Five things your LGBTQ co-workers want you to know

Five things your LGBTQ co-workers want you to know

As a leadership development learning program manager, Julie King regularly facilitatecourses where she shares several personal anecdotes as real-world examples of how the training can enhance communication in professional and personal settings.  

 But when she read one participant’s negative feedback following a class several years ago, she questioned whether her stories were too personal.  

 “Leave out the gay agenda,” the comment stated.  

 King, who has been with her wife for 11 years, ultimately decided to continue sharing her story, not only to continue being her authentic self but also to make Advocate Aurora Health a more inclusive workplace.  

 “If I believe in having psychological safety at work – and I do – I need to keep talking about it,” King said. “If I show leaders it’s OK for everyone to show up as their full, authentic selveshopefully they will model that behavior to team members. And that will trickle down to our patients, who know they will be embraced at Advocate Aurora Health. Representation matters.”  

 With that in mind, King offers five tips for anyone seeking to grow in their understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion during Pride Month and beyond:  

  1. Seek to understand with curiosity. If you have questions, it’s OK to ask them, if you’re coming from a place of genuinely wanting to learn about differences,” King said. Phrases like “help me understand” create a safe space for open and honest dialogue. 
  2. Celebrate differences and reject the tendency to label people. “Not everyone in the LGBTQ community is the same,” she said. “Just because I identify as a lesbian, someone else married to a woman might identify as queer or bisexual, or something else entirely.”  
  3. Don’t make assumptions that default to heteronormativity, or the belief that heterosexuality is the norm. For example, when you notice someone wearing a wedding ring, don’t assume they are married to a person of the opposite sex.  
  4. Choose words and phrases that reflect inclusivity. Ask questions like “tell me about your family” rather than “do you and your wife/husband have kids?”  
  5. Respect all people. This might seem obvious, but it’s worth stating. “My utopia is that people are people and love is love,” King said. “We are all more alike than different.” 

Related Posts

Comments

10 Comments

  1. Thank you Julie and Lisa for a wonderful article. An important reminder of making Advocate Aurora a safe space for all. How sad that a group participant viewed sharing your life stories as a ‘gay agenda’. I’m certain they were never told to drop the ‘heterosexual agenda’.

  2. Carolynn Baumhart May 27, 2021 at 10:18 am · Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story to help people understand diversity, equality and inclusion during Pride Month AND EVERYDAY!!!

    My family lives “people are people and love is love”! I sure wish everyone did!

  3. Thank you for this article. I have a transgender daughter and appreciate seeing anything about caring and compassion. It is the heart and soul of a person that matter.

  4. Thank you for sharing, Julie. I am a manager and have several non-heterosexual team members who are out, and probably several more who aren’t. I truly appreciate your candor and your suggestions to help with simple conversations. Don’t drop the ‘gay agenda’! It’s who you are and if others don’t like it, I think it’s too bad for them for being so closed minded.

  5. I’m heterosexual woman but nonetheless, I totally agree with you Julie in all aspects. Our world has become so divided and it’s a shame. Bottom line is what you said at the end about RESPECT regardless of sex, religion, nationality and creed. Humans are Humans and Love is Love. That’s it, it ain’t hard. Thanks for sharing your story.

  6. What a great story! As a fellow LGBTQ co worker, husband and father – I share your sentiments! I am so glad that AAH is a place where I know that I can show up, be who I am, lead with authenticity and be respected as a person. Let’s never take that for granted – there are SO many in the US and abroad who still have to hide in the shadows, especially at work! AAH embraces all patients and team members as being created by God, in His/her image – and it is wonderful to know that is the type of company I work for. Keep doing you Julie and thank you for being an Out and PROUD Leader at AAH!

  7. Julie and Lisa, I’m sorry you had this experience! I personally have benefited from being educated by you both during my career. I often think about the stories that were shared in class and how they helped me to develop both personally and professionally. Sharing your stories provided perspectives on topics that I may not have otherwise thought of and challenged me to always think bigger. I can say that you were my favorite teachers and I learned so much from you both! I wouldn’t be the same person without the educational experiences you provided to me. I’m so grateful that I was able to experience such amazing people during my educational journey. Thank you both for being the amazingly intelligent, kind, and the generous educators that you are!

  8. Thanks for this article. There was a time when LGBTQ employees at Advocate actually met in secret because we feared possible repercussions, including job loss, if we were out at work. Diversity understanding and inclusion have come a long way, but as we know from news reports, in so many areas there’s still much to be done.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. Knowledge is power and as we educate people about the LGBTQ community it only makes us stronger.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story and perspective. I’ve never heard the term psychological safety in efforts of authenticity and that resonated with me. I also appreciate guidance on seeking understanding in a curious but compassionate way. Thanks for sharing in such a kind and generous way!

About the Author

Lisa Parro
Lisa Parro

Lisa Parro, health enews contributor, is manager of content strategy for Advocate Aurora Health. A former journalist, Lisa has been in health care public relations since 2008 and has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She and her family live in Chicago’s western suburbs.