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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 did it take to reach this level of enlightenment? Disrupting the system, radical inclusion, and fierce pride. Spectrum thinking has advanced equal rights in the areas 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 advance the well-being of employees? What does it take to turn up the volume on continuum thinking and multilevel approaches to problem solving?

How basics of LGBTQ+ rights advocacy have developed over the years:

Radical Inclusion: The early days of organization focused on gay rights, particularly male but this did not last long. Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans rights became part of the identification with the LGBT label. This non-binary way of thinking about gender identity rejects the idea that 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 rights related to race, religion, and disability. This multilevel, overlapping of diversity propelled the movement and influenced generations to come.

Compelling examples of Pride: The pride movement is cemented with the pride flag, worldwide festivals and equal rights advocacy. Gay pride opposes shame and stigma through the promotion of self-affirmation and equality through visibility. Queer icons in the areas of STEM, 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 is embraced 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, drag mothers and daughters are just a few examples of cultivated relationships. This bonding strengthens self-affirmation and inclusion, promotes equity and diversity as queer people are free to express themselves around their chosen family. “Let your freak flags fly!” 

Inequity interruption: The advocacy of equal rights for the LGBTQ+ has taken the forms of political protesting, AIDS/HIV activism and hate crime policy sponsorship. “Disrupt the culture!” has been a popular cry for advancing queer rights. This way of thinking as led change in the areas of marriage, trans rights, adoption rights, housing and jobs protections, and so much 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 the culture at your company?

Compelling examples of pride: “Let your DEIB flag fly!” Cultivate and promote DEIB initiatives through Inclusion Councils and Human Resource leadership. An Inclusion Council can lead a company through systemic changes which promote diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. The council is a representative body of employees that advance DEIB missions through meaningful discussions and activities using non-binary thinking.  A diverse council can address non-binary conversations with non-binary thinking. An Inclusion council might take a discussion such as gender-neutral bathrooms and elevate the conversation to how the company can create the same kind of belonging in the public office space. How could 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 Human Resources or an Inclusion Council to promote belonging and equity. Gender neutral dress codes can address the binary concepts of male and female working attire. Consider adopting a “Professional attire” policy instead of “Rules for women, Rules for men.” This can reduce the confusion and dysphoria that non-binary people van have when forced to make a binary decision. Language that eliminates the binary rigidity creates an open atmosphere, promoting DEIB. Adopting job application and internal processes that either 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 is an acronym that stands for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression. SOGIE is used in a similar way to the umbrella acronym LGBTQ+ but does not limit expression as queer. This multi-level, non-binary approach welcomes those who express themselves in a way that LGBTQ+ does not. Binary thinking looks at sexuality 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. What benefits could your company gain from adopting SOGIE language? 

Inequity interruptions: 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 your employees through a strong emphasis on DEIB and give them a voice.

Peter Lesser

Peter is a recent MBA graduate of Northeastern University with a vast, diverse background in brand management, innovation, design and more. Prior to graduate school, he began his career in New York City as a freelance brand consultant and multimedia producer for tech startups. Over time, he shifted into the hospitality industry, co-founding his own restaurant consultancy that worked with new and struggling enterprises. In 2017, he returned to Boston to pursue his MBA with a focus in corporate innovation. Peter is a lifelong musician and adventurer. When not working, you can find him playing music, hiking deep into the mountains, or watching his favorite TV shows with his partner in Boston, MA.

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