4 Things To Do If Your Workplace Needs LGBT Sensitivity Training
How’s this for a scenario: How many of you have been the “token” LGBT person “on staff” and have been the designated go-to person to answer questions on anything LGBT related?
I’ve been there way too many times to list, and I’d be willing to wager that a number of you can relate. Throw in the media circus surrounding Caitlyn Jenner and I am sure there’s been some rather interesting, if not completely inappropriate, water cooler conversation going on in your office.
The fact is just because we are one small part of the LGBT stew doesn’t mean that we are experts on every human resources issue that deals with gay or trans folks. There’s an overwhelmingly innocent assumption that we know every single thing about every LGBT person. That’s not only not true, but can lead to some pretty dangerous problems for both you and your company.
As someone who has both facilitated workplace LGBT trainings and have helped bridge some HR policy on LGBT issues, I’ve come up with a list of four tips to keep in mind if your company needs an LGBT workshop and/or basic LGBT literacy.
Ask for a company-wide sensitivity training and explain why it is needed. If you feel like your workplace would benefit from a workshop on certain LGBT matters, speak up. Ask your human resources manager if your company ever offered such a training and explain why it’s important to have one. If there are instances that are leading you make the request, explain them. The more concrete reasons you can present, the more your human resources manager will be compelled to agree.
You are not the expert on everything. As I mentioned above, it is extremely important to make your employer realize that you are not an expert on all LGBT-related things. I’ve had to mention many times to employers that I can give my perspective as a privileged cisgender white gay man, but that the experiences of other LGBT people are extremely different than mine. Once I was asked very specific legal questions regarding a trans individual and his formal name change process on documents. I advised the individuals that they needed to consult an attorney who specifically handles trans legal matters, and that I wasn’t an appropriate person to make such policy decisions for the entire company.
There’s plenty of help, and sometimes ] it is free. Reach out to local LGBT service organizations to see if they offer free workplace trainings. I have personally utilized the absolutely outstanding Bryson Institute, which is part of The Attic Youth Center here in Philly, to facilitate seminars before, and they are excellent (and offer a sliding scale of prices: sometimes, they are free). Mazzoni Center also offers a range of LGBT trainings, as do many other organizations.
Keep a library of LGBT resources for employees. At my one workplace, I have a bookshelf dedicated to documents—brochures, books, handouts, phone numbers—that I often distribute to folks if they have distinct LGBT questions. It’s also a really smart move to create some sort of online collection of links and resources, from local service organizations to basic LGBT literacy, available on your company’s intranet. The easier the information is available, the greater chance that your co-workers will actually use it and, hopefully, make appropriate choices in the workplace.