, to solve that, let’s agree that investment in social and human rights will lead to much greater participation in democracy. Groups such as Open Heroines are essential to this mission to expand open governance all over the world. Open governance looks like protected LGBTQ+ participation in all levels of government and civil society, which ultimately will secure better legislation around LGBTQ+ rights.
To learn more about Emma’s DEI Training, visit their website or email them at email@example.com. They eventfully hosted this workshop for the Open Heroines community in May 2023.
Emma has also created a HR Handbook which you can go through here.