Our first OutPro event of the year, “Celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility in your Organization” was a success. We featured Skyler Blankenship as our speaker to share best practices for how to create an open and affirming workplace for the trans community and the greater LGBTQIA+ community. We had a rich and robust discussion about the challenges folks in the trans community face in the workplace and community, and we learned a great deal about how to be more inclusive. One of our attendees verbalized their gratitude for this important conversation by sharing, “This is something every company and person needs to hear and be aware of. Skyler was great and very informative.”
Skyler is a Play and Learn Facilitator with the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative. Skyler utilized their experience as a Transmasculine Non-Binary person to educate our members and community on the importance of identity affirmation, acceptance, and equity for transgender and non-binary individuals within systems of society. They have worked with several demographics and several different modes of presentation, facilitation, and workshops. At 26 years old, they continue their education in mental health and hope to open a practice in Grand Rapids.
In recognition of Transgender Day of Visibility on Wednesday, March 31, we discussed how organizations can create and maintain safe, inclusive cultures for transgender employees. Founded by Rachel Crandall, a Michigan native, Transgender Day of Visibility aims to celebrate transgender and non-binary individuals, as well as the contributions society, has gained from them. Along with this celebration, this day also highlights the discrimination and violence faced by transgender and non-binary individuals worldwide. Skyler’s presentation was an incredible, heartfelt, inspirational, and helpful conversation for our members and the community. Skyler shared some valuable tips for employers and organizations that we’ve captured below.
Tips for Employers
- Create a safe environment and safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ employees
- Make pronoun usage the norm (email signatures, introductions, name tags, etc.)
- Create a policy that allowed for “preferred” or “referred to” name usage (folks sometimes use names that differ from their legal names)
- Do not out your trans/LGBTQIA+ employees
- Do not gender or bathroom police
- Work pronouns into application/hiring practices (spot for pronouns, how the candidate would like to be referred to, give gender-neutral sex/gender options (i.e. Non-binary) NOT “other”
- Show respect, always
- Don’t expect trans/LGBTQIA+ employees to be the sole voice and educator
- Accept and affirm trans employees
- Zero tolerance for discrimination from patrons and employees, and uphold and enforce these policies
- Offer gender-neutral bathrooms
- Take a growth mindset and be open to always learning
- Take time to listen to your trans/LGBTQIA+ employees and patrons
- Use the power of social media to educate and celebrate and commemorate Trans Day of Visibility (March 31st)
- Be allies by practicing intentional allyship and stand in solidarity with the trans/LGBTQIA+ community
OutPro exists as a champion for an inclusive and magnetic community by serving as a resource for LGBTQIA+ professionals, their employers, and allies. As an affinity group of the Grand Rapids Chamber, our goal is to promote a welcoming culture in the West Michigan business community by providing opportunities for both social and professional networking at all career levels and amongst all industries.
Thank you, Skyler, for such a powerful conversation. We are so grateful to them for sharing their story, wisdom, expertise, and recommendations for employers to create safe and affirming spaces for folks in the LGBTQIA+ community. Thank you also to our OutPro Council members, our facilitators, Jennie Mills, and Carlos Kulas-Dominguez for helping make a great conversation come to life. We are so appreciative of all of you for sharing your important voices with our community. Let’s continue to create great in our community, a West Michigan that is thriving, prosperous, and inclusive for all.