Amplifying voices: the '+' in LGBT+
07 May 2019
On Thursday 25 April, we launched our series of events, ‘Amplifying Voices’ which highlight the voices of minorities within minorities, often overlooked, misunderstood or even ignored both in wider culture, and within D&I discussions.
The first of our series, ‘the + in LGBT+’, sought to build an understanding of those gender identities and sexual orientations which fall under the notably broad category of ‘+’. The event was held in partnership with Boston Consulting Group and invited Hope Dinsey, Nationwide and Kim Warren, DMW Group to share their experiences and help address some myths and assumptions around ‘+’ identities.
Ditch the Label (2017) report that the number of young people who don’t identify as heterosexual is now 57%, with this number still rising. However, what is often overlooked is that there is also an increasing number of people choosing not to identify along binary measures of sexual orientation or gender identity as well, with Ditch the Label also reporting that 1 in 2 young people don’t conform to rigid labels such as straight, lesbian and gay and prefer to take a more fluid approach when it comes to sexuality. Despite many barriers still existing for LGBT+ people in the workplace, in schools, and in legislation, progressive societies have, generally speaking, become a more welcoming place for individuals to explore their identities and sexuality.
Businesses and communities must proactively take steps to ensure these identities are protected and understood. Typically, the L and G communities have had broad success in having their identities respected in legislation and the workplace – with some notable exceptions. While the number of LG executives at the upper echelons of businesses is still relatively low, it is no longer exceptional to find LG senior leaders at the tops of large, progressive organisations. However, largely left out of this progress and conversations around LGBT+ advocacy generally, are the B, the T and the all-encompassing ‘+’ which has been loosely applied to a list of legitimate identities for lack of a better, more inclusive acronym. As Hope Dinsey put it, “visibility is vital – it shows people it’s okay. If there aren’t visible role-models, people will stay in the closet.”
Kim Warren noted a key difference between living as LGBT and having a non-binary identity is that “stealth and passing don’t exist in the non-binary space, the only way to get your gender identity respected is to be out.’ Their point touches on a key way organisations can make accommodations for non-binary identities, in not requiring binary gender as a factor in processes and facilities.
For example, having gender neutral facilities regardless of whether or not you know of any trans or non-binary individuals in your organisation can send a powerful signal. Additionally, ask if having gender on forms, surveys or applications is completely necessary in every instance. “It makes a huge difference when walking through a binary world and you don’t have to make a choice to misrepresent yourself” said Warren, highlighting how these small changes can have a much wider impact.
While many organisations and D&I professionals find it challenging to keep up with the vocabulary of the ‘+’ identities within LGBT+, recognising that there may be unique challenges faced by those communities is essential to make accommodations and ensure respect both for current employees and future ones. Rather than focusing on reactive inclusion solutions, our panelists encouraged the audience to engage in conversations and proactively investigate where shortcomings might be in the organisational culture.
This event was just the start of a conversation when it comes to involving the +, and we hope that the input of Hope Dinsey and Kim Warren will make the audience think more broadly about the entire LGBT+ community when it comes to driving new inclusion initiatives.
Photos from the event can be found here