With our team largely based in Melbourne and Sydney, we’re in the middle of celebrating pride and all things LGBTQIA+ here at Grace Papers. Obviously this is something to embrace all year round on a national and global level, but with so much joy, creativity and love happening in our local communities right now we thought it would be the perfect time to share some of our personal experiences of being out in the workplace.
Maddy Rose is the Marketing Coordinator for Grace Papers, and came on-board as an out non-binary and queer person late last year. They’re sharing their experience as a queer person in the professional world, and their top tips to make sure everyone feel comfortable at work.
I personally have never felt openly victimised or abused at work, which is something that not every LGBTQIA+ individual in the workplace is lucky enough to avoid. Before Grace Papers, I was working in the Video Games industry and whilst the industry as a whole it has its own share of issues on the gender equality front (let’s just say some of the bigger companies are in desperate need of workplace equality coaching), the local community has always been wonderfully accepting and supportive of diverse identities. Coming from working as a freelancer in that space, to attempting to break into the more corporate marketing world was an incredibly intimidating experience as an openly non-binary and queer person.
When I went through a period of job hunting recently, I made sure to always ask the interviewer “what does your company do to embrace and foster diversity?”. More than once it threw the interviewer for a loop; like they had been prepared to answer any question but that. One interviewer, floundering, started talking about the lovely gay men and single trans-woman she knew who worked at the company. And whilst it was nice to know there would be some other LGBTQIA+ individuals that didn’t actually answer my question. I didn’t want to know whether or not I’d be the only gender diverse person at that company, but whether who I am as a person would be accepted, supported and respected. That I wouldn’t be misgendered constantly or have to listen to people express uninformed or even openly negative opinions about my identity or the queer identities of others. Ultimately I was asking a very simple question, one that goes beyond diverse genders or sexualities. “Will I be safe?”
Psychological safety is something I have only become aware of as a concept since working at Grace Papers as it is at the core of what we do, and that is more than shared through the culture and working environment at the company itself. Making sure everyone can come to work and feel safe – physically, mentally and emotionally, so that they feel empowered in their workplace and are able to ask for what they want.
I’m not a parent, but am very aware of discrimination LGBTQ+ families can face, from feeling excluded from existing parental leave policies to receiving inappropriate questions from their peers. In our previous research with Pride In Diversity, we found that whilst 62% of people felt like their company’s parental leave policies were inclusive and accessible to all, only 35% of the policies actually stated that it was inclusive of all family types. Regardless of what a person’s identity is, or where they are at in their parenting journey, they should be afforded the same level of respect and inclusion as any other employee.
Here are some things companies and individuals can do to make sure their LGBTQIA+ peers feel safe at work.
- Don’t ask invasive or inappropriate questions. This may seem obvious, but for some people it can be unclear what defines a question as prying too deeply. Just think of it this way, if you wouldn’t ask a cisgender or heterosexual colleague that question don’t ask a LGBTQIA+ person. For example, questions about someone’s genitals, sexual practices or “who is the real father?” are a no go.
- Respect people’s pronouns. We’re lucky enough to be entering an era where pronouns in email signatures, Zoom nicknames and LinkedIn profiles are common-place, so most people won’t intentionally misgender someone in the workplace. That said, using the wrong pronouns or gendered language for a trans or gender diverse person can be a source of trauma and discrimination even if unintended. It’s important to make an effort!
- Use gender-inclusive language in communications and policies. No one wants to feel excluded, and whilst gendered language may not be intended to disclude anyone LGBTQIA+ individuals have the tendency to self-exclude if not specifically included in a policy. Not to mention the negative impact gendered language can have when in internal communications.
- Stand up for your LGBTQIA+ colleagues and employees! One of the biggest parts of feeling comfortable and included in a workplace is having strong allies not just from the people you work with but on an organisational level. Having a company come out and say “we support all individuals of all identities in our workplace” is an incredibly powerful thing. Seeing some of our partners walking at Pride in Melbourne was a wonderful demonstration of this. Plus some LGBTQIA+ are fighting every day for their identity and that is exhausting. Having to constantly correct accidental misgendering is tiring and having someone who picks up the fight can take a huge load off.
- Don’t rely on your LGBTQIA+ colleague to educate you. Some people love sharing information about their identity and diverse identities as a whole, but not everyone is open to doing that, especially depending on where they are at in their personal journey. It’s important to do your own research to find out the correct terminologies and understand the nuances of the incredibly diverse identities under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Asking positive questions relating to someone’s specific identity such as: What are your pronouns? What terms do you identify with personally? etc. are always valued. But if you’re asking someone to explain the entire history of the rainbow flag to you, don’t be surprised if they politely request that you do the research yourself!