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It’s truly amazing to see how far we’ve come in the past decades when it comes to LGBTQIA+ rights and representation. But waving a rainbow flag (or updating to a rainbow logo for the month of June) is not enough, and it can be a missed opportunity to really deepen people’s understanding of why pride month is important, and how we can create a community of greater inclusivity.
This, of course, is easier said than done.
When we thought about how to do this we evaluated our options. Should we hire a speaker to deepen our understanding of issues affecting LGBTQIA+ people? Conduct a training session on LGBTQIA+ history?
At Censia we spend a lot of time educating people about unconscious bias and aim to provide a working environment and benefits that support DE&I, but we also recognize that while many people care about LGBTQIA+ rights, they aren’t necessarily invested in the topic.
We also understand that sometimes the best way to get people to learn and to change is to tap into their competitive nature.
And then we realized that perhaps one of the best ways to share both the pain and the joy that are wrapped up in that rainbow flag was through a simple game of snowman, where team members had to uncover Pride-related words by guessing certain letters, and where every wrong guess causes their snowman to melt a little.
It seems simple and silly, right?
It was, and still it was one of the most dynamic and engaged town halls we’ve ever had.
During our game team members learned about the significance of the June 28th Stonewall Riots, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village were joined by other members of the community and allies, and stood up to ongoing police brutality. We guessed the letters for Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark civil rights case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. We discussed the history and expression of the LGBTQIA+ flag.
In leading this game, I gave background on the significance of each word/phrase, and we talked about the history, meaning, and importance.
With each letter, each stumped attempt to guess a word, and each answer the team grew more engaged, and I like to think that by the end of the game, everyone walked away with a deepened knowledge and respect for Pride month and the LGBTQIA+ community. Several members of the team reached out to thank us for creating an event that was both fun and informative, and which left them with a deepened and more meaningful understanding of everything Pride.
We wrapped up the meeting by discussing personal pronouns – and not only what they mean to people and how the traditional male/female binary fails to capture the gender expressions of a lot of people, and how to have a respectful conversation about pronouns. Perhaps most importantly, we talked about how to be better allies, and how something as simple as adding your pronouns to your signature normalizes the conversation, creating more safety for people to share their pronouns and their identity.
On that note, we wrapped up the town hall with a call to action that encouraged employees to add their pronouns to their email signatures and Linkedin profiles and to keep them there past the month of June.
Small actions such as these may seem unimportant to some, but it’s our mission to normalize practices that may seem unfamiliar so that people with non-conforming gender identities can share who they are without standing out, both in the workplace and in life.