Last week I was honoured to be part of the Pride@Work Workplace Summit 2018.
Pride@Work is an organization dedicated to “building a nation where LGBTQ+ Canadians can achieve their full potential at work.”
Why is Intersectionality Important?
At the Summit, I moderated a panel about intersectionality – an important topic because we all have many identities, and the ways those identities intersect shapes and changes our experiences, our needs and how we are perceived by others. Often, however, we see people as “one thing”. In LGBTQ+ spaces, this results in the under representation of trans people and people of colour (and other marginalized groups as well). By the way, lack of an intersectional awareness is not unique to the LGBTS+ communities.
I had the pleasure of moderating three incredible panelists:
- Danielle Araya (educator and facilitator at the 519 in Toronto)
- Jeansil Bruyère (Executive Director of Aids Community Care Montreal)
- Muhammad Ahsan (Training and Education Coordinator at the Rainbow Resource Centre in Winnipeg).
Danielle, Jeansil and Muhammad shared their thoughts and insights about intersectionality and it’s role in inclusion (or lack thereof). In our hour together, they scratched the surface of intersectionality within queer identities as they discuss the varied experiences of queerness and being a Newcomer to Canada, a Person of Colour, Muslim, HIV+, and Indigenous.
Food for thought from intersectional perspectives:
Here are some of the highlights from the panel.
Danielle Araya spoke very personally about her experiences of marginalization. She reminded the audience to think about who was in the room and who was not – and what that meant. She then gave insight into the energy it can take to be part of spaces where one is the minority; having to work harder, being more exceptional in order to be seen/taken seriously. She touched on the ways marginalized people are reminded of our differences, which can make it more challenging to be ourselves and to advocate for ourselves.
Jeansil Bruyère spoke specifically about people living with HIV. He reminded the audience that discrimination against people with HIV is rooted in homophobia, that is it unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their zero status (a new which reflects the advances in pharmaceuticals, reducing the risk of transmission to almost zero if taken properly). He spoke about the right to privacy: that employees or prospective employees do not have to disclose their status; that it’s not legal to ask; and that reasonable accommodations are required in order for those living with HIV to be able to bring their full selves to work. He made a few suggestions regarding inclusion: that all employees receive comprehensive information about health benefits as well as about resources and information about living with HIV, as well as training on how to address HIV related discrimination.
Newcomer/Person of Colour:
Muhammad Ahsan spoke passionately about lack of representation. He shared some of the processes he has developed for dealing with barriers (like screenings at the airport) that help those around him to understand the implications and impact of discrimination. He shared his experience as a newcomer to Canada – excited about being in a country where he could be all of who he is as a queer individual, only to be confronted with not just homophobia, but also racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia. He challenged the audience to use their privilege rather than the common practice of putting the onus on those who are marginalized to educate and advocate for themselves. And he strongly stated that corporate Canada has failed Queer and Trans People of Colour. Looking out on the mostly white and cisgender audience brought that point home.
It was a dynamic, challenging, insightful and real hour; including some strong statements that we don’t always hear in “mixed company”. But these are the realities we need to be aware of and to understand if we are serious about real inclusion and creating change.
So my questions to you today are:
How inclusive is your inclusion? – Who is present and who is not?
Are you hearing the voices of those you are trying to include?
How do you know?