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Combatting Biphobia, Homophobia and Transphobia in the Workplace

Most people are familiar with blatant forms of biphobia, homophobia and transphobia such as slurs, other inappropriate language and the classic “that’s so gay!” In the workplace it’s important to recognize anti-LGBT behavior in its subtler forms, like outing someone without their permission or generally excluding people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Whether harassment and discrimination against LGBT people is overt or subtle, there are a few things everyone can do to combat this kind of behavior on the job.

Talk the Talk
You may be an expert on your own experience as an LGBT person or ally, but don’t assume you know what it’s like for everyone else. Stay up to date on the appropriate ways to talk about LGBT identities, listen to the way other people want to be addressed and apologize when you make mistakes.

Know Everyone’s Rights
The federal Human Rights Act protects workers on the grounds of sexual orientation and many provincial human rights codes specifically mention employment protections on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Become familiar with legislation that protects LGBT people at work in your region. You should also check to see if your employer has any internal policies about harassment and discrimination as well as the reporting process for such behavior.

Speak Up
When coworkers make jokes, use inappropriate language or make big generalizations about LGBT people it’s important to challenge them. Sometimes it’s as easy as asking a question like “do you know why a lot of people find that word offensive?” It can be hard to challenge your supervisor or people more senior to you at work, so if you need help from someone else ask for it.

Support Your Colleagues
We all want to feel safe and be ourselves at work. If you want support from others it’s important to extend them the same courtesy. Find out if your employer has a formal resource group for LGBT and ally employees. If not, you can informally support colleagues who face biphobia, homophobia and transphobia by listening and asking them what kind help they need from you, if any.

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