How to make your organisation feel welcoming for people of all sexualities and gender identities

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How to make your organisation feel welcoming for people of all sexualities and gender identities

Many people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI)[i] and their families and friends don’t feel safe or comfortable disclosing their LGBTI status to the people around them, including coworkers and service providers.[ii] This guide tells you how your organisation can promote an inclusive environment for LGBTI people so that they can feel safe and welcome and included when they walk through your doors.

Figure out what you're already doing well, and how you can improve

There are a lot of things to consider when trying to make your organisation a welcoming space for LGBTI people, and chances are you’re doing some of these things already.

One tool that you could use to look into how your organisation measures up is the GLBTI inclusive practice audit tool, which was developed by Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria (GLHV) to help Health and Human Service organisations check their performance against National Standards for GLBTI-inclusive practice. The tool covers areas including organisational capability and professional development, and is particularly valuable if you are considering accreditation against the Rainbow Tick Standards, which are Australia’s standards for LGBTI inclusive health and human services.

Another resource that you could use to analyse your organisation is the Sexuality and Gender Identity Discrimination checklist, which Tasmanian LGBTI support and education service Working It Out developed to assist state public service agencies to meet requirements of the Anti-Discrimination Act regarding sexuality and gender. DPAC also have an engagement guide: Engaging with people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex: A guide to engagement (Word Version) or here is a link to the PDF version.

It might feel a little overwhelming if you're confronted with a lot of areas that you need to work on to improve your LGBTI inclusivity. Don’t be over-ambitious with how much you take on at first. Keep your goals focused, achievable, and appropriate for the work your organisation does. The important first step is to let people know that you are working towards being an inclusive organisation and one way to do this is to ask for feedbacl.

Make sure LGBTI inclusion is embedded throughout your policies and procedures.

Making LGBTI inclusion and engagement a part of your existing policy and procedure review process will ensure that LGBTI inclusion becomes an ongoing and organisation-wide practice. It is a good exercise for an organisation to develop an inclusion policy of their own as it can initiate discussion and ideas.  Working it out can also support organisations to do this.

You may also be interested in developing a LGBTI inclusion policy to sit alongside your other discrimination and diversity policies. Support Help Empowerment (SHE) Inc. has developed their own inclusion policy that you could use as a template.

Wherever possible, make sure to publicise and monitor any equality policies you adopt.

Consider your organisation's culture and practices

Take some time to think about how your words and actions come across to people who identify as LGBTI and their parents, children and extended family. Some questions to consider are:

  • Does your organisation use inclusive language in its communication with workers and consumers? Eg. “partner” rather than “husband” or “wife.”
  • If your promotional material includes images of relationships or families, are LGBTI people represented?
  • Are your intake and other data collection processes inclusive?[iii]
  • Do you collect information on gender and if so is it for a reason?

Stay in touch with LGBTI issues and the local LGBTI community

The more aware your organisation is about the issues that are impacting on LGBTI population groups, the better positioned you’ll be to support and work in an inclusive way. Make sure workers across all areas of your organisation are trained about LGBTI inclusive practices, and support them to attend relevant events and training opportunities on an ongoing basis. The first person one sees and speaks to in an organisation can make the most important impression.

Be active in finding opportunities to engage with LGBTI Tasmanians. Promote LGBTI-themed events and have an organisational presence where possible, and publically support the work of LGBTI focused organisations.

[i] There are lots of other great acronyms besides LGBTI when talking about sexual orientation and gender identity. Sometimes you’ll see LGBTIQ, where the extra ‘Q’ is for ‘queer/questioning’. There’s also the rather charming “QUILTBAG”, which has all the familiar standards, as well as a ‘U’ for ‘undecided’ and an A for “asexual/ally”. But if you want to play it safe, LGBTI is one of the most commonly used terms.

[iii] For example, if information about gender is being collected, a form that offers “male” and “female” as the only options might exclude people who identify as transgender or gender fluid. Offering a third option (eg. “other, please specify”) will signal to them that you know they exist and you want them to feel comfortable talking about their gender identity if they want to – even if they choose to tick one of the other boxes anyway.