Have you ever asked yourself if your practice feels safe and welcoming for people from rainbow communities? If you are asking yourself why that would even matter, since you just look at people’s eyes… well, it matters a lot. Rainbow people often delay, or completely stay away from, preventative and treatment services if they’re not confident they will be treated with respect.
Despite a real paucity of data around anything rainbow, a recent New Zealand study on the health and wellbeing of trans and non-binary people confirmed anecdotal evidence, finding 36% of respondents had avoided seeing a doctor because they were worried about disrespect as a trans or non-binary person1.
If you had a regular client who had transitioned gender since their last visit, would your staff take it in their stride and use the correct name and pronouns of this person they know so well? If someone brings their non-binary child in for an examination, will you refer to them using they/them pronouns? When customers need to fill in forms, is there a box that recognises more genders than just male and female? If you are asking for salutations, is ‘Mx’ an option? If a gender-diverse person needs to use the toilet in your premises, is there an all-gender facility for them?
These are just a few of the considerations you need to make when working with rainbow communities. Do it well and your business’ name will go viral within LGBTTQIA+ circles.
Being a safe and welcoming place for rainbow communities will have some very tangible benefits to your business. LGBTTQIA+ folk have spent many years dealing with minority stress, feeling invisible, being made to feel lesser, needing to be ‘converted’ or the butt of humour, and their lifestyles even being deemed illegal. We are very careful about where we go for something as intimate as another person staring closely into our eyes. But when we go to places where we feel seen and welcomed, where we are treated with respect, we pass that information on through word-of-mouth, through our online connections and in our media channels. Once called the ‘pink dollar’, there are financial benefits to providing great service to rainbow communities.
Of course, it’s also the right thing to do and there will be flow-on benefits to making staff who identify with these communities, or have friends and whānau who do, feel great about working in your practice.
The Rainbow Tick
The kaupapa (principles) for the Rainbow Tick Programme are to enable all workplaces to enhance their safety and welcome to people from LGBTTQIA+ communities. We evaluate your organisation’s level of inclusion in five areas: policies, staff education, engagement and support, external engagement and monitoring. We provide education customised to your organisation, advice and resources on best practice and an annual report. We also help your team leaders create a plan of action and hold awesome happenings around rainbow inclusion in your workplace.
So, is your practice ready to lead the industry in inclusion?
LGBTTQIA+ – a glossary
Lesbian – women who are attracted to women
Gay – in this context men who are attracted to men, but women can be gay too
Bisexual – people who are attracted to their own and another gender. (This word is a little limiting these days and ‘pansexual’ is often preferred to describe people who are attracted to people)
Transgender – people who were assigned a sex at birth, which, as they grew up did not align to their gender
Takatāpui – a Māori word, historically meaning ‘intimate companion of the same sex’, reclaimed in the 1980s and used by members of the rainbow community
Queer/Questioning/Genderqueer – queer is a reclaimed slur and can be used interchangeably with rainbow to mean questioning and finding out your true identity. Genderqueer is another word for non-binary people, who know they are neither male nor female or embody both
Intersex – an umbrella term that covers about 70 variations of sex characteristics
Asexual – somebody who does not, or rarely, experiences sexual attraction to anyone
+ – this indicates there are so many more letters we could add to this already extensive acronym
Another term that many will be familiar with is fa’afafine, a gender identity in Samoan society that is a long-established part of the culture2. Assigned male at birth, they embody both masculine and feminine gender traits. For more information, Gender Minorities, Outline and Rainbow Youth are great resources.
- Counting Ourselves, The health and wellbeing of trans and non-binary people in Aotearoa NZ, J Veale and J Byrne 2019
Julie Watson is a programme manager for Rainbow Tick and Silver Rainbow in New Zealand. She is highly experienced in diversity matters, a skilled facilitator and educator, and has in-depth involvement with rainbow communities. You can contact Julie at email@example.com.