June 28th of 2021 marked the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall riots that took place in New York City, June 28th, 1969. These riots were in response to the unconstitutional human rights violations enacted upon the LGBTQIA+ community by the police, but also addressed the greater issue of worldwide intolerance. A year later, to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first Pride parade was organized. Finally, “US President Bill Clinton officially declared June “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month” in June 1999 before fellow Democrat Barack Obama extended its title to the more inclusive “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month” a decade later.” PRIDE—both the marches held internationally and the month—celebrates the Queer community while also memorializing those lost to hate crimes, affected by HIV/AIDS, and honouring those unable to be their authentic selves because of persecution.
Pride is a time of celebration and of joyful remembrance. However, the fight goes well beyond the free-spirited technicolor marches as 71 jurisdictions still criminalize same-sex relationships, 43 jurisdictions still criminalize consensual same-same sexual relations, 11 jurisdictions punish same-sex relationships under penalty of death, and 15 jurisdictions criminalize transgender identity and/or expression. The World Health Organization (WHO)—the international governing body—only recently declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder/disease in 1990. Further, in America, colloquially known as The Land of The Free, “neither the federal government nor most states have explicit statutory non-discrimination laws protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Finally, even though “Eighty-one countries prohibit discrimination in employment because of sexual orientation,” still the statistics show, “One-fifth (20%) of LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs.” Statistically, discrimination in the LGBTQIA+ community has lead to
- “68.5 percent reported that discrimination at least somewhat negatively affected their psychological well-being.
- 43.7 percent reported that discrimination negatively impacted their physical well-being.
- 47.7 percent reported that discrimination negatively impacted their spiritual well-being.
- 38.5 percent reported discrimination negatively impacted their school environment.
- 52.8 percent reported that discrimination negatively impacted their work environment.
- 56.6 report it negatively impacted their neighborhood and community environment.”
Discrimination uniquely affects the mental health of the LGBTQIA+ community as:
• half of LGBTIQ+ people had experienced depression and three in five had experienced anxiety
• one in eight LGBTIQ+ people aged 18-24 had attempted to end their life
• almost half of trans people had thought about taking their life.
So what can professional leaders do to increase diversity and fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community beyond Pride month? Glassdoor says it starts with taking workplace discrimination seriously and opening up support systems for LGBTQIA+ employees. Clearly setting boundaries, guidelines, and policies for staff members is also a good way to encourage diversity in the workplace in a safe and productive manner. Stonewall says to review policies at work for staff members, making sure everyone benefits fairly from things like, “pensions, family and leave policies, health insurance and relocation allowances.” Often a company’s policies are outdated and biased towards heteronormative employees. Forbes suggests, “Training on LGBTQ inclusion should not be a once and done event. At the least, it should be required for all new hires as well as on an annual basis. When doing an annual discrimination and sexual harassment training, companies should include training on LGBTQ.” However, Forbes also notes that HR is not the only part of a company that should be mindful of diversity inclusion. The entire company needs to be a cohesive unit against discrimination in the workplace. Regarding those who would choose to leave a more inclusive workplace environment rather than stay with the company, Forbes attests, “Good turnover helps rid those who aren’t aligned with the culture and where the company is heading.”
Discrimination has no place in the workplace, regardless of background, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, skin color, or nationality. A professional coach can help you identify a workplace problem and determine the solution if you believe there is discrimination in your workplace. A discrimination-free workplace improves work ethic and “a new study LGBT 2020 – LGBT Diversity Show Me the Business Case, states that the US economy could save $9 billion annually if organizations were more effective at implementing diversity and inclusion policies for LGBT staff.” Moreover, diversity is the statistical future of business: “Today’s younger LGBTQ workforce is more racially diverse than older LGBTQ cohorts, too. The majority of those aged 18 to 24 are nonwhite (53%), versus just 7% of those aged 55 or older. Similarly, 34% of the Gen-Z LGBTQ workforce is Hispanic, while only 5% of those 55 or older are Hispanic. That trend is likely to continue as the workforce becomes more ethnically diverse with each successive generation.” Workplaces that cannot diversify will eventually become obsolete to those that do. The culture is changing and inclusive workforces are thriving.
Lastly, professionals outside of the LGBTQIA+ community should be encouraged to engage with the professionals inside the community. Humanity is diverse but our similarities vastly outweigh our differences. A report showed, “approximately 1 out of 3 non-LGBT Americans still feel substantial levels of discomfort with LGBT co-workers.” Empathy is needed to shrink this level of discomfort with the LGBTQIA+ community and it starts with a firm stance against all discrimination in the workplace.