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How the LGBTQ+ Movement is Dismantling the Gender Binary System

Uniqueness of identification has grown and blossomed into a spectrum of diversity, challenging the way companies think about DEIB.

Dismantling the gender binary system is a cornerstone of the LGBTQ+ Civil Rights Movement. While the building blocks may have been a binary struggle between gay and straight, the uniqueness of identification that grew and blossomed into a spectrum of diversity are clearly non-binary. 

What brought us to this level of enlightenment? Disrupting the system, radical inclusion, and fierce pride. Spectrum thinking has garnered equal rights in the arenas of gay marriage, employment protections, trans rights, and more.

How can companies shift their mindsets to advance their diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging(DEIB) missions? Can implementing non-discriminatory policies improve employees’ well-being? What does it take to turn up the volume on continuum thinking and multilevel approaches to problem-solving?

The evolution of LGBTQ+ rights advocacy

Radical Inclusion: The early days of organization focused on gay rights, particularly male, but soon lesbian, bisexual, and trans rights became inherent elements of the LGBT label. This non-binary way of thinking about gender identity rejects the traditional constructs of sexual identity--homosexual or heterosexual--as too limiting for the diverse spectrum of gender identities. The idea of radical inclusion also extended to the advancement of race, religion, and disability rights. This multi-tiered, inclusive definition of diversity propelled the movement and influenced generations to come.

Compelling Examples of Pride: The pride flag, worldwide festivals, and equal rights advocacy are emblematic of the pride movement. Gay pride opposes shame and stigma through the promotion of self-affirmation and equality through visibility. Queer icons in the fields ofSTEM, literature, and the arts elevate the profile of LGBTQ+ and strengthens the influence of the movement.

Intense Belonging: The concept of the non-traditional family gained traction as many LGBTQ+ people found themselves rejected by their own relatives. Human connection has led to non-traditional extended gay families with traditional labels like Uncle, Auntie, and drag mothers and daughters are just a few examples of cultivated relationships. This bonding strengthens self-affirmation and inclusion and promotes equity and diversity, as queer people are free to express themselves around their chosen family: “Let your freak flags fly!” 

Inequity Interruption:  Equal rights advocacy for the LGBTQ+ has taken the forms of political protest, AIDS/HIV activism, and hate crime policy sponsorship. “Disrupt the culture!” has been a popular cry for advancing queer rights. This way of thinking has driven fundamental change in the areas of marriage, trans rights, adoption rights, housing and jobs protections, and many more. Queer policy-makers are taking prominent roles in politics, business, and the arts, advancing the movement through action and visibility: “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”

How can these ideas help you reorder your corporate culture?

“Let your DEIB flag fly!”: Cultivate and promote DEIB initiatives through “inclusion councils” and human resource leadership. An inclusion council--a representative body of employees that advance DEIB missions through meaningful discussions and activities using non-binary thinking--can lead a company through systemic changes that promote diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

An inclusion council might take a discussion about gender-neutral bathrooms and elevate the conversation to a exploration of how the company can create the same kind of belonging in the public office space.

How might an inclusion council change the way your company works? Where can non-binary thinking raise DEIB awareness in the advancement of your company’s mission?

Radical Inclusion: Adopt non-binary policies that reject gender stereotypes, such as gender-neutral facilities and dress codes. Non-binary policies can be developed through  your human resources department or an inclusion council to promote belonging and equity.

Gender-neutral dress codes can address the binary concepts of male and female working attire. Adopting a “professional attire” policy instead of policies for men’s and women’s attire can reduce the confusion and dysphoria that non-binary people may experience when forced to make a binary decision.

Language that eliminates binary rigidity creates an open atmosphere and promotes DEIB. Consider adopting job application and internal processes that omit titles like Mr. or Ms., or include the option of Mx. for people who identify as non-binary. Remove gender options for online forms and adopt gender-neutral pronouns in meetings and emails. 

Intense Belonging: Nurture an environment of emotional well-being, establishing social connections. SOGIE--acronym that stands for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression--is used in a similar way to the umbrella acronym LGBTQ+, but doesn’t limit expression as queer. This multi-level, non-binary approach welcomes those who express themselves in a way that LGBTQ+ does not.

Binary thinking defines gender as that which is listed on a birth certificate. Non-binary, SOGIE thinking embraces the spectrum of diversity and eliminates the barriers of tunnel vision. How could your company benefit from adopting SOGIE language? 

Inequity Interruption: If nothing changes, nothing changes. Disrupt the culture. If people aren’t listening, turn up the volume on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging through a multi-level, non-binary, continuum way of thinking. Turn up the volume because, in the words of queer activist Larry Kramer, “Silence equals death.”

Lift up your employees through a strong emphasis on DEIB, and give them a voice.


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