KRYSS SHANE IS A SOCIAL WORK PROFESSOR, AUTHOR AND SPEAKER BASED IN NEW YORK
The New York Times has called you a “leading LGBT expert” and you are a speaker and author of Creating an LGBT+ Inclusive Workplace: The Practical Resource Guide for Business Leaders. What does your role involve?
My role is tied to a mixture of things; I am an author of multiple books bringing inclusion into a variety of industries and spaces; I am an educator at numerous universities; I am a public speaker/trainer; I am an inclusion consultant; and I am an activist! It’s a lot of hats to wear, as they say, but they all feed into one another and they are all rooted in activism, so while my schedule can get hectic, each of the roles informs the others.
What is your professional background?
I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Human Development & Family Sciences, specialising in Family Studies and in how LGBT+ identities impact families. I earned Master’s degrees in both Social Work, specialising in LGBT+ issues, and in Education: Curriculum & Instruction, specialising in creating inclusive curriculum. I earned my PhD in Leadership, specialising in Higher Education, subspecialising in making campuses and instruction more inclusive. I have two licences to practise mental healthcare and about 30 years of experience in LGBT+ activism and work, largely focused on work with transgender youth. I’ve been a consultant, author, and subject matter expert for decades and am perhaps most known for my books and my work on the international hit TV show I Am Jazz.
How important do you think it is to be out at work – and indeed in the wider community – and what advantages does being out have, both on a professional and on a personal level?
I think it completely depends on a person’s safety and sense of self. In an ideal world, every person could be themselves in the workplace to whatever degree they feel comfortable. Unfortunately, it is often illegal or socially problematic for many to come out as LGBT+ to their colleagues. As a result, this perpetuates myths about how many LGBT+ people are within an industry, which harms so many from understanding that LGBT+ people are everywhere, in every industry, doing incredible work. It is also harmful to children, as so many can only imagine and aspire to what they can see, so not seeing LGBT+ people out at work can lead kids to think that LGBT+ people cannot achieve certain career milestones or that LGBT+ people are less capable of professional success.
What steps can an employer take to create a genuinely inclusive and diverse work place?
(laughs) I wrote an entire book about this! One of the best ways an employer can create an inclusive workplace is to be mindful of their own implicit biases. Most of us think we are inclusive but we are perpetuating what we were raised to believe, what society showed us was true, and what outdated or biased research indicated. When we look within and do the work to undo these internal inaccuracies, we are better able to show up for people of all identities and backgrounds. In terms of how to create a diverse workplace, some of this can be achieved by being mindful about where job postings are placed. Local LGBT+ websites and community centres, rehab facilities for those with physical disabilities, Deaf/HoH centres, mosques, and so many other spaces typically have job boards. Just remember that, when you invite people to apply, you need to have an inclusive space and culture ready so you aren’t inviting them into a place to be harmed!
In the past few years we’ve seen great advances in our rights. What more needs to be done?
I think we need to do the most work internally; so often we miss looking at the ways we can improve the world by showing up different and we do that by deeply examining what beliefs, values, and truths we operate with and seeking to find out if these are helpful or harmful to others.
What is a typical day in the life of Kryss Shane?
There isn’t a typical day anymore! Often, I start the day with a snuggle from my pup, and then do some school-related work (teaching at five universities simultaneously means lots of lesson planning, grading, and answering student emails). From there, it’s on to reading about policies, bills, and impending laws to see what’s happening politically where I can help or prepare to support the impact on others. I respond as needed, sometimes reaching out to offer my expertise to support inclusion efforts, other times putting out a statement about things for others to read (via social media or the like), and sometimes reaching out to LGBT+ people in that community whom I know personally to check on them as they process the information. Then I may have a training or consulting session to give via video platform or in person. After, I’ll circle back to school-related work and respond to emails and requests for appearances or media quotes. I end the day with more pup time and probably some reading (Bell Hooks’ work is my current read) and/ or TV before bed… and hopefully with some meals and water moments throughout!
On a personal or professional level, what has been your proudest achievement?
When I was four, I added “Write a book” to my life goals list, so the day I held my first book in my hands was pretty personally meaningful to me. On a professional level, every time someone posts a photo of themselves with one of my books shows how many hearts and minds are opening and actively making efforts to learn to do better and be better, which is all I’ve ever wanted to achieve in my career.
Which are your preferred pronouns?
We don’t use the word “preferred” in the US though some other nations still do, as there are debates on whether it indicates a choice and someone’s identity isn’t a choice, it’s just who they are. I use she/ her pronouns. However, I am also a doctor, so one can call me that too… or if you see me on my birthday wearing a plastic crown, you can call me “Your Highness!”