How to answer co-workers’ questions about Pride Month … with a straight face
By Colin Druhan
June is Pride Month in Canada, and throughout the summer annual festivals will be staged across the country in celebration of our diverse community. As exciting as it can be to plan how you’ll celebrate Pride, nothing puts a damper on your enthusiasm like co-workers who have a less than ideal attitude about the festivities.
Sometimes criticism can come in the form of a question. It’s helpful to see every one of these queries as an opportunity to guide your colleagues to a deeper understanding of what Pride is and why we celebrate. Here’s how you may want to consider answering some frequently asked Pride questions from people who do not identify as LGBT:
Why do we have to celebrate gay people in June?
First off, Pride isn’t just about being gay. June was chosen for Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which occurred in New York City in the summer of 1969. People of many gender identities, gender expressions and sexual orientations were involved in that landmark action, which is seen as the catalyst for the modern LGBT movement. We now use the month to honour the sacrifices of those who came before us, and to confront shared challenges that still lay ahead.
Why are LGBT people always complaining? Things seem okay to me!
Being openly LGBT still remains illegal in many parts of the world; in some places it’s punishable by death. Here in Canada, LGBT people face many barriers to success at work or school, as well as with their friends and families. The Canadian Mental Health Association says that because of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, LGBT people in Canada experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and phobic disorders, suicide, self-harm and substance abuse. Further, gender identity is not yet considered a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act, representing a gap in federal protections for people who are trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming. These are just a few examples of why LGBT people and allies are still fighting for a brighter future.
Why would I want to go to a big loud party? That’s not my scene!
It’s true that many Pride events feature loud music and big crowds, and serve alcohol. However, most Pride festivals in Canada offer a broad range of activities for people with a variety of interests. It’s not uncommon to find family barbecues, poetry readings, workshops and other low-key events in Pride festival lineups from coast to coast.
It’s also important to remember that some people either can’t or don’t want to attend events at all, and that is totally fine. Everyone celebrates Pride in their own unique way.
Why is there no Straight Pride Month?
This one’s a doozy. Proceed with caution! It can be tempting to come back with a cheeky one-liner like “Every month is Straight Pride Month!” But that can alienate people from the true meaning of Pride, which is to celebrate what makes each of us unique. It also shifts focus from the fact that Pride isn’t just about sexual orientation; it’s about gender identity, gender expression, relationships, family, self-respect, dignity, and so much more. That’s why there is no single answer to this question. If you want to respond, try explaining what Pride means to you, or open up about what it feels like to be part of Canada’s LGBT community. Your colleagues are more likely to respond positively to messages of possibility and hope than to words of anger and negativity.
Remember, if you’re able to keep calm, cool and collected when you get these questions, you’ll be a much better advocate for the community. When you take the opportunity to thoughtfully change someone’s perspective, you may be helping that person become a better ally of LGBT people. Who knows? Maybe the co-worker asking questions this year will be helping you answer them next Pride season.
COLIN DRUHAN is the Executive Director of Pride at Work Canada, a not-for-profit organization that empowers employers to foster workplace cultures that recognize LGBT employees. For more information, please visit prideatwork.ca.