LGBTQIA+ Cultural Conversation: 2022 Wrap-Up 

As part of our efforts to help spread awareness around Pride Month and encourage self-reflection within the workplace, our ED&I council hosted an inclusive cultural conversation to discuss how our lives – at work and beyond – are impacted by LGBTQIA+ issues. The Robert Walters and Resource Solutions North America teams came together to listen and learn from colleagues who opened-up about their lives, shared personal stories and gave everyone new perspectives on how we as a team, and as a society, can help the LGBTQIA+ community feel more secure and accepted.

The discussion was led by four speakers: Massi Pagnotta, Chris Uy, and Isabella DiPietro from our Robert Walters California team, and Samantha Isree-Roberson from our Resource Solutions team. Below is a summary of the discussion around topical issues members fo the LGBTQIA+ community are facing today:

Allyship in and out of the workplace

Allyship plays a critical role in fostering inclusion at home, within social circles, at school, the workplace and more. True allyship from those around you is what uplifts workplace culture. Allyship not only helps uplift LGBTQIA+ in our lives, but it also inspires others to act as change agents that work towards strengthening a culture of acceptance and support. For many, support can start with holding those who make hurtful, derogatory remarks accountable. Chris further conveyed “this happens a lot, so I end up having to teach a lot. Allyship for me means that people in my corner are taking time to learn why it’s wrong to say, “that’s gay” as a negative connotation.”

How can you become an ally? It’s simple. Allyship stems exactly from your position, whether it's using your voice to stand up for the community and help educate others on being respectful and inclusive, or voting for pro-LGBTQIA+ candidates at the ballot. And if you’re unsure what else you could be doing, it never hurts to ask. Samantha shared how she works to strengthen her allyship for her daughter, “it’s important that she knows I accept her as she is and that I have her back. I tell her if people or teachers at school say or do anything hurtful or offensive that I will do my best to respectfully ensure they are aware of what they have said or done wrong will learn from it going forward. And in turn, she’s comfortable to be open and honest with me when she wants to share.”

Coming out vs. Inviting in

The act of "coming out" about one’s sexuality or gender identity is a very big moment in their life. Massi expressed how “the pressure to declare yourself can lead to inherent feelings of exclusion, and that’s because we live in a society where variations of homophobia create an unwelcoming environment.” The concept of inviting in had a strong impact on the attendees who learned how the LGBTQIA+ community has this pressure to identify themselves to their family, friends, and colleagues. It also showed how it’s crucial to have an all-inclusive work culture where teammates can support each other. Isabella shared how “when you’re ready, you invite people in, which is why I sent Massi a message letting him know that if he needs someone to join the discussion's panel, I’m here. I’m also a very private person, so I don’t usually want to say anything, but this is another example of coming out vs. welcoming in. And sharing this is how I welcome you all in as well.”

It should also be appreciated that the act of inviting people in takes a lot of courage. Massi expressed “this is why the concept of coming out is so hard, because the environment doesn’t organically invite us in. So, the whole concept of inviting in for allies, is to make sure you’re fostering an environment where people can say “my boyfriend and I will meet you at the bar after work.” Without having to add “by the way I’m gay and I have a boyfriend.” 

Intersectional LGBTQIA+ identity

Not many people understand the compounding factors of being a person of color who’s also within the LGBTQIA+ community. Isabella approached the topic of intersectionality by noting “it’s important to understand that every situation is different because everyone was raised differently. And your socio-economic background is going to partake in that as well. So, it’s more than just race, sexuality, and gender. It’s quite literally understanding that each case is very different.”

However, even though the LGBTQIA+ community is advocating for inclusivity, there are some areas and aspects where discrimination occurs. Chris shared an experience as a person of color within the LGBTQIA+ community, “back when I was single and navigating dating apps, I saw people using discriminatory tags on their profile saying ‘no blacks or asians’. Even body shaming can be very prevalent in the LGBTQIA+ space such as ‘no fats, no fems’. It’s very interesting to me that in the community where we are trying to get to this inclusive space, there’s still some division to improve on.” 

There are multiple ways we can all do our part to uplift the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to push for an all-inclusive space. If you would like to learn more about how you can ensure inclusivity in your day-to-day lives and the workplace, check out these excellent resources:

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