11 things you should do to make your workplace more LGBTQ+ inclusive

two men talking to friends
Showing that you care about LGBTQIA+ rights will make your coworkers feel heard and seen.

  • 46% of LGBTQ workers say they’re still closeted at work because of a multitude of fears and issues.
  • You can make their work environment more inclusive by not making assumptions and being considerate.
  • Treat the LGTBQ community the same as everyone by asking about their partner, but don’t be nosy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The LGBTQ community loves and appreciates the support of our straight allies, whether you’re marching in a parade with us or voting for candidates who promise to protect marriage equality. But there’s one place where we still desperately need your help – and that’s at work.

According to a Human Rights Campaign Foundation report, 46% of LGBTQ workers say they’re still closeted at work. You can’t blame them. Many fear reprisals from unsupportive managers, hear homophobic jokes, or feel isolated and excluded, among other issues.

If you really want to be the best ally at work, there are subtle but deeply appreciated things you can do to show your LGBTQ coworkers that they can be their full selves around you – and more importantly, that they’re valued. Here are 11 things you can do tomorrow, or right now, per an informal polling of all my favorite LGBTQ friends.

Read more: LGBTQ+-friendly resort amenities and services are becoming mainstream as luxury destinations improve efforts to attract this group of travelers with trillions in purchasing power

1. First, don’t make assumptions

You can’t tell anything LGBTQ-related simply by looking at someone.

“I’ve had to come out at every job I’ve ever had because I look so ‘straight,'” said Nikki Levy, an entertainment executive at a studio and the creator of “Don’t Tell My Mother!” “I am engaged. I wear a ring. When you want to know things like how we met, ask, ‘How did you meet your partner?’ as opposed to, ‘How did you meet him?’ I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been apologized to because of their assumptions about my non-existent husband.”

In general, don’t assume anything, said Liz Glazer, a lesbian comic. It’s a tip from “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz and it “goes for pronouns, partner status, whatever. Work environments would be friendlier, and frankly, people would be more humble and better to be around, if this was a thing people did more, or less, as the case may be,” Glazer said. As Ruiz wrote, have the courage to ask questions and communicate to avoid misunderstandings.

2. Let me come out when I’m ready

It’s still very difficult for some LGBTQ folks to come out at work, for a variety of reasons, from serious safety concerns to being peppered with annoying questions by the ill-informed.

“I told one guy at my office about my girlfriend, and he started acting weird,” said Ganee Berkman, a dental hygienist. “He asked if a guy had ever hurt me, and why a girl who looked like me would be gay. That set me back so far and made me super nervous to come out to people.”

Even if a coworker is out to you, that doesn’t mean they are out to everyone. They may choose not to tell certain folks at work because it makes their lives easier. Once they are out to you, feel free to ask them (privately) if everyone else knows. If not, be extra aware of how you speak to and about them at work, so you don’t out them, even by accident.

3. Go ahead, ask about my partner

Once someone is out, have the same conversations and ask the same questions you’d ask a straight or cisgender person about their personal life. The worst thing you can do is ignore it, like it’s the giant elephant in the room.

“I’ve encountered coworkers who know I’m gay, but never ever bring up my personal life,” Berkman said. “I don’t like that. If they’re quiet about it, it makes me feel like I need to hide it.”

Another thing she’s encountered is people lowering their voices when talking to her about gay stuff, as if it’s taboo. “Don’t whisper,” she said. “It makes it seem like even talking about gay stuff is bad. Use normal volume.”

4. But don’t be too nosy

It’s great to have conversations with your fellow LGBTQ coworkers about their lives outside of the office, as long as it’s appropriate for the workplace. “Don’t ask how I [knew] I was gay,” said Chloe Curran, a writer. “It’s weird.”

LGBTQ folks often get bombarded with questions that are overly personal or intimate, like when did we tell our parents, how do we have sex, or which body parts do we still have or not have. Levy, who is getting married in August, has been asked too many times if she and her future wife “are both wearing dresses” to their wedding.

The worst is when coworkers try to play matchmaker. We know you’re excited you know at least two gay people, but that doesn’t mean we will be even slightly attracted or have anything in common. “Oh, hey are you single? What’s your type? I know someoneā€¦” Ever Mainard, an actor/comic who has also worked as a production assistant, hears it all the time. “I know it’s well-meaning, but it’s mostly off-putting and insulting.”

5. Sure, tell me about your other gay friends

We might not want to be set up, but we don’t mind knowing you have other gay friends or family members. If you come out as an ally, as soon as humanly possible, we love that. We feel understood, safe, seen. A for effort!

Berkman, for example, didn’t know her favorite office manager had a gay daughter for a year and a half. “She always showed me so much love and understanding, and I finally found out why. I would’ve loved for her to tell me way sooner,” she said.

“I actually think it’s adorable when people find out that I’m gay, then start telling me about their one gay friend or their one encounter with anything gay,” Berkman said. “It seems cheesy, but I actually appreciate that they’re trying to show support even though they might not have a lot of experience with gay people. Things like that make me feel 10,000 times more comfortable than people who stop talking to me after I come out to them. The ones who get awkwardly super excited and enthusiastic after finding out are the ones who make me the happiest.”

6. Don’t only talk about my sexuality or gender

Of course, there’s a limit to how much we want to talk about all of this. Being LGBTQ is obviously a huge part of our lives, but it’s not the only thing.

“I have had the privilege of working in a few settings where my sexual orientation felt about as relevant as my hair color – that is, irrelevant,” said Aaron Chapman, a medical director in Alameda County in northern California. “Being gay neither moved me ahead nor held me back. I was neither a victim of discrimination nor a token of progressivism. That was a privilege.”

What we as a community have been fighting so hard for is to have the same rights and be treated as anyone else, adds Eugene Huffman, an artist and paralegal. “Treat them as you would any other person – that they are a person, and LGBTQ is just one facet of who they are, not the entire picture,” Huffman said. “We have enough things that already make us feel different, we don’t need to add to it.”

7. Educate yourself

“Don’t ask me to be your educator,” said Tre Temperilli, who works on Democratic political campaigns and identifies as gender ambivalent. “We all have to lift. So roll up your sleeves and Google some things. Participate in your own evolution.”

Stay on top of what is going on with the LGBTQ community in the news. Can we be fired for being gay? Can homophobes still refuse to make wedding cakes for us? Which bathrooms are we allowed to go in? Can we serve in the military or not? It’s exhausting being the teacher/expert on all things gay. If you want to be an ally, do a little homework on your own.

Also, “don’t assume that just because someone is gay that they know everything about the LGBTQ community,” said Aaron Rasmussen, a writer. “It’s large [and] diverse and everyone has their own individual experience and story to tell.”

8. Make an effort with my pronouns

Those of us in the LGBTQ community who are transgender and gender fluid deal with a lot of confusion, bias, and misunderstanding on a daily basis. At work, it can be especially stressful.

“Being nonbinary is slightly more difficult for people to wrap their heads around because they go, ‘Wait, you’re not a man or a woman?'” said Samee Junio, who identifies as nonbinary. It’s much less “accepted” than being just “gay” or “lesbian.”

If you find it hard to adjust to a person’s pronouns, the best thing to do is to keep trying. “The excuse I hear most frequently from some is, ‘I’m old, this is all new to me,'” said Temperilli, who goes by he/him and they. “That’s fine, but after the third time I’m like, DUDE!”

Don’t be scared to ask if you’re not sure what pronouns someone uses. Temperilli believes most trans folks don’t mind answering, “but for all that is holy, don’t keep misgendering someone because you find it ‘too hard.’ It can be hurtful and as we know, respect is a two-way street,” they said. “What seems hard for you is likely a trillion times harder for the person you’re not seeing when you misgender trans folks.”

You can take it one step further by helping communicate your coworker’s pronouns to others. Junio goes by they/them and works with new people constantly on different shows as the head of the tech department at Dynasty Typewriter at the Hayworth, a performance venue in Los Angeles. It often feels like a burden having to repeatedly explain the pronoun situation – so they don’t.

“My bosses know and they prep everyone before they meet me,” they said. “There should be more of that in the workplace. I’m fortunate to have an incredible employer and the other employees correct people for me, too.”

9. Stick up for me

“If you hear a coworker misgender a trans person or call them the wrong name outside that person’s presence, call them out, if you know the trans person is out to them and it is safe to do so,” said Charlie Arrowood, who identifies as trans or nonbinary and is the director of Name & Gender Recognition at Transcend Legal.

If you hear someone tell a homophobic joke, again, don’t let it slide. Call them out, plus report it to HR. That’s how things change.

10. Show you care about the LGBTQ community

There are so many small but significant ways to do this. For example, you could encourage your office to sponsor a float in your local pride parade, or if that’s already in the works, you can show up to march.

“At San Francisco Pride many of the workplace marching groups are like 50% straight supporters,” Chapman said. “It is cool to see straight coworkers come out to celebrate.”

Maybe less fun but even more impactful would be to look at your employee insurance policy and, if there is an exclusion for transgender care, “use your cisgender capital and privilege to ask your employer to remove it,” Arrowood said.

11. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

“It is critical that employees consciously cultivate an LGBTQ-inclusive workplace,” said Kelly Dermody, employment practice group chairperson at the law firm Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann, & Bernstein. You might make some good faith mistakes along the way – that’s OK! “Ask, clarify, apologize, if necessary,” Dermody said, “but keep making the effort to be a place [where] LGBTQ employees and their friends, families, and allies want to work.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Coming out is good, and more gay athletes should do it

Carl Nassib on the field
Carl Nassib.

  • Coming out is hard, yet millions and millions of ordinary people have done it.
  • Pro sports is one of the last bastions of the closet, and only gay players can fix that.
  • By coming out, Raiders DE Carl Nassib paves the way for other gay pro athletes to come out.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib is gay, and his announcement of that fact makes him the first openly gay person on an active NFL team roster.

This is great. I’m happy for him that he has off his chest something he says he’s struggled for 15 years about how to say. And I’m thrilled for gay players in the NFL and on college teams – or who aspire to play in the NFL or on college teams – who may be wondering what will happen if they come out.

Nassib, who is in the middle of a three-year, $25 million contract, sends a strong message by coming out: You can be gay and play at the highest levels of this sport.

Now it’s time for others to follow his lead and come out, too.

The closet is bad

I understand that not every gay man is in a position to disclose his sexuality. Some people have good reason to fear they will be rejected by people they depend on emotionally or financially if they come out. Some have good reason to fear violence. And even when the risks are not so grave, coming out can still be hard. One of the injustices of homophobia is it can give people good reasons to hide parts of themselves.

At the same time, coming out is something that millions and millions of people have done, en masse, even in times when our society and its institutions were much less accepting than they are now. Every day, people come out at greater personal risk and with fewer resources than are available to a professional athlete who considers whether to come out.

So while I have compassion for people who find it hard to come out, I worry that fixating on the “difficulty” or “bravery associated with coming out can actually reinforce the appeal of the closet, by suggesting that a person must be extraordinary to manage coming out. In fact, ordinary people come out all the time. For some, it isn’t even that hard. But more importantly, it can be very rewarding, even for those who find it terrifying. How often do you hear people say they wish they had stayed in the closet?

And the closet isn’t just soul-crushing to the people who feel they must hide in it. It also sends a damaging message to others. When you hide your sexual orientation, you reinforce the idea that it is shameful to be gay, and that there are good reasons to hide it. Staying in the closet produces a negative externality by validating homophobia.

Which, again, is not to say that nobody ever has a valid reason to do stay in the closet. But these are factors to consider: Do I have an opportunity to help people with less power than me by coming out? Is my silence making harder for them to speak their truth? And how bad will it really be if I just tell my truth?

It’s great that Nassib reached the conclusion that this was time to come out – I expect he will feel happier, and he’s done a true service by making it easier for other players to make the jump after him. Now they should find their way to doing so.

Read the original article on Business Insider