Being an LGBTQ-inclusive business is important, and not just because being part of positive social change is good for the soul. It is now recognised that businesses that are openly LGBTQ inclusive outperform their competitors so choosing an openly LGBTQ-positive stance is also excellent business sense.
Many businesses are actively seeking to demonstrate that they are LGBTQ-friendly but unless they already have connections with the community are fearful that they may inadvertently use wording that is offensive or exclusive. Equally, some worry that they may go too far the other way and appear to be ‘cashing in’ on the pride movement for commercial gain.
G Sabini-Roberts offers these 5 tips to help you to be more inclusive and embracing of all genders and sexualities in your business:
Don’t make assumptions about relationships
It is so easy to inadvertently exclude someone by using presumptive language. If you want to refer to someone’s partner then don’t use the words husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend. Simply use the word partner. The use of inclusive language will be immediately picked up by anyone who is used to being excluded and you will stand out for it.
Don’t make assumptions about gender either
It is equally important to avoid making assumptions about gender. Just because someone is wearing masculine clothes doesn’t mean they identify as a ‘he’ or that the person that completed your form is a ‘she’ because they have a name that looks female. If gender is relevant to what you do then it is always ok – in fact, it is preferable – to ask. And when you ask, leave room for people who do not define as either ‘male’ or ‘female’ to have another option.
Adding an ‘other’ box to the gender category on your forms, making your toilets unisex and changing your ‘womens’ section to a ‘feminine’ one are all examples of simple steps you can take to demonstrate you are open to everyone.
Be clear who you are speaking to
This may sound obvious but is often overlooked. Let me start with an example: If your business produces sanitary-wear then your market is people who menstruate. Not all of those people will be women and there are also plenty of women that don’t menstruate. If your message is only focused on women then all the trans and gender diverse people that menstruate are immediately excluded.
Whoever you want your audience to be, make sure the language you use describes exactly who they are. Check that it doesn’t inadvertently exclude some of them or invite people you don’t want to target. It is absolutely OK to create spaces that are, for example, women-only. But if that is your intention then be clear that it includes trans-women and don’t invite non-binary people just because they have a female-sounding name.
It is OK to make mistakes
It always is. But when you do accidentally misgender someone, or refer to their partner as their wife when they happen to have a boyfriend, then acknowledge it, apologise, and move on. If you ignore, it looks as though you don’t care. If you make a big scene, you’re making that scene for you, not for them. Simply say sorry and let it go – and if you are unsure about what the best words are to use moving forward then just ask the person. The act of asking demonstrates that you are not making assumptions and you welcome them, whoever they may be.
Share the pride
It is OK to celebrate pride too. Seriously! We welcome you to celebrate with us, just don’t dominate the party. If you would like to add a rainbow range to what you already offer then you are free to do so. If you’d like to go a step further, dedicate a portion of the profits to an LGBTQ charity. Sponsor your local pride and then back up your stance by making sure your hiring practices and service delivery are fully inclusive.
Take genuine pride in the way you support everyone in your community. It is something to be proud of.