Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!
Each year, 17 May is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and this year the theme is ‘Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!’ highlighting the impact that COVID-19 has had on the LGBTQI2S+ (LGBTQI2S+ is an umbrella term that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (or Questioning), Intersex, Two-Spirit, and the ‘+’ sign is used as “plus” in order to describe all the other gender and sexual orientations that don’t fit into the letters.)
When we usually talk about homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia we tend to think of it in the context of the workplace, however as the majority have yet to shift back to office life and may not for another while, it is important to think about the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQI2S+ colleagues at home.
It is a sad but true reality that some of the LGBTQI2S+ community do not feel safe or comfortable being their authentic self at home, which during a time of lockdown and social distancing mean that for those who are not ‘out’ at home are now potentially living in a situation where they cannot be themselves and are constantly fearful of giving themselves away, or others may be living in an atmosphere of constant hostility. Being cut off from support networks and not being able to escape either to their workplace or to a friend’s house can only be tough. We should also consider that COVID-19 may also have an impact on our healthcare systems with access to hormonal treatment, IVF treatment and other required healthcare deprioritized.
It is each employer and colleague’s responsibility to offer support in any way we can.
Ways to support the LGBTQI2S+ community at work:
1. Educate yourself and others about the challenges faced by LGBTQI2S+ people in your community by checking out some of these resources:
QMUNITY: BC’s Queer Resource Centre: Information, education, support groups, advocacy, and referrals for lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and questioning youth, adults and older adults and allies
PFLAG Canada: Information and support for parents, families, friends, co-workers, and others
2. Practice LGBTQI2S+ allyship with your colleagues and employees. Reach out, have a chat, make sure everyone feels they have the space to be themselves with you and can come to you should they need.
3. Develop and review policies to ensure that the unique experiences of the LGBTQI2S+ community are taken into consideration and ensure safety, accessibility, and inclusion. Also ensure that gender-neutral language is used throughout policies, procedures, and communications, i.e., using “they/them/their” check out these tips to help you shift your language.