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Pay to Parade
At my place of work, we typically have a presence at local festivals and parades. We have a team that does outreach events as part of its work. Employees on the team are paid to set up a table, talk about our business and sign people up for our membership program.
For some events, there is additional interest, so staff volunteer to join paid staff. One of these events is the local Pride parade. Many workers at my company identify as L.G.B.T.Q.+, so we typically bring a large banner and march together as a large group.
In planning our participation for this year’s event, a member of our company’s L.G.B.T.Q.+ affinity group emailed the entire group (approximately 30 people), the vice president, and the director of diversity, equity and inclusion demanding that all participants in the parade get paid for marching. Is it appropriate to pay people to march in the Pride parade?
It’s always appropriate to compensate people when they are performing employer-mandated tasks, and it sounds like your company is doing just that. If employees are required to participate in the Pride parade, they should be paid for that time. Anyone would appreciate being offered compensation for volunteering to participate in a Pride parade, but I’m not sure that’s a realistic expectation.
And yet, so many companies only offer lip service during heritage and cultural affinity months. In June, you see the Pride flag everywhere. Corporations alter their logos to include the rainbow. They hold events and send out newsletters and so on. The gestures are generally well meaning but shallow and fleeting. On July 1, it all disappears until the following year.
We could discuss any number of reasons people would resist (or resent) something like this, but let’s not. So often, organizations make decisions based on what will cause the least amount of friction, which means they don’t do much in the way of making progress.
It would be incredibly meaningful to try something different and support queer employees and allies with compensation for attending Pride, especially now. Instead of thinking about all the objections, consider why this might be a great idea.
Is Now the Time to Stand My Ground?
I am a queer employee at a large educational technology company that serves the K-to-12 market. Several customers in Florida, Texas and other states contact our support line regularly to ask for help to bypass all L.G.B.T.Q.+ content. My company has not, and I fear will not, take a stand on the anti-trans and “don’t say gay” legislation spreading like wildfire. Several colleagues have asked what the company will do or say about all of this, and we haven’t been given a clear answer. Worse, the answers we are given often feel like political doublespeak. I am considering leaving the company after a career spanning over two decades. Do you think I should look at this differently?
Given the challenges the L.G.B.T.Q. community is facing right now, you are looking at this in exactly the right way. If we don’t take unequivocal stands right now, we will lose more ground than we already have. Your employer is doing what many companies are doing — trying to appease everyone by standing for absolutely nothing.
It’s disgraceful and sets a terrible precedent that allows a very vocal minority to dictate everything from curriculum to health care. Your employer should do the right thing — which is to refuse to bypass or erase L.G.B.T.Q. content and ensure that its technologies will never be used to discriminate against any group. Managers should support their queer employees by demonstrating solidarity in both word and deed.
It is perfectly acceptable to leave a workplace where you don’t feel supported, or where your employer does things that you believe are actively harmful to your community. After two decades, this must feel like a real betrayal and I can imagine how difficult a decision you are facing. Still, your company is demonstrating the reality we all must contend with — an employer is not a friend or an ally. In general, companies will make decisions that benefit themselves first and foremost. You should do the same.
Is it OK when first talking alone with a new colleague to ask pronouns to ensure you are referring to them correctly, if it hasn’t already been broached?
Yes, it is more than OK to ask about pronouns. It demonstrates that you are caring and considerate and recognize that gender exists on a spectrum. We cannot assume that how someone presents is how they identify. Asking about pronouns simply removes any ambiguity and ensures that you’re always referring to your colleagues in the manner they prefer.
The Limits of Care
As a health care worker, how do you deal with homophobia and transphobia from a patient? Specifically, what strategies can be used to address this when dismissing the patient is not an option? In my case, I don’t own my own office, so I work for someone else. My employer is not willing to let the income from this patient go, so the solution is for the patient to come in on my off days. I find this less than ideal. Also, what are my rights here?
Your employer’s solution is less than ideal. Unfortunately, when dealing with bigotry, there are few ideal options. Patients can choose medical providers according to their preferences. I’m not sure you have any recourse, but I would love for medical professionals to weigh in on this.
I do know that many health care workers from diverse backgrounds deal with patient bigotry. It’s a significant contributor to burnout in medical professions. I suppose it’s something that the patient visits the office on your off days, but it would be better if your employers had principles and refused to do business with a bigot.
They should value your safety and ensure that you work in an environment that doesn’t tolerate discrimination of any kind. You have to decide if you can continue working at this practice under these conditions. And if you can’t, it is time to find new employment. I wish you the very best as you navigate this.
How Much Is Too Much?
I used to identify as a cis-woman but came out as nonbinary/gender queer last year at work and shared at a staff meeting that my pronouns are now she/her and they/them. I told the team I liked being referred to as they/them but that “she/her is fine, too.” Everyone was affirming, but I’ve never heard or read any of my colleagues use they/them to refer to me in the many months since, and it’s starting to bother me. I wish at least some of the time they would affirm my they/them pronouns, which help me feel seen and known.
Am I making this too hard for my colleagues by not making a firm request to always use they/them? How much of my gender spectrum or fluidity can I reasonably ask them to recognize? Is it too much to ask them to try to sometimes use she/her and other times use they/them?
You are never making things too hard for your colleagues by asking for your pronouns to be respected. When you shared your pronouns and said “she/her is fine, too,” your colleagues took you at your word. They are using what is most comfortable for them rather than what is most comfortable for you.
If you want to be affirmed as they/them, you’re going to have to make your preference clear without offering the option of she/her. In an ideal world, people would be mindful of using both sets of pronouns regularly. That isn’t too much to ask, but it may be too much to expect in the workplace where you encounter a range of attitudes toward and familiarity with gender identification.
Write to Roxane Gay at [email protected].
Roxane Gay is an endowed professor of media, culture and feminist studies at Rutgers, the author of the forthcoming “Opinions” and a contributing Opinion writer.
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