Our team always enjoys talking with organizations and business leaders about the steps they’re taking towards building inclusive cultures. The steps are important, but the movement is essential. To not get stuck in one space, you have got to do ‘the walk.’
When a business believes they have done all they can do and have reached that metaphorical finish line, this is when we see them beginning to experience missed opportunities. All of their good intentions around being inclusive and welcoming, and dedicated efforts begin to fall short and they’re often left wondering, why?
Let me give you an example.
A space we recently worked within, shared with us how their public space is always welcoming when it comes to washrooms. While they do not have an ‘everyone washroom,’ we were assured the organization’s onsite staff would never deny anyone’s right to use the washroom of their choice.
It was through this philosophy, they concluded that having ‘everyone washroom’ signage put in place during a PRIDE event, would not be necessary.
This is when I suggest we examine the philosophy through a new lens.
Inclusion takes more than inclusive people, i.e. staff, employees, contractors. There are verbal and non-verbal skills and tools which we all need to have in our Inclusion Tool Kit.
Falling short happens when a business or organization has the appearance of being inclusive, without the actionable tools that make inclusion effective.
‘The walk’ is ensuring you’re actually being welcoming of ‘everyone’; transgender and non-binary people alike. To achieve ‘the walk’, here are my Top 3 Tips for building a truly welcoming space with respect to washrooms and facilities:
Top 3 Tips for Walking-the-Walk of Intentional Inclusion
- Signage: Having visible signage outside your washrooms shows patrons you have expectations around behaviour within these spaces. It sets a tone and provides a baseline expectation for those using your facilities. The tone is: everyone is welcome and we expect patrons to be welcoming and accepting as well, when they are using our space. It also delivers an important message to transgender and non-binary people that inclusion is important to your organization and provides a clue that there are supportive measures in place to ensure ones safety and dignity. It says, ‘You matter.’
- Policy: What happens if a member of the public shames an individual because they feel that person doesn’t belong in that space? Here is a short list of questions to ask about your staff/team?
- Does your staff have the tools and language confidence to be able to address the situation with professionalism and poise?
- Are they aware of their workplace policies and trained properly?
- Are these policies aligned with Human Rights policies in Canada?
- Communicate: By communicating your policies effectively, you are going beyond the ‘idea’ of being inclusive and you’re actually working to create that inclusive space you’re advertising.
- Front desk staff? “Welcome to __________, enjoy your time here and please know all of our washrooms are welcoming of everyone.”
- Visible representation: Is there a sticker or rainbow flag near your entrance? Are staffing wearing name tags with their pronouns? If not, consider why this policy is not in place and at what cost to your organization?
While employees may never deny someone using a washroom in your space, it isn’t the staff that is often the concern, i.e the offender. It is the patrons; the gazes, body language, micro-aggressions, sideways looks and/or comments that powerfully eliminates someone’s dignity and diminishes their humanity.
“Walk” the skills and keep them moving.
Allyship is a verb – it is an action word.
Who gets hurt when organizations, businesses and schools get it wrong?
Frustrated by a school board’s decision to remove trans inclusive representation from their website homepage immediately after a ‘trans-affirming’ calendar event, a mother of a trans child reached and asked the question, ‘Why?’.
After numerous emails and lack of impactful response, she connected with another parent, and together they pondered, what is the cost of baseline inclusion with no substance?
Simply Good Form Inc. is based in K’jipuktuk/Halifax and works with public and private sectors across all industries to deliver measurable results, allowing individuals to thrive regardless of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
Our team offers dynamic beyond binary content creation, facilitation and learning tools produced by professionals with lived experiences.
Cynthia Sweeney (she/her) is Founder/Principle of Simply Good Form Inc. and specializes in beyond binary inclusion education with more than 20 years experience in client services and communications. She is the parent of a transgender youth and volunteer director with PRIDE Lunenburg County and Pflag Halifax. Is is the Co-Founder of two monthly support groups for parents and caregivers of trans and non-binary youth and co-host of Hey, Cis! podcast.