LGBTQ+ HEALTH SPEAKER
SHANNON WHITTINGTON IS an LGBTQ+ SPEAKER, EDUCATOR AND BEST-SELLING AUTHOR
How important do you think it is for an LGBTQ+ person to be out at work?
It is important for an LGBTQ+ person to be out at work only if it is safe for them to be out at work. Imagine going to work every single day having to hide who you are. Yet, this is the case for nearly 50% of us. We hide due to fear of discrimination, being misunderstood, and being passed over for promotions just to name a few. I hid in the workplace for years, and trust me, it didn’t feel good. On the other hand, when we can be out, wow, what a lovely experience to be allowed to be the fullest expression of ourselves.
What steps can an employer take to create a genuinely inclusive and diverse work force?
I love the quote by Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It starts with each of us, doesn’t it? Employers need to have anti-discrimination policies prominently displayed and enforced. A no tolerance for homophobic or transphobic behavior is mandatory. LGBTQ+ people must have a safe place to go to if discrimination does occur and violators need to be held accountable. Also, ERGs (employee resource groups) are a great way to create inclusion. Hiring outside of what an employer might deem a “cultural fit” is another way to create a diverse work force. I could go on and on… healthcare benefits, maternity/ paternity leave for same-sex couples, insurance that covers gender-affirming surgeries, fostering open communication, etc.
In the past few years we have seen great advances in LGBTQ+ rights both in the workplace and in the wider community. What else remains to be done?
And I am happy to see these changes but there are still plenty of organisations that simply ignore us or pretend we do not exist. I speak a lot about LGBTQ+ workplace inclusion, and, invariably, an employee will ask why they must attend this training. Like, why is it necessary? This tells me that I still have a lot of work to do.
On a positive note, I am delighted when I see organisations require this training. I’m finding that some organisations really want to do and be better and I am always delighted to help them. But it’s more than hanging out a shingle (flag) and calling it a day. There must be commitment by internal stakeholders to be truly successful in these efforts.
What has been your proudest achievement?
I am proud to say that I will be completing my doctorate in nursing soon and I will be offering a course on LGBTQ+ Person-Centered Care for healthcare professionals.My goal is to transform how we receive care, and I also want to transform how we are treated in the workplace. I’m also proud to have written a new book: LGBTQ+ ABCs For Grownups. It’s a quick read, sorta like a children’s book that explains the letters, flags, pronouns, terminology, and ways in which individuals and organisations can be an ally. It’s beautifully illustrated and simplifies topics that can be confusing for some.