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SLIDESHOW: Things NOT to Say to LGBT Coworkers

Things NOT to Say to LGBT Coworkers
Things NOT to Say to LGBT Coworkers

From the archives of DiversityInc, here is a list of phrases you’ll never want to be caught saying to an LGBT coworker.

 

 

 

“Is one of you the husband and one the wife? I don’t get it.”
“Is one of you the husband and one the wife? I don’t get it.”

Why do relationships have to be about traditional roles? In any marriage or relationship, it’s about partnership and sharing responsibilities. Reframing the conversation this way can help open mindsets about same-gender partnerships and marriage.

 

“Wow. I never would have guessed that you’re [gay, lesbian, bi, or transgender]!.
“Wow. I never would have guessed that you’re [gay, lesbian, bi, or transgender]!.

While this comment might be meant as a compliment—acknowledging that a person does not fall into the traditional, sometimes negative stereotype—it can still cause offense. Don’t believe the sitcoms: “Not all gay guys love Madonna,” says Michael Moran, Interactive Art Director, DiversityInc. And not all lesbians watch sports. Addressing commonplace assumptions like these is a good first step in creating inclusion.

To a transgender person: “What’s your real name? What did you used to look like?”
To a transgender person: “What’s your real name? What did you used to look like?”

Transgender issues are still a very new topic to many people, says Jean-Marie Navetta, Director Equality & Diversity Partnerships at PFLAG National, which creates an organic curiosity among people. “But asking about someone’s ‘past’ life is an absolute no-no. “People should be seen as who they are today, in the affirmed gender in which they live,” she says.

 

“I have a friend who’s [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender] that you should meet.”
“I have a friend who’s [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender] that you should meet.”

Just because two people share or have similar sexual orientations does not mean they automatically will be able to blossom a friendship or other relationship. Every person has their own personality, interests and hobbies, but being gay isn’t one of them.

“Why did you tell me that?”
“Why did you tell me that?”

It’s important for people to bring their “whole selves” to work, and coming out of the closet is certainly a part of who one is. “The notion of leaving a big part of your self at home and walking into work is like walking around with two types of shoes on,” says Selisse Berry, founder and CEO of Out & Equal, an advocacy organization that provides services to companies, human-resource professionals, employee-resource groups and individuals.

 

“Your lifestyle is your business. We don’t need to talk about it here.”
“Your lifestyle is your business. We don’t need to talk about it here.”

Referring to sexual orientation and gender identity as a “lifestyle” or “sexual preference” suggests that being LGBT, and ultimately identifying as such, is a choice. Being able to talk about your partner at work, putting family photos in your cubicle, bringing your partner to the office holiday party—these are simple things that allow ALL employees to bring their whole selves to work and fully engage.

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10 Comments

  • Re: The statement “your lifestyle is your business”. I agree this should be said, because very simply, it’s unfair to allow heterosexuals a chance to say these things, and, not others It’s unfair, plain & simple.

    I absolutely disagree that it indicates choice vs. no cohice. That issue is baselese, who is to say why anyone is attracted to another human being, period? Every human is 100% unique, plain & simple. There are so many subjective variables at play (religion, opinion, public opinion, and emotions) that you can’t ever say it’s always choice or pre-determined. So, it’s incorrect to tell someone not to say something, unless you have good & proper reason. Don’t say this because it’s unfair, not because it implicates an actual choice or not.

    In an objective context, the simple fact that humans are the 1 thing currently known & proved to exist that are capable of the thoughts/emotional complexity, and also, 2 small but powerful words….. free will…. those reasons alone will never prove it one way or the other. I that needs to be put in proper context.

    • grannybunny

      The terms “lifestyle” and “preference” absolutely do connote choice, as opposed to ones God-given orientation, and are frequently used to diminish LGBT individuals.

      • I believe that homosexuals are born (for the most part) and not created. I also believe that they should not be discriminated against in access to housing, jobs, even marriage, etc., etc., HOWEVER, having said that, I DO NOT believe same sex sexal attraction is GOD given or the intended “design”. Yes, I get that we are all different but you are asking me to throw away common sense. Clearly, the body of a woman is designed to accept an errect penis. The body of a man is NOT. There are nerves in these areas that create, in most instances, pleasurable feelings. Logic tells me that these two areas go together. Even though heterosexuals engage in anal sex, they do so as an alternative. It is not the same for homosexuals. The anus is not “DESIGNED” for penetration by the male sex organ. It is a fact that if done consistently, health issues result.

        I don’t mind, at all, the effort to protect “US ALL” from being discriminated against. I DO MIND the attempt to make me believe I am crazy, homophobic for applying logic to the issue of “BODILY DESIGN”. Things happen in utero, I get it. Genes, chromozones, hormomnes etc., get out of whack – Sh-t happens, Babies are born with all kinds of phyisical, psychological, deviations from what is expected as to how a particular area of the brain, body etc. is expected to function. given it’s design. Why is homosexuality viewed as anything different from any other kind of deviation from the “design”? I think you are asking too much when you ask to give up “LOGICAL THOUGHT”. I would love to hear why I am wrong about this.

        • Luke Visconti

          OK, if it’s all about “logical thought,” how do you explain the appendix? Is it “deviation from the design” when most people have to have their wisdom teeth extracted?

          Is it “common sense” to be obsessed with things that you claim don’t apply to you? Or is your behavior a “deviation”? Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

          • Help me understand your reference here to vestigial organs. They are not deviations of the human form. Not having an appendix or wisdom teeth would be the deviation. I think there may be some argument to Mina that the physical contact differences among homosexuals is different out of necessity and that homosexuality is not primarily based on physical needs rather physiological needs, but I do not see the comparison to vestigial organs. thanks.

          • Luke Visconti

            In retrospect, I should have deleted Mina’s post. I was trying to point out that the human body has a lot of things that are not functional. Why we have an appendix is a mystery. It’s also a mystery why there are a lot of people, like Mina and you, who are obsessed with other people’s genitals and what they do with them. Why don’t you leave other people’s gonads alone? Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

          • Always the ebully, Luke. At least you are consistent. Thanks for passing judgement on me while I was simply asking a question to get some clarity on you appendix argument, which we see now was misguided. I think maybe you need to re-read some of your posts about acceptance. I could quite frankly care less about what folks do with the genitalia. The humorous part is that I actually supported your line of thought, but you were too busy being clever to realize. I guess you really showed me, you rascal.

          • Luke Visconti

            Thank you for the compliment, but I don’t think we agree on anything regarding this subject. I have a strong sexual desire for my wife. Is that physical or psychological? I have no idea, I don’t really care and I have no desire for a busybody like you to analyze or judge it. What is up with your obsession with what other adults do with their genitals? Leave strangers’ private parts alone—please! Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • The only one of these that I disagree with is the “I have a friend you should meet” slide. I definitely don’t think that this is something you should say during a first meeting, but if you have established a friendship with your LGBT coworker and you think that he/she would get along with your friend (and you know they are looking), then why not make the introduction? I think the “things never to say” penumbra is a bit too broad in this instance.

  • #7. For those of us with children, saying “Don’t you think your kids need a female influence (or male influence if you are a lesbian couple).” It can also come in the form of “There is too much testosterone in your house.” “It is a good thing you have a female nanny!” The problem with this is that assumes kids need dueling gendered parents. Completely not true. Research shows that same gendered parents are able to provide everything kids need without artificially adding the opposite gender. What is important is love and devotion to your children. They rest works out naturally!

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