Promote Inclusion

Creating inclusion starts with our own awareness of how we participate in the marginalization of 2SLGBTQ+ people.  As lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual people we need to be inclusive in our words and actions.  The following are tips for what we can do to express inclusion and respect for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual students and employees.   

  • In daily interactions with coworkers and students, avoid language that assumes heterosexuality.  Give people space to tell you about themselves by asking very open-ended questions.  Language that pre-empts possibilities closes the door to open communication.  Examples:
    • When a person tells you they are involved with someone or that they have a partner, recognize the possibility that the person may be of the same sex (e.g. “Tell me all about this special person”).
    • Invite people to bring a partner or guest to a function or to dinner, without reference to gender.
  • When discussing sexual activity and related subjects, use terminology relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual people.  Examples:
    • “When did you first engage in sexual activity?” rather than, “When did you first have sexual intercourse?”
    • “It is recommended that women engaged in sexual activity with men use a form of birth control” rather than “It is recommended that all sexually active women use a form of birth control”.
  • If you are heterosexual, take steps to actively include students and employees who are open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.  For example:
    • If you would normally invite a new colleague or new student you meet for dinner or lunch, do not assume that because he/she is 2SLGBTQ+ that they would not welcome such an invitation.
    • When discussing relationships and family issues don’t assume that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons have no perspectives or opinions to offer.  They do!
  • Acknowledge the person’s sexual orientation and gender identity when appropriate: sexual orientation and gender identity are not “taboo” subjects.
  • Develop friendships and have social contact with people whose sexual orientation is different from your own.  This will expand your range of friends, increase your awareness of other’s experiences and enhance your comfort level interacting with people who are different from you.  It will also serve to challenge stereotypes that may exist, such as that lesbians only spend time with other lesbians, or that they hate men.
  • Do not assume all students/employees come from families where traditional male and female genders are represented in the parental unit.  This recognizes not only persons brought up in homes with same-sex parents but also those raised in single-parent homes.
  • When using examples of activities that many people erroneously associate only with heterosexual people (such as parenting), use examples of persons of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
  • Don’t assume that the word “women” refers only to heterosexual women who are born female and that the term “men” refers only to heterosexual men who are born male.  Include lesbians, bisexual women and transwomen in your use of the generic “women” and gay men, bisexual men and transmen in your use of the generic “men”.  Examples include:
    • In a discussion of women’s or men’s sexuality, include relating with same-sex, opposite-sex and transgender partners;
    • In a list of parent organizations, include groups for same-sex parents and parents of gays, lesbian, bisexual or transgender children.
  • Omit discussions and/or questions related to marital status unless there is a specific need for this information.  Marital status per se is not a good indicator of whether a person is cohabitating with another adult or has a partner.  As lesbian, bisexual, and gay persons have not been able to marry until recently a focus on marital status makes the important relationships in their lives invisible.
  • Unless the gender of a person is really relevant, avoid forcing people to identify as male or female.  If you must ask about gender, include transgender options as well.
  • It is important to refer to a transgender person by the pronoun appropriate to their presented gender.  In other words, use the pronoun that he or she wishes you to use.  If someone identifies as female, refer to her as “she”.  If someone identifies as male, refer to him as “he”.  If you are not sure, ask the person directly which pronoun she or he would like you to use. 
  • Make sure that you use parallel terms when comparing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons with other groups.  For example, in a comparative setting heterosexual women and lesbian women are considered parallel terms, whereas the word “women” describes both groups.
  • Do not assume that if a woman is pregnant that she became pregnant through heterosexual intercourse.  She may have become pregnant through artificial insemination or other means.
  • Avoid terms that stigmatize, or place persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in inappropriate categories.  Examples include:
    • Discussing sexual activity with a same sex partner as a sexual deviancy;
    • Listing lesbians, gays, bisexual or transgender persons in a list of special populations with drug abusers, alcoholics or persons with mental disabilities.  This suggests that gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons have a condition that requires treatment to eliminate or stabilize.
  • Recognize that when a person who is gay, bisexual or lesbian experiences difficulties in their intimate relationships and/or a separation from a partner that this is just as hurtful as when heterosexual couples separate or divorce.  Support and understanding are needed at these times.
  • Object to jokes and humour that put down or portray bisexual, lesbian, transgender or gay persons in stereotypical ways.
  • Recruit transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual staff, faculty and students.  View sexual orientation and sexual identity as positive forms of diversity that are desired in an organization that values diversity and inclusion. 
  • Question job applicants about their ability to work with students and co-workers who are different from them, including students and employees who are bisexual, lesbian, gay or transgender.
  • Review forms, handouts, and other print material to ensure they are inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.  Get assistance from the Positive Space Alliance with this task.
  • Attend Positive Space events and other 2SLGBTQ+ community events to expand your knowledge and comfort level.


Organizations to Check Out

Organizations to Check Out

EGALE Canada is a national organization that advances equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-identified people and their families across Canada.

PFLAG Canada is there when it seems no-one else is. Every day, PFLAG Canada volunteers are contacted by frightened adolescents and by angry, fearful or ashamed parents. PFLAG Canada supports, educates and provides resources to anyone with questions or concerns. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Most of us have grown up in an environment that excludes and makes invisible people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).  In everyday conversations and situations, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are often excluded, though not necessarily with intent or ill will.