What Marriage Equality Has Not Meant In The Workplace. Respect, For One Thing.

Someone called me a faggot.

Now, this is the first time I’ve ever been called a faggot. Typing that f-word twice actually makes me feel really uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s an ok word to use. In fact, I can’t think of a single instance in which using it is ok. I googled just to confirm the “dictionary definition” is in fact a bundle of sticks. But even the digital dictionary defines this word using adjectives like “extremely offensive” and instructs people that it should be used “very carefully or avoided completely.” 

I’ll pause here to strongly encourage anyone who thinks they can make a witty comment on this using the word “faggot” not to. I won’t find it funny. 

If you’ve ever worked with me or even met me, you have likely gotten the distinct – and correct – impression that I’m not easily offended. I live in the South as an out, short-haired lesbian who people assume instantly is gay. Likely implied, I've run into some idiots (and some amazing, people too. But that's not what this story is about). I have been told that I was in the wrong bathroom, despite wearing tight women’s jeans and t-shirts. I have had people stop in their tracks not to walk next to me.

My typical response? A giant smile and a “good morning/afternoon.” I won’t give anyone who believes gay people are bad a story that will prove them right. But there’s something about that word that pushes buttons with me. Perhaps because it’s a reminder that even the Supreme Court can’t change how people are treated in their day-to-day lives and they surely haven’t changed it in the workplace.

I was contemplating this post with Jackye Clayton, our editor over on RecruitingTools.com, and I described it as an article about what marriage equality still has not meant in the workplace. Her quick-witted response: “respect?”  While we both laughed, I couldn’t help but think she’s right.

Yes, same-sex marriage is important. Yes, your policies providing healthcare and survivor benefits to all employees and their partners are critical and to those of you who have actually done that work, kudos. 

But I want everyone to take this into consideration as well.

  • It is still legal in 29 states to fire someone for being not straight.
  • It is still legal in 32 states to fire someone for being transgender.
  • It is still legal in 29 states to evict someone for being not straight.
  • Trans and queer kids are still being beaten to death and kicked out of their homes.
  • Being queer is still punishable by death in 5 countries.

There’s no collaboration tool that’s going to make this stuff better.  No top 15 tech tools that can change policy. These are facts that are disappointing and frustrating. While I encourage every parent to accept their child’s happiness in any form - gay, straight, trans, queer, etc – I can’t decide how you run your home. But the place where we spend 40 hours a week? We can decide.

This is traditionally where I’d transition into my list of strategies that I believe would help protect LGBT employees but I want to put the question out there to the HR and recruiting community because I’m curious.

How are you protecting your employees via policy?

What are you doing to convey acceptance and openness during the candidate experience? 

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