At #GirlsClub we are constantly looking for ways to be better versions of ourselves. We created the Fireside Chat series as a way for us to learn, understand, and be inclusive.
In our most recent chat, we explored the best ways to be an LGBTQIA+ ally. I speak from experience when I say that being an ally is something even the most well-intentioned individual can screw up. For this Fireside Chat, we were fortunate to be joined by two amazing thought leaders, Seth List and Udi Ledergor. Both of whom graciously offered their time to help us navigate their communities and lead with empathy. We cannot thank them enough for their abundance of information and their openness. I wish you could have all been with us. For those who could not, I wanted to share a few tiny embers of information from what was an invaluable chat.
- Fighting the urge to make assumptions is paramount.
- The current abbreviation for the community as a whole is LGBTQIA+. Let’s learn more about what each letter represents here!
- Defining one’s Sexual Preference and Gender does not mean checking off a box. It is important to understand that both elements of a person’s identity exist within a spectrum.
- During our chat, we discussed the use of including pronouns in our LinkedIn or email signatures. Our eyes were opened to the fact that requiring an employee to display their pronouns can have an adverse effect. You can read this useful NY Times article exploring the subject.
- When you are thinking about asking someone a delicate question, think these things to yourself first:
o Why am I seeking this information from this individual? Am I looking to understand them as a human being or am I looking to simply satisfy my curiosity?
- If you are simply curious, is it something you could Google?
o Do I know this person well enough to be asking this question? Would I feel comfortable asking this question to someone I know to be heterosexual and/or CIS gendered?
- Hint: if the answer to either of these is no, then it is probably not appropriate to ask your question.
o How would obtaining this information improve my relationship with the person I am planning to ask?
- If you think someone may be adjusting their location on the sexual preference or gender spectrum, but they have not divulged this information to you, it is likely not the right time to go to them directly.
o If you are concerned that you may offend them, you can watch for visual cues as you are speaking. Are they cringing slightly or looking uncomfortable when you use certain pronouns?
- If you are close enough to the person, you could find a soft and caring way to ask about their preferred pronouns. Something like, “Forgive me, and I apologize if this should be obvious, but I don’t want to make an assumption about your preferred pronouns. Which would you prefer?”
o If you are not sure how to navigate the conversation, your HR team can be a great resource.
- Making a subtle statement within the workplace, such as displaying a pride flag in your pencil cup, can let those around you know you are an ally. This can be a small gesture to show you are open and available, should someone need to talk.
- While it is exciting for allies to join in things like marching for Pride, there are other spaces and events that should be reserved only for those individuals within a particular group. These safe spaces can often be visited by individuals who are exploring a new side of themselves. If you are outside of that community, it is important that you respect that space.
- If you truly want to know more about someone, seek to create a genuine connection first, before treading on delicate ground. Understand who they are, where they are coming from, and how they view the world before satisfying your curiosity.
- Be mindful of assumptions your questions may make. Innocent things like asking a woman “What does your husband do?” can be insensitive. If the woman has a wife, she is now forced to choose between coming out or lying. Likewise, assuming a man can stay late for a 6 pm meeting. He may be the one who makes dinner for the family and cannot stay late.
- Lastly, check your entitlement. Is the question you want to ask actually your business? Or, is this a personal aspect of their life that has no bearing on their job/role/responsibility.
For those of us seeking to be better allies, it is important that we are constantly learning. If you are close to someone within the LGBTQIA+ community, remember that while they may be there as a resource, they should not be your only one. We encourage you to be curious, Google, and continue striving to be a better version of yourself!
Thank you again to the gracious Seth List & Udi Ledergor. Your insight was invaluable and we will be sure to remember your pearls of wisdom in our everyday lives.
Also, if anyone is interested in becoming a Gongster, Gong is hiring for hundreds of positions this year! Check out their website for more information.