“We don’t care who you sleep with, so why is it an issue? It's not appropriate at work to flaunt your sexuality.”
This statement and dozens of variations are said daily to Queer people all over the world, especially in the US.
It sounds like equity. It sounds non-discriminatory, right? But, unfortunately, it’s dismissive, disrespectful, and lacking in education.
The Use of The Word “Queer”
I am 42, a young Gen Xer. People my age and older aren’t readily embracing this term, Queer, for the LGBTQ+ community. It was hurled in harmful and derogatory ways from family members and even institutions like hospitals and police. I don’t pretend to know what they’ve experienced involving this word, so I limit my use of it when speaking with older Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers.
However, many of those younger than me have reclaimed the word, Queer. Millennials and Gen Z appreciate the brevity (“LGBTQ+” truly is a mouthful) and how it breaks down the boxes of sexual orientation and gender identity, allowing for nuance and growth.
For example, Heather falls in love with another woman, Allysa, and decides that she must be a lesbian. A year later, Allysa realizes that she’s actually transmale. However, Heather is still totally attracted to Allysa and begins questioning her own sexuality, settling on the word “Queer.” It feels right, it feels valid, and it leaves room for her to evolve. After all, sexuality is fluid.
But can Heather be Queer at work?
Let me ask it another way: Would it benefit Heather’s company if she expressed her whole (Queer) self at work?
Absolutely and here’s why.
How Queer People Benefit The Workplace
Queer people approach problem-solving differently.
We have learned the hard way that INTENT rarely equates to IMPACT. So, as Queer people, we have found ways to innately solve for impact, preventing even more problems.
Queer people work differently within teams.
We have a different perspective of gender and privilege, especially in leadership roles. We know how to work it ourselves, and we know how to spot when someone else is taking advantage of the system.
Queer people approach life and relationships differently.
We have a different perspective on what it means to “build a relationship of trust.” This has been used against us in the past, and we know how to spot inauthenticity a mile away. You think “gay-dar” is a thing? Our real superpower is the BS-meter. It’s literally why it can be more challenging for us to make friends. We fight so hard to own who we are—we don’t have time for the fakes.
Queer people have navigated professional pitfalls that straight people haven’t even considered.
Do you know what it’s like to show up at a networking event, trying to balance being “genuine” and being “professional”? Because “professional” is corporate-speak for “don’t be Queer.”
In a nutshell...
Do you want an employee who can sense inauthenticity, prevent massive marketing blunders, and understand networking nuances in a way straight people can’t? Or, do you want the employee who hides ALL of that because Queer sexuality is considered “flaunting” and “inappropriate”?
Queers do it differently. And that’s the point.
About the Author:
Elena is an inspirational LGBTQ speaker, trainer, and founder of Pride and Joy Foundation, a not-for-profit dedicated to reducing the rate of suicide and homelessness in the LGBTQ community.
Elena was a Mormon mom of four when she lost her marriage, church, and community after coming out as a lesbian.
Elena's virtual TEDx talk on surviving conversion therapy has been viewed 40,000+ times and landed her media and speaking opportunities with ABC, CBS, FOX, Penn State, and Michael’s. Elena Joy recently launched Pride and Joy Publishing, the only publisher of solely LGBTQ+ empowerment and business books.
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