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The ABCs of LGBTQIA as an Attorney

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The ABCs of LGBTQIA as an Attorney

Understanding the nuances of gender, gender identity, gender pronouns, neopronouns, sex, and sexual orientation can be challenging. During this session, the facilitators will provide basic definitions of various terms in the LGBTQIAP+ acronym while providing insights on how to use gender-inclusive language and how to create an LGBTQIAP+ friendly environment for employees and clients alike. This session is for allies, those new to DEI work, or anyone who desires to create safer spaces and safer language for humanity.

Transcript

- Welcome, everyone, I am so incredibly happy to have you here with us today. My name is Ama Karikari Yawson and I am the founder of Milestales Training and Development. Today we're presenting a program, the ABCs of LGBTQIA+. We are going to demystify a lot of the mystery and confusion, hopefully, surrounding the acronym LGBTQIA+, as well as various issues with respect to how we can make sure that we are providing excellent services, culturally responsive services, equitable services to members of the LGBTQIA community. So by way of background, I am an attorney by training. I attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School and I got an MBA from Wharton after graduating from Harvard and working in investment banking for some years. After graduating from law school and business school, I worked at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton before moving on to serve as in-house council at Citigroup, Inc. And then at some point I decided I wanted to devote myself to issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. And so I started my company Milestales. I have a very special guest with me here today. Her name is Micah Schneider. And I have to apologize, not her name, their name is Micah Schneider. So we're living this workshop as we speak now. So Micah Schneider is a justice-focused social worker with a passion for building and sustaining programs for survivors of violence. They received their LMSW from Stony Brook University and a bachelor's of arts in psychology from CUNY Hunter College. Presently Micah is the assistant director of programs at ECLI/VIBES, V-I-B-E-S, where they are focused on ensuring all survivors, ensuring that all survivors have equitable access to care. Prior to their role at ECLI/VIBES, Micah was a public affairs coordinator for Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic and a graduate student assistant for LGBTQ services at Stony Brook University. So please wave and say hello, Micah.

- Thank you so much for having me today.

- Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. So the way this program will go is I have a brief PowerPoint with some of the crucial definitions that we need to have under our belt in order to facilitate this discussion. Some just key acronyms. And then afterwards, we are going to have an interview with Micah where we're going to ask some of the pressing questions that I'm sure you've had on your mind, but have not yet had an opportunity to share with others, to speak to others about, and so forth. And we're all about creating a safe space where we can make mistakes, where we can learn, and where we can become better. Because it is a process. I tell people all the time, and this is, you know, I think most of you would agree, diversity, equity, and inclusion and belonging is a way of life that we continue forever. We're always going to be expanding our horizons. We're always gonna be learning more. We're always going to try our best to do better. And so it's a journey. It's not a destination. All right, on that note, I'm gonna share my slides right now and we are going to begin. Thank you again for joining. All right, let me change to slide view. Beautiful. All right, everyone. So the ABCs of LBTQIA+, you know me. I've already introduced myself. You know Micah. We've already introduced Micah. And now let's start discussing this. And I started with this disclaimer, please note that this is an evolving landscape and both words and definitions continue to change and emerge. So I want us to have that grace, that this definition or these definitions are constantly evolving. Do not look at this presentation five years from now and expect that everything in it is still true, right? Because this is a landscape that is consistently evolving. So let's first start with one distinction that I think is very confusing for many people. And Micah and I will discuss this later, but I think that it is confusing for many people and so it deserves some discussion. As we embrace this topic, it's important to note that there's a distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual orientation is a person's sexual identity or self-identification as a number of different sexual identities such as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, and others. So this is simply what a person says is their sexual identification as it relates to their orientation or who they're attracted to and where they fall within with respect to attraction. Gender identity is distinct. Gender identity relates to an individual's internal sense of being a man, woman, or unaffiliated with either gender binary. It consists of the behaviors, norms, cultural traits or psychological characteristics that are commonly associated with a biological sex within a certain society. So it's important to note that gender norms are not static throughout all of humanity, right? In some cultures, men are the ones who dress up. I remember reading about a culture which there were male beauty pageants and women were judges. And to many Americans, they're like, huh? Because they're used to beauty pageants where it's all about the male gaze on women's bodies. But this is not static. This is not an aspect of humanity. There's some cultures where men wear makeup and adorn themselves and where women wear less makeup and less adornment. Gender norms vary and they vary within society. At some point, pink was associated with boys and blue was associated with girls. So these things also switch and change, right? I mean, I've seen men's style change from more baggier clothes to tighter fitting clothes. Like, it changes. It changes, it changes, it changes, it changes. So it's important to know that that's, these norms are part of gender identity and they're not fixed across cultures. So let's go to the acronym 'cause people are like LGBB, like they're just getting confused, right? It's easy to get confused and the acronym has expanded. I think when I was in high school, it was only like LGBT. And then I started hearing more. Micah is smiling, because I'm sure Micah, do you remember a time when we just said LGBT?

- I remember a time when it was just gay.

- Yes, yes, yes, sure.

- There was like, LGBT was the acronym, sure, but no one ever said it. It was just like, oh yeah, the gays, the gay community.

- Okay.

- Like, oh boy, we've come a long way.

- It existed, but it was hardly used. Okay, yeah, I see what you're saying? Yeah. Exactly. Exactly, exactly. So this changes, so then people are like, okay, first of all, they feel as if they're not keeping up, because they're like, "Oh, it changed and when did it change and how did it change?" But then too, they're like, "Okay, so what do all these letters stand for?" So the L is generally perceived to stand for lesbian. The descriptive term used to refer to a woman or someone who identifies as a woman who's lasting physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to other women. So that's the L, right? Lesbian, someone who identifies as a woman and has a lasting physical, romantic, or emotional attraction to other women. Next we have the G gay, a descriptive term used to refer to individuals whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attractions are to people of the same-sex. So that could be for anyone based on the definition that we're reading. However, it's telling us that sometimes lesbian is preferred for women. And so, Micah, you were just saying back in the day people would say a gay woman.

- Mm-hmm.

- And now people would rather say a lesbian woman, but gay was used as like sort of just an umbrella term. And you're saying you've seen that evolve.

- Oh, yeah.

- For sure. For sure. In your lifetime. And you're a young person, right? So it's always changing. Next we have the B. People are are like, okay LGB, what is the B for? Bisexual, sexually and/or romantically attracted to both one's own gender or people who identify as one's own gender and another gender. And so this is also a term that people should be familiar with. Now, Micah, I have a question about that. Have you seen some, 'cause I feel as if I've seen it, some people's resistance to even believing that that exists?

- Oh yes, I think when we're looking at sexuality, there's such a spectrum and it's really less of like thinking of a spectrum as like all straight line where there's two fixed points on either end. And really more of like this beautiful nebula where things can exist in any space or any plane of existence. But I think for a lot of people who might not believe that this kind of attraction exists, that comes from a lot of different places. I don't always have a good response to those people, because I wanna like sit and talk to them and figure out where that belief comes from. But I think the thing to remember is that sexuality is so personal and so fluid that you might really jive with the word bisexual, but it might not fit what other people think it should mean for you. See all those terms, like everything, all these terms are identity terms. So it doesn't really matter if you don't fit exactly the definition so much as like that's the term that like fits you and feels good and authentic to you.

- Yeah, no, it makes absolutely sense. All right, so then we have the T, transgender, relating to a person whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth. Relating to a person's gender identity that does not match their sex assigned at birth, so what does that mean? they the birth certificate and I believe that there's a the birth certificate, and I believe that there's a movement for birth certificates to have more than one option, But the birth certificate will say male or female. I recently, I recently, I'm in the process of applying for my women-owned business certification and they had me upload my birth certificate to show that when I was born, I was assigned female at birth. So someone may be assigned something at birth, but as the individual develops, says this is not who I am. This does not, I feel myself to be a woman, although I was assigned male at birth. I feel myself to be a man although I was assigned female at birth, and vice versa. So transgender is relating to a person's gender identity when it does not match what was assigned at birth. And in the new current evolution, we are moving towards a place where we are hopefully, hopefully more and more individuals in society as a whole is affirming individuals and saying, it's not what the doctor said you were at the moment you were born. It's what you yourself determine yourself to be, because you are in your body and you know who you are. All right, next we have the Q. Q for queer, or questioning, an umbrella word for individuals who do not identify as heterosexual or cisgender. So this, now, Micah, I would like you to talk more about this word, because I think there's some controversy surrounding it and I want you to share on that, please, if you would.

- Absolutely, the term queer or cisgender, 'cause there's controversy with both of them.

- Share all the controversy.

- Let's talk controversy. So the word queer has a very, has a very storied history. It was first coined, oh, a long, long, long time ago. I used to know the year off the top of my head, but like really long time ago. And it was used to describe someone who was different or someone who was weird. But it wasn't until like the 16, 1700s that they started to ascribe the word queer specifically to men who were engaging in sexual relationships with other men. So it became just, it was like a word that was just kinda there. It meant peculiar. And then it morphed into a derogatory term. And it stayed like that for a really, really, really long time. It wasn't until-

- Pardon me, Micah, who made it derogatory?

- It was actually a writer. I don't remember his name. And I'm happy to send you this really fun history. It was a writer who used it in that way actually in response to his son who was a man who was engaging in a sexual relationship with another man. And so that term became derogatory.

- Okay.

- And it was ascribed that meaning. It wasn't until like the late 80s, early 90s in the HIV/AIDS movement and the queer liberation movement that came after it that people started to reclaim or take back that word. And so, but it was seen as anarchistic. It wasn't your mainstream language. It was, I'm queer, and there were a lot of kinda specific things that that meant. You were counterculture maybe or you were fighting the good fight or participating in these movements. It's becoming more and more mainstream, especially like think about like the mid 90s, you had like queer eye for the straight guy, you had queer-

- Yes.

- So that word started to pop up more and more in popular culture. It would lose favor for a little while, but now it seems to be, for some people, the more acceptable umbrella term than we were talking before about the gays or being gay as like an LGBTQ umbrella. I would caution everybody who chooses to use the word queer as your umbrella term, a couple of things. Number one, mirror the language of the person in front of you. Because that word has such a history, There are a lot of older LGBTQ folks who might be deeply troubled by that word, because it has connotations that remind them of being maybe queer-bashed, maybe harmed in some way where that term was used to facilitate that. Queer is also highly dependent on time and space. Using it as a young person in New York might be a totally safe thing to do, but using it for a young person in Iowa, maybe not. So really just like assessing without saying it, the language that your client is using. And if you're not sure and you don't wanna make a mistake and you don't wanna be offensive, don't use it at all. It can be one of those in-group words where folks within the community can use it and claim it, but folks who are not don't. But use your best judgment when it comes to the person sitting in front of you and always err on the side of caution with this language specifically.

- Yeah, thank you so much for providing that nuance. I mean, as you're saying, there's so much variety with respect to how the word is perceived over time, over geography, age, et cetera. And so proceed with caution. Although it is a part of the LGBTQIA acronym, proceed with caution and please do share the controversy surrounding cisgender.

- I love using the word cisgender in front of people who don't know what it means. And like when people are like mad about it. Maybe love is like a really strong word, but it brings up a really good conversation, because cisgender means that your gender identity and the sex you were assigned at birth match. Cis is the prefix that is opposite of trans. Where trans means different, cis means the same. The controversy is the people who don't understand why that needs a word. But there are a lot of people who use the word normal or-

- Typical.

- Or just a, like what's your gender? Oh, I'm just a man. That doesn't tell me a whole lot about you. I'm never gonna make assumptions about what's going on for real, for real, if you wanna share that with me at all. So the word cisgender came from a place of needing language to describe a person whose gender identity and sex they were assigned at birth match when having these conversations and when it makes sense and it's like applicable to the conversation. But people can get, people who don't know what the word means can get really overwhelmed or really angry and really resistant to the fact that it's a word at all.

- Okay.

- But we don't want to assume or imply that a trans identity is somehow not normal or typical 'cause it's just as normal or typical as any other identity.

- Absolutely, Absolutely, makes sense. So the controversy is more, for lack of a better word, conservative, right? Meaning, from what you're saying, that it's like when someone says, you know, if someone said to me, you're a cisgender woman, if I were angry at that, it would be, how dare you even qualify me, because I'm normal, typical, all these words that are are inappropriate, but the person feels like I'm normal, I'm typical, don't you dare add any qualifiers. The qualifier goes to people who are not like me whose gender identity and what they were assigned at birth are not matching. But don't you dare, okay, that's why it could be controversial to some, thank you.

- Yes.

- And then we have questioning, being in the process of questioning one's gender is male, female, non-binary or any other gender identity and/or the process of questioning one's sexual orientation as gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, or other sexual orientation. So questioning is a time of discovery. Questioning means discovering, figuring it out, and we know that not only is sexual identity and gender identity, not only are there spectrums in which people fall all over the spectrum, but people fall all over the spectrum at different times in their lives. So questioning allows us to know, there may be a period in someone's life where they are in a time of discovery. And they may have identified one way in the past, but they may identify as another way in the future. So, Micah, I'd love for you to share with us how to be supportive of people who are questioning and how to make sure that we are not offending someone who's in that process of discovery.

- Yeah, absolutely, I think the big part of it is just showing up for the person who is in this space. Existing in their sphere as someone who is kind and loving. That's really the most that we can do when we're not sure what to do, lead with love and lead with your excellent values. I think when we do that, we make fewer mistakes. Also questioning can be such an emotionally exhausting period of time, because you're taking your entire worldview and kinda like chucking it out the window and reinventing yourself maybe. And it can happen once, it can happen 700 times in a time that you're alive. So as a professional, but also as like a friend or a loved one, parent, partner of someone going through this journey, let that person set the pace. Let them try on things that are safe, sane, and consensual, and be there for them in whatever way they need you to be there for them. And if you're not sure, ask. Ask what kind of supports do you need? Know that I love you and I'm here for you. How can I support you? And they'll tell you or they'll be like, I don't know. And you'll figure it out together. But for the most part, I think when we lead with love, we do the best we can.

- What a powerful statement, lead with love. Lead with love. Lead with love. Because mistakes will happen and so we just have to continue to lead with love, absolutely. Okay, I, intersex, an umbrella term that describes bodies that fall outside the strict male/female binary. So this, and very interesting, that this, intersex individuals have existed as long as individuals have existed. However, right now it is coming to the forefront of our minds and our awareness that there are some babies at the hospital who the doctor looks at their genitals, the nurses look at their generals and says, this does not typically look what's typically considered female, that does not look what's typically male and the person is intersex. And there's so much variety, from a medical biological perspective on what that could mean. I have been, you know, per Micah's suggestion, we did a program, we've been doing per programs for a while, but some time ago she said, just go on YouTube, . Just, you know, watch videos and watch people's experiences if you wanna be educated. Yes, there's some books that Micah said that she could recommend, that they could recommend. But just look, just look around, because people are sharing their experiences. And so I've seen some of these videos. One that stood out to me was a person who identified as male who said that at age, let's say 12, the person whose pronouns are he, he was at a, he was at school and started bleeding. And the gym teacher said it's probably hemorrhoids. And from that day on at age 12 here and there, this person would bleed. And bleed from his anus and didn't really know what was going on. Then finally went to the doctor and had a X-ray. And the doctor's X-ray, pardon me, I'll start the story again in case that noise came in. So this person was assigned male at birth, identifies as male, uses the pronouns he. At age 12 is at gym, starts bleeding. The person was like, what's going on? Says to the gym teacher, "I'm bleeding from my butt, what's going on?" The gym teacher says, "Probably just hemorrhoids, nothing to worry about. From then on here and there, this person would bleed. Finally as an adult, and, oh, and this is interesting, when the person would bleed, he would use his girlfriend's pads, finally goes to get a X-ray at a older age and finds out that this person is what the doctor called, 'cause this term may be out of date, a true hermaphrodite is what the term the doctor used. I'm not sure if that's a respectful term or not. I would have to research that. It doesn't seem respectful, but I don't know what is the term then besides intersex?

- It's intersex.

- Besides intersex, okay. So, but this is it. I don't know what the specific term, 'cause there are many ways to be intersex. So what the doctor was defining in this way was someone who had both testis and ovaries at the same time, because not all intersex people are going to have the same biology. There's a spectrum within being intersex. And so what the doctor was defining as a true was someone who had both, at one time, had both testis and ovaries. And so this person discovered it, was very devastated, and was fundraising to get the ovaries taken away. This is just one example of a intersex individual. There has been a lot of news coverage of intersex individuals who are competing as women in sports, but who have enough testosterone or have high testosterone levels. And so there's some controversy surrounding whether the person should be competing as a woman in athletics. That's just another example. In some of those cases, it has been discovered, the person has XY chromosomes and therefore from a chromosomal level might have been, if they had been looking at chromosomes, assigned male at birth, but did not have the requisite testosterone in order to develop typical body parts and typical characteristics as others who are, or other people who are defined or who are assigned male at birth. I mean, these are just two examples. There's so many other examples. I was reading about a community in the Dominican Republic in which there are people assigned female at birth, but then when the person becomes 12 or hits puberty, testis descend and starts showing characteristics that are typically assigned with being male, I mean, and I'm no huge researcher on this, but I've just discussed three ways just in YouTube searches, right? I found out that people who are intersex have different biologies, different, I mean, very, very different situations here. Very, very different. Anything you would wanna add about that, Micah?

- Yeah, the thing that I always talk about when I talk about intersex specifically are two things. Number one is recognizing that it is a sex term, not a gender term specifically, just as like an FYI. And also that folks who are intersex may or may not identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. There are plenty of folks whose gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth even if like there's other hormonal or biological things that are going on. There's plenty of people who identify as straight and don't claim an LGBTQ identity at all. So we can't make assumptions if a client comes to you and says, and it's relevant for some reason to the case that you're working on, discloses their intersex condition, we cannot make assumptions that, ah, okay, this is an LGBTQ person, 'cause they may or may not be. You have to find more out. Again if it's relevant and appropriate.

- That is a really, really great point. And so you're saying that, okay, someone's with a client, somehow it's disclosed that the person is intersex. A comment like, oh, you know, for you as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, may be inappropriate, even though the person disclosed that he/she or they are intersex and the person disclosed and the I is in the acronym, but the person still may not feel an allegiance, or may not, may not feel as if this is representative.

- Right, they might not want to participate or feel the need to participate in the community at all or claim or claim the identity label. So like saying like, oh, happy pride to that client may or may not like be a really weird thing to say. So just like get to know your client on that level, again, if it makes sense and is appropriate and avoid making assumptions best we can, so we don't come across, at best, super weird, at worst, like a little offensive or very offensive. That's what we're trying to-

- Very interesting. But couldn't that- couldn't that be said of everyone who is in one of the categories?

- Yes.

- Yeah, yeah, I was speaking to someone the other day who said that her mother, after divorcing her dad, stayed and lived with a friend, and was having a sexual relationship with a friend, but would never claim, a friend who was also a woman, but would never claim to be a part of the LGBTQI community, would never go to a pride event. The friend just said, the mother just said, I fell in love with my friend, but that's it, right? Like to the mother, that was all. I got divorced and then I had this best friend and I fell in love with my best friend. Did not in any way associate with being a lesbian, did not claim necessarily to be a lesbian. So I think you bring up a really important part that identity is complicated and complex and people have a right to have their own identity be respected. And although a person may qualify by looking at the letter of the law or the definition as being a certain way, that doesn't mean the person identifies that way.

- Right.

- Perfect, all right. Next up, the A, asexual, pertaining to an individual who does no experience sexual attraction. So this is seen as a, I would perceive it as a sexual minority. I don't know if there are any numbers or percentages. And so it is included. But this is very interesting because this is also, I would think, and I've met people who have, I've met people through YouTube who have said, yeah, I'm asexual, but I don't identify as being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community as well, so. And anything to share on that, Micah?

- Yeah, I think this one is also an umbrella term for some folks. There are a lot of grays within this definition. And that's funny because gray asexual is a thing. So pardon that pun. And so I think to speak to the point of the folks who do not identify as part of the community is that there's asexual where you may or may not experience any kind of sexual attraction and then there's your romantic identity.

- Yeah.

- So you might not find other bodies particularly exciting, but you might fall in love with someone of one gender, or another gender or all genders. So you might identify still as straight if you are a person who is a woman, and identifies as a woman who's only romantically interested in people who identify as men, even if sex is not involved. There's a lot of intimacy that is not sexual, so people have full and complete and healthy and happy lives without it. And, you know, there's a spectrum too within that. There are people who like, absolutely not, not interested in that activity at all. Keep it away from me. There are people who are like, eh, it's fine. I don't want to, I don't like feel particularly empowered or excited about it, but like it's nice bonding for me and my partner. So there's so much nuance in that term. And the only way to know is for people to tell you their stories. Again, I'm gonna preface this, I'm gonna stop saying it, because I think it's implied at this point. If it makes sense and it is appropriate to the conversation that you're having with a client. If it's your best friend and you're having a glass of wine on a Saturday night, different, maybe, but like if you're in a professional setting, like does that question actually make sense? Do you really need to know?

- Hmm.

- Unless it's like a messy divorce, probably not.

- Yeah, Yeah, very true. Very, very, very true, okay, great. And now we're at the pluses. I mean, there's so many pluses. Again, this is not extensive. We could always do so much. We could have added a romantic and, like we could have added so many other terms, because, as I said, and I had to put a disclaimer, this is evolving, this is emerging, this is complex. This is just meant to be a basic summary. So agender, without gender identity or gender-neutral. Androgyny, a person, did I pronounce that right? I think so. A person with mixed feminine and masculine gender expression and whose appearance is therefore not clearly either feminine or masculine. Cisgender, this came up. We had discussed this, even though had not yet been defined, relating to a person whose gender identities align with or matches their sex assigned at birth. Again, Micah had already said, there can be some controversy surrounding it. Gender fluid, an individual who does not define themselves as having a fixed gender at a particular time. Non-binary, gender identity that is neither male nor female. Pansexual, having no limits with respect to sexual choice surrounding biological sex, gender, or gender identity. And the list goes on. This is just a primer. So I hope, everyone, that this has been helpful. Again, this is an emerging area and it's easy to make mistakes, right? I've made mistakes right here in speaking to you. And so this is something that we constantly have to study and we constantly have to get used to it, especially, I would say, with respect to the pronouns, because that's a bit more of a, I think it's more of a switch, given the fact that language is something that we learn so early in life, right? Between zero and three. And so if certain terminologies weren't introduced then, let's say zero, three, zero to five, it's like learning a foreign new language. And just like it takes time to learn French and Spanish or whatever, Italian, whatever language, Swahili, whatever language that you're learning, it takes time as an adult to learn, right? So great. All right. We're gonna go through some landmark cases in LGBTQIA+ civil rights. So this is gonna be interesting, right? So we have Lawrence v. Texas, 2003. And so many people watching this were alive and well when this happened. Historic case that overturned all remaining state sodomy laws in the United States. So can you imagine, everyone, that before then, right? States were allowed to have sodomy laws on the books that literally made illegal certain sexual activities between people of the same gender. And this was just literally illegal. So this is a landmark case, because it said these laws are not- are not legal, they are unconstitutional. All right, next Ely versus Saul, formerly Ely versus Berryhill. A lawsuit against the US Social Security Administration on behalf of a 65 year old gay man seeking spousal survivors benefits based on his 43 year, think about how long this relationship was, 43 year relationship with his husband who died seven months after Arizona began allowing same-sex couples to marry. The lawsuit filed on behalf of Michael Ely, the US District Court, or the District of Arizona argues that social security administration's imposition of a nine-month marriage requirement for social security survivors benefits is unconstitutional where same-sex couples were not able to be married for nine months because of discriminatory marriage laws. So if you married your same-sex spouse, but were unable to be married for at least nine months before your spouse's death because of discriminatory marriage laws where you live, you may be a member of the ELI class. So this is basically this in between group of people where the law says you need to be married for nine months, but guess what? Nine months ago, it was illegal for us to get married. And so you're denying benefits when the person didn't have the right yet to get married. So this Ely class is a very special class that is protecting people from Social Security Administration denying survivors benefits even though they had no choice, they could not have been married earlier. All right, next, Obergefell versus Hodges. The court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right to marry as one of the fundamental liberties it protects. And that analysis applies to same-sex couples in the same manner as it does to opposite sex couples. So here we have marriage equality, okay? So the, and again, look at the year. This is all fairly current to many of us who will be on this call, many of us who will be in this training, 2015 was not that long ago. So LGBTQIA+, civil rights is a very, very current, current movement, incredibly current. Not that other movements are not current, but let's just say that these landmark cases are very, very recent, okay. Next, Bostock versus Clayton County, Georgia. On June 15th, 2020, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision. So this is 2020, everyone. Very recent. Issued a landmark decision approving the analysis Lambda Legal has been advancing for 15 years, the discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation is sex discrimination. I'm gonna repeat that. Discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation is sex discrimination and violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This federal law, which often is referred to, all right? Prohibits employees from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and/or religion. So the idea is this, if someone is cisgender and assigned male at birth and likes a woman, then that same person, that same person, or let's say another person who is assigned female at birth who likes a woman, if an employer or organization says, no, you woman who likes another woman are not allowed to work here. It's sex discrimination, because it's the same like. I hope I'm making sense. It's not that, it's a little challenging to explain, right? Meaning these are similarly situated people. One man likes a woman, one woman likes a woman. If you say that that woman can't like another woman, that is sex discrimination, because the only reason why you're saying that is bad or that's not allowed or that's illegal or is not allowed within the organization is because the person is a woman and therefore that is sex discrimination. Does that make sense? I hope it makes sense. I hope it makes sense. All right, moving on. So how to better serve LGBTQIA+ employees and clients and interview with Al? So we have some questions here. Oh my goodness. Apologies. I wrote an interview with Al. Micah's name used to be Al. And I found out, and this is a legacy. I did not change it. Apologies, apologies. So Al, Micah, formally known as Al. So an interview with Micah, formerly known as Al. So first, what are some of the most important issues when it comes to providing respectful client services to members of the LGBTQIA community?

- This is gonna be funny for anyone who likes dramatic irony. Step one is when people tell you their name to use their name.

- Really?

- Yeah.

- I'm confused.

- So it's funny because of the name mess up in the PowerPoint.

- Oh yeah. Oh.

- So it's ironic.

- Would be, yes, ironic, it's ironic. But the thing is, yeah, you told me your name. Yeah, yeah. Legacy, all right?

- Yeah.

- I actually forgot to change it, thank you.

- I'm gonna take that again.

- Yeah.

- So step one is when people tell you about them, listen, always just start with listening. If someone says that their name is something, then call them that name. If someone says that they use a certain set of pronouns, then use those pronouns. If someone introduces the person who's with them as their partner, their spouse, their love, their paramour, whatever language they like, use that language and listen to them. We don't need to assume that the other woman in the room, when your client identifies as a woman, is their best friend or their roommate or their aunt or their sister. If there is the statement that, "Hi, this is my wife." Then saying like, "Oh, your friend Susie." Like that's offensive. Maybe don't do that.

- Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

- I think like if we're gonna boil it down to one thing, and if you don't remember anything that I say besides this, ask people their name, ask people their pronouns, and use them. I think step two is, going back to the pronoun thing, is asking pronouns right away and as often as possible, especially because someone's pronouns may or may not be the same over time and may or may not be the same depending on the context. So for example, I use they/them pronouns. My pronouns are they/them everywhere in my life, from my personal life to my friends, to my romantic relationships, to my professional life. I use it across the board. There are people that I know who use they/them pronouns in their friends' life, in their work life, on social media, but never ever, ever in front of their family, because it's unsafe.

- Oh, okay.

- So I think we need to always ask people what pronouns they use and using the language of, hey, what are your pronouns or what pronouns do you use? Instead of saying what pronouns do you prefer? Because preference implies that there's, like it's not necessary. I prefer blueberries, but like if there are cherries here, cherries are okay too.

- Yeah.

- Whereas like your pronouns are not necessarily optional ever. I lost my train of thought going on blueberries and cherries, 'cause now-

- Sure.

- Yeah, so just being really mindful of people's pronouns and respecting them, using them 100% of the time. And if you make a mistake, mistakes happen. It's so normal. We have all kinds of schemas about gender. We learn so many lessons about gender from very, very little ages. So it's possible that you're gonna see someone like me on the street and be like, I think that might be a lady. Or you might know me from other places and have seen more than just like from here up and be like, oh, that person looks like a woman, so I'm gonna assume she/her pronouns. And you would be incorrect, and it might be a little uncomfortable for me and maybe I may get a little uncomfortable for you, because that's my joy sometimes, depending on how it comes across. But it's a live and learn kinda situation. Make the mistake, apologize, move right along and try your best not to make that same mistake twice. And if you're not sure how to do it, say, talk about your client in the third person over and over and over again using whatever pronouns they use.

- Okay, so let's say our takeaways are, listen for people, I think this is really interesting, 'cause what I'm getting a lot of from you is trying to follow other people's leads.

- Mm-hmm.

- Right? It's like I'm listening to you to see what pronouns you're using for yourself, how you are referring to other people in your life. It's a lot of like just following the other person's lead in order to be as respectful of that person as possible.

- Yeah, yeah, we always wanna mirror the language of the person in front of us, especially in professional settings. There's a lot of language out there that may or may not be new to us. So we always wanna use the language of the client unless like they specifically say like, this is like the medical term, but please don't use it 'cause it makes me uncomfortable. And follow their lead. They're the experts in their own lives and in their own situations. So if they tell you something about them and about their life, take it at face value as fact and truth. Even if you don't get it, even if you don't, even if like it makes you feel some kind of way, or it doesn't fit your personal, political, or religious values, like that's not for you. As uncomfortable as that answer might be, it's not yours. Just accept it and move on.

- Now do you generally, should there be an expectation of correction?

- It depends on the person-

- Do you points to that. Yeah.

- It really depends. Sometimes a person might feel safe and empowered to make the correction. Sometimes they don't. So it's really about doing the best you can to establish the fact that you're trying and that you are a safe person and that you might not get it right 100% of the time, but you're gonna be the best darn whatever your role in that person's life is to them. I think it's more of an issue for me when I stop correcting people because like it means that I personally have given up and don't care anymore. Because like I have now written that person off, they're gonna keep making the mistake. I'm never gonna correct them anymore, because it's exhausting to say it over and over and over again when they're clearly making no effort. So I think like doing the best you can to prove that you're making the effort without like making it seem like you're looking for like applause or like a little trophy just because it's the right thing to do.

- Okay, great, I actually appreciate what you're saying, because, well, for many reasons, but for one reason is that you're saying, you know, a person correcting themselves is proof that they're trying.

- Yeah.

- And trying is appreciated.

- Yeah.

- Blatant not trying.

- Yeah.

- Sort of blatant disrespect, which is really hard to deal with.

- Yeah, I obviously could only speak for me as a non-binary person. I'm not obviously a mouthpiece for the entire trans community. So like every trans person you meet might have a different kind of reaction, and I think recognizing-

- Oh, hold up, one, okay, yes. I think this is an important distinction to make.

- Yeah.

- So that we did not necessarily say in the definitions, so I wanna bring it out here because you're saying it implicitly, but I wanna make sure everyone catches it.

- Mm-hmm.

- As a non-binary person, you consider yourself a part of the trans community?

- Personally, I do. There are some non-binary folks who identify as part of like the trans umbrella. There are some who don't. So it's really...

- Personal.

- Personal, yeah, a lot of this is all just so personal that there's no hard and fast rules.

- Yeah. Yeah.

- Stuff like that.

- But it's important to know that it can be. And so because I think-

- Yeah.

- Yeah, I guess it can be. That's it. All right. Very good.

- Yeah. Yeah.

- All right. Great. Question, what are some of the policies that organizations should be thinking about with respect to ensuring that their workplaces are respectful and supportive of members of the LGBTQIA+ community?

- I love this question. This is my favorite work to do ever. I'm really into organizational policy and change. It's where my heart is. So number one, making sure that you have a place for people to self-identify their gender and their pronouns and their sex. Usually on like our intake forms or like any kind of stuff like that, that's really just in-house stuff. Maybe a different conversation for all of the legal documents that go through the courts. But for your agency or your organization specifically, make it align. Make it fill-inable instead of circleable. Because we want people to be able to self-identify and in our backend systems, we might have to code it a little bit differently than the language that they use. But giving people the opportunity to say what words makes sense for them is always, always a good thing. Number two, make sure that people can tell you their name anywhere you are collecting information and make a note of it. If you have a electronic record of some kind, make a popup for yourself that says like, legally, this person's name is whatever, their name that they go by is Micah. So please make sure that every interaction that you have with a client, you are calling them might go. We can't necessarily control what the judge does, what insurance companies do, what other opposing counsel might do, but in our space, we can use people's names. I have so many of these, I'm so sorry. I'm gonna keep going.

- Go ahead, please. We're here to learn, so please.

- Number three, making sure that you have at least one, maybe all, in my opinion, all, gender-inclusive bathrooms. A person who does not identify as man or woman, or might not necessarily, might be transgender or gender queer, or non-binary, who might not present well or present medically, there's no like right or wrong way to be trans obviously, it can be a really uncomfortable and really unsafe situation for a trans person to try and figure out what bathroom to use. So whenever possible, having an all-gender or gender-inclusive bathroom, or if you have changing rooms or anything else that would be typically gender or sex-segregated, to make sure that there is a gender-inclusive one as well. Train your staff early and often. Anyone who is working with or for you should get basic LGBT core competency where you go over the nuances of the difference between gender and sexuality, maybe some of the policies and procedures that are ever-changing in this landscape. A little bit of conversation about what that community looks like, practice points, whatever. But have that conversation with anyone who's doing, especially anyone who's doing public-facing work. But it's important for anyone at your agency to, or your law firm to know like how to interact with LGBTQ people, 'cause we're literally everywhere. Next, I also happen to know some really cool consultants who might be able to help build your training program.

- Happen to know, happen to know.

- Yes, you know.

- There are opportunities for collaboration. And of course we'd love to, we know that Micah is doing great work. You're seeing the work here, and so collaboration is always helpful.

- It's a little plug. It's a little plug. Next is do not rely on the LGBTQ+ people on your staff or in your team to bring up issues to you. If you do like a little search on Google of inventory, like safety inventories and assessments, you can find them. There's a handful of them that are all fairly good, but it breaks down like your physical space, your online presence, your social media, your policies and procedures. But we can't necessarily make it the responsibility of the LGBTQ folks that are working with you that are either your clients or your staff or your interns or your partners in other organizations to be like, hey, did you know this, because it should kinda be something that we're all thinking about, especially folks who are in leadership roles. The last thing on the list that I have with the asterisk caveat that there's so many other things that we can do is, whenever possible, take gender out of the equation when we're using language. For example, if you're having conversations about bodies or menstruation, there's no need to say women. Because not only women menstruate. We can call it menstruation. We don't have to call it the lady time, which people do, even in professional settings, which makes my skin crawl on like a lot of different levels. Like we don't have to say fireman. We can say firefighter. So paying attention to the language that you're using and making sure that it's gender-inclusive as best we can. I'm AFABed, I have one more. Paying attention to your policies and protocols as they relate to gender and sexuality. Specifically thinking like maybe less so now, but still a concern that if you have a policy about like spouses, if a spouse can access health insurance or a spouse can, something, making sure that that applies to all longterm partnerships even if marriage is not, even if the marriage is not legal. We don't know what's coming down the Supreme Court's dockets over the next couple of years, even in the next couple of months, what they're gonna take up. So marriage equality might not necessarily be as set in stone as we like to believe. So really tightening our own internal policies and procedures to make sure that it's as equitable as possible and we're doing right by LGBTQ folks literally everywhere. Sorry for that very long list, but.

- No, no, it was a phenomenal list. I think you raised also a really powerful point that, so when we went through the landmark cases, there was kind of an idea that, okay, so here we're moving forward as if civil rights is just always following this very linear, progressive trajectory, but you brought up, things could be overturned. So it's important to make sure that your policies, your policies are as inclusive as possible, knowing that marriage may not necessarily be a legal right for same-sex couples forever. Wow. Thank you for bringing that up. Really important. All right, great, great, great. Next question, please. So I wanted you to please define neopronouns and tell us how they are being used.

- Yes, so a neopronoun, as simply as I can say it, really is any pronoun that is not he/him, she/her, or they/them. Those three pronoun sets tend to be the most common with he/him, and she/her as the most, most common, and they/them as becoming more, people are getting more comfortable with it. So your neopronouns are not those. They are, they can be words that mean nothing else but a pronoun. So there's ze/zem/zir. There's also words that might have other meanings, but are being used as pronouns. So I was working with a young person a couple of years ago who used flame/flame/flames, which I thought was really cool. I had never heard that before. It is becoming more and more common, especially with the younger folks. But there are plenty of people in my age range, in like the 20 something, 30 something who are using it. But it's definitely gaining more popularity with these, because you can really have a lot of creative self-expression in there. So when we're using neopronouns, recognize that it might not feel comfortable in your mouth when you're using words that you've never used before. So saying the words out loud as often as you can is gonna help with that. And asking the person in front of you, like wanted to, I always wanna confirm your pronouns, what pronouns are you using today? And whatever, and recognize that the neopronouns are always gonna follow some kind of grammatical rule. So there are charts from various institutions, oh, I lost the university that had a good one. But when you search on Google neopronoun chart, it will break down some of the more common neopronouns and give you tips and tricks on getting it right. But like anything, practice makes perfect, own your mistakes, apologize and move right along.

- Thank you. Thank you. Really, really helpful. Okay, the topic of misgendering has become very salient. Some people say that they are afraid to ask people what their pronouns are because they would be, they themselves would be offended if someone asked them their pronouns, because they think it's obvious or it should be obvious. How do you respond to that fear?

- Ooh, I think that we can't make any assumptions about anything. For example, to go like way off to the side, but something that I think we might have all experienced, when you are invited to party, you will probably, and it's like a sit-down dinner, you're gonna get an RSVP card. It would be kinda icky for the person who's throwing the party to make the assumption that like everyone can eat beef. And if you were a person who did not eat beef for any reason, you would be a little uncomfortable or like maybe really upset or maybe really sick if you show up to the party and the only thing that there is is that beef dish because the person just like said, oh, beef is fine. You don't do that. Like when you're planning a wedding, you always think through, like there should be a beef option, there should be a chicken option, a veg option, or whatever works. I mean, like I, most of my family is Italian, so there's usually like a pasta option, I don't know. But I think that applies to this. I love metaphors, so come with me here. I think that applies to this, because we're never gonna make assumptions the same way you're not gonna assume that I like or don't like beef, you can't assume my pronouns. Even if you think like, I've seen someone who looks a lot like you and that person ordered beef, so you must also like beef, because you look like that person. Well, I don't, So sorry that that was confusing for you and it might've made you a little uncomfortable, but it's my safety, because I'm allergic to it. Or I guess in the pronoun case, it's my safety because it's my identity and being misgendered is very, very emotionally and psychologically taxing and can be extraordinarily distressing and can be very dangerous.

- Thank you. Thank you. I'd love for you to share the danger.

- Yeah, so there was a study done by The Trevor Projects and the Williams Institute out in Los Angeles that looked at the effects of misgendering, specifically on trans youth, like between the ages, I think of 12 to 18. And they replicated the study for like 18 to 25. And what they found is that the fewer people that a young trans person had in their life that were using their chosen or their name and their pronouns and interacting with them in a way that is affirming to their gender, the fewer people like that, the higher the risk of suicide. The risk of, and the reality of young queer people, young LGBTQ folks, especially trans folks, especially young trans folks, especially, especially young trans folks of color, that suicide risk is off the charts. We know that the life expectancy, specifically of Black trans women is like 30, maybe 28. And that's because of the extreme rates of violence and the extreme rates of suicide. So you might not know or might not think that saying like, eh, I don't really, it's not really that big a deal, like I don't have to call them that name. I don't have to have a gender-neutral bathroom. It doesn't matter if I make a mistake with pronouns. It might not matter to you, but if you're the last person that did it today on top of a hundred other people that have done it, you don't know what that's gonna do to someone. So treating people with love and respect and kindness is suicide prevention. Using people's names and their pronouns is suicide prevention. And coming at this with genuine curiosity and empathy is suicide prevention. And that's just being a good person. That's the bare minimum. We have to do that.

- No, really great point. Incredibly point, like I remember when I was a little girl, I was in third, somewhere before third grade, I got a bad relaxer, which pulled out all my hair, like literally I went in with hair down to here, the relaxer went in and literally like it all just was falling out. So I had to shave off all my hair. And I remember people thinking I was a boy and it was just miserable. I was so miserable when like one time I went to like the barber shop and they were like, "Oh, are all three boys getting haircuts?" I mean, I was going there just to accompany, not to be, but, you know, I mean, I still remember that. That was in the 1980s, right? And so I can completely understand the pain of being misgendered and I just also want to impart with people that it's an evolution too, because, and that it's not that easy. Like I have a child in my life, a friend of my son's who originally identified with she/her pronouns and just had short hair just to be a girl, someone identifying as a girl with short hair until more recently. And so at that point the misgendering was very painful when people thought that she was a boy. Then later on the person changed the name and also said I'm now non-binary or I now identify as non-binary. Maybe I was non-binary forever, but now I identify as non-binary and the pronoun should be they/them. And so before people were being very specific to affirm and use she/her and then had to switch in transition. So I say that to say, transitions for most people are not easy, right? I mean, just think about it. One example is like when the year changes, I'm always making the mistake of putting the prior year up until maybe March. You're shaking your, yeah yeah, you can relate, right?

- Oh yes.

- That nodding part of you can relate.

- Yeah, I would put 2021 on so many things. You're right, up until March. But I think-

- But it's worth it. We have to do it.

- It is. Yes.

- Just like we cannot have the wrong date, you have to do it, right?

- Right, and if you're still making that mistake in October.

- There you go.

- We might have a bigger problem.

- Yes.

- We shouldn't be making the 2021 mistake in October.

- Excellent point, so if you work with a person, you're seeing that person every day, all day long, working with that person day after day after day. And as you mentioned, the transition happened in January and in October you're still making the mistake, it's certainly becoming problematic. And now that we know the stakes, we have to be very, very cautious to correct ourselves. And the process of consistently correcting is going to be the process of learning. So all right, very important. Next up, how can an individual go about repairing the client relationship or any relationship we should say after misgendering has occurred?

- We gotta be accountable and we gotta recognize when we've made a mistake or caused harm. When a misgendering situation happens, seeing it as close to the incident as you can, like if you noticed that you used the wrong name within like the first five minutes, go, I'm sorry. And then using the correct name. Or you've used the wrong pronouns, be like, I'm sorry, and use the correct pronouns. That very gentle, quick, and honest apology goes a very long way. And that apology should look like, you know, I'm really sorry and just move on, because then it's not about you. And misgendering is not about you who's done the misgendering, it's about the client who you have misgendered. So if you go on this very long rant about how you're trying really hard and it's so new to you and you care really deeply about the LGBTQ community, because your brother's best friend's kid's niece is trans. So you have a trans person in your life, you have a friend who's gay. So like it's really unlike you to make this mistake. Don't do that. It is exhausting. I don't really wanna hear, as you're my lawyer, that you have a brother's best friend's kid's niece that is trans, that's great. What does that do for me? Nothing. So just like be gentle and general with your apology. And the best apology though is changed behavior. So avoiding that mistake, making it fewer times and then eventually not making it at all is really gonna prove to the client that like you care and that you're trying and you're doing your best. And anything can be repaired, in my opinion. And recognizing that sometimes a super emotional reaction may or may not have anything to do with you specifically. So if we're having a conversation and we're just meeting for the first time and you misgender me or call me the wrong name, because you have my birth certificate in front of you for a case or something and you call me my dead name and I react viscerally, I am physically upset, I yell, I cry, something happens. Know that the likelihood is you are not the first person who's done that to me today. You might be the most recent person, you might also have the safest energy for me. So I might break down into tears in your office, because you have just misgendered me. And know that it might not necessarily be because you specifically misgendered me, but because I was misgendered again. So while also taking accountability for your actions, not like passing the buck and say like, ah, that's just a trans person who's a little hysterical right now. No, because you still made a mistake and it still is not cool, but, or not but, and recognize that some of the reaction might be historical and we have the opportunity in this moment to undo some of it and make a better moment, make a better day. This exact thing happened to me on Monday with the doctor's office, like literally is my life right now.

- Oh no, meaning you felt a overwhelming visceral reaction.

- Yes.

- To to misgendering at the doctor's office?

- So I went to my doctor's office and they have my legal name on file. They have to, 'cause they have to bill insurance. I have told them maybe about seven or eight different times that my name is Micah and it is very important that you call me Micah, because hearing my whole legal name is very distressing for me or can be, depending on the day. But in general, like it makes me uncomfortable, so I don't love to hear it. So the first thing that happens when I walked in the room or walked up to reception was the receptionist said hello, dead name, how are you today? And I said, "Hi, Micah. Thank you, I'm well." And like every time she used my dead name, I would correct her and say Micah. And then I got frustrated, because like this person is clearly not listening to me. So like I'm feeling like this like little nugget of frustration like here, like sitting on my chest, and it's icky. It's uncomfortable. I'm mad now. And so like I go into my doctor, my doctor nails it, 'cause she's great. And then I leave and everything is fine and like I'm holding on to this frustration a little bit, I'm like trying to figure out like, I'm gonna send an email and say like it's really important and here's why. Always an educator. But then I had to call my doctor's office back, because I was having an issue, like my prescription didn't go through or something stupid. And the same receptionist was there and the same receptionist asked like, "I have to look up your chart, what's your name and your date of birth?" So I always give my last name and my date of birth and my first legal initial, because like that's how they can find me in the system. And she pulls up my chart, she goes, ah, dead name. And I'm like, I, and this is when I lose it. I lost my mind. I was in tears. I was a little not nice, a little Kareny on the phone. I might have used some unprofessional language.

- Absolutely, it's loose.

- Yeah, it got a little-

- You just got fed up. Wow.

- But she had already misgendered me that day and I had already been misgendered by about eight other people like an hour before that happened. So that was like the straw that broke the camel's back and I couldn't take it anymore. And once like I calmed down and I realized like where I was and that I was safe and it was okay, I said to her, I'm like, "I am not going to apologize for telling you, for calling you in and saying how unokay it was. I am going to apologize for using unkind language at you, 'cause it's never cool." But it was a really nice moment almost between me and this receptionist, because we were able to like see eye to eye and connect on a human level. And she was able to see me, really see me and be like, "I didn't realize how big and important this was. I didn't know."

- Wow.

- So she's not gonna make that mistake again. And I know she's not, because I had to call again today, because whatever. And she's like, "Oh hi, Micah, how are you?" I'm like, it's that easy. And it was so nice for me because like now I trust this lady and I had an impact on her life in a positive way, because she won't make the same mistake with the next trans person she knows.

- So now she apologized?

- She did, she did. She's just like, "I'm so sorry."

- Did she explain why it'd been so challenging?

- She told me that it's very new to her. I honor that. I recognize it. Sometimes it's unhelpful if you're the one making the mistake to give an excuse, because your reason behind making the mistake doesn't necessarily lessen the impact that your mistake has. So while you might be able to say like, this is a blind spot. The reason I made this mistake is because I have a blind spot here, and I'm gonna do better. But to me saying like, hey, I have a blind spot here. I've never heard this before, it doesn't help me. So it's not for the person that you've done harm to, it's for you. So really figuring out what motivates what you say and make sure that it's always coming back to the client that's in front of you.

- Wow, I actually was curious, not just in order to absolve feelings of guilt, but whether maybe there was something more procedural that caused it. Meaning that maybe the document that she was seeing had nickname, Micah, or something like that. Because I know some people who, if they see nickname, they kinda see a nickname as being less professional or less official. And so they always use the, the name that's listed as the official name, right? So someone says, oh, you know Alex Smith, go by Al. Some people who are more formal will be like, I'm not calling this person Al, I'm not your friend, I'm the receptionist at the office. Alex, do you get me? So I was curious as to whether the reason might be potentially fixed from a systemic perspective, because I could certainly see that happening. And I could see, I haven't seen many forms. I've seen many forms that say nickname, I have not seen many forms that say, I don't even know what the, you know, recent name, new name, you know, whatever it's called, right? Or, you know, like specifically say legal name versus actual name. Or what have you.

- Yeah. So that is why I was curious. I don't know, did she provide any insight?

- She did, she said that the way their system was set up, there was no smooth way to do it. So it was just like it was a note in the bottom of my chart.

- Wow.

- So it quotes dead name and then whatever. And then like in the little bottom comment section, it says like, oh by the way, this person's name is Micah. Whereas if there's a popup that has dead name and then in parentheses maybe you put that person's name, because if you need, if you're in a situation in law, in medicine, in certain, in education maybe, you need legal names to file things. That's the unfortunate reality until things change. But there's so many things that you can do to make sure that you make fewer mistakes. Like instead of calling it a nickname, call it name, legal name and name. And on our forms, you can use language like what is your legal name? And then in parenthesis an explainer, we need your legal name, because the court will recognize the name that is tied to your social security number or your temporary work number or whatever kind of number. And next to it, you might have, what name would you like me to call you? What is the name that you go by? Not using AKA, not using nickname, not using preferred name. Using what names you want me to go by, what name do you wanna go by? And this is the perfect example, I think, of universal design, because that's not just gonna be beneficial to trans people or agender, queer people, or people who use a different name for that reason. But maybe you have a cultural name that you feel very strongly attached to, but that's not your legal name. Maybe you'll have a Hebrew name and you would prefer to be recognized in society as your Hebrew name and not your legal name. Maybe it's the opposite. Maybe you have a cultural name that you don't identify with anymore and you wanna be called Tim. When you give people the option to self-identify, under all circumstances, everyone is gonna benefit from it.

- Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense. And so this is a really, really, really, really good example of how a system can be changed to aid this process. Because, yeah, I fill out forms all the time and to tell you the truth, all I see is like nickname or preferred name the vast majority of the time, but we can change it for everyone. No, makes absolute sense. Makes absolute sense. Thank you. Thank you for sharing and I'm glad that you had that, you know, that moment, 'cause the person wasn't being malicious, it was at the bottom, it wasn't easy to see, but I'm also surprised that if you had said directly, I go by Micah, I go by Micah, why that didn't necessarily click for a while, but now the person knows.

- Yeah. I don't know why it didn't click for her. I'm not gonna like make excuses or come up with reasons for her, but I know that it hurt my feelings really bad. I was really distressed by it, but it turned into a really nice moment.

- Absolutely. And because I am consenting to being in this position, I'm gonna send all my resources. I can do that. And I will, because for every me that might consent to being the educator, there are a hundred people in my shoes who don't, who, it's not their job, and they're not gonna do it. And it's you. You gotta figure it out. And that is totally fine too. The people who are a minority in your life are not here to be your teacher or your cultural guide to that identity. They're just not. They're still your friend or your loved one or your client. Like they're not an agent unless like they are.

- Absolutely.

- In which case...

- No, absolutely, because people have their own work to do. Clients have their own work to do, fellow employees have their own work to do, and there's no need to be burdening people with extra work because that's not fair to others who don't have that same burden. Absolutely, agree. All right. So you kinda touched on this question before, which the question is, what resources do you recommend for people to become more educated about this? Especially, I mean, I'm going to, you know, be honest myself here. It's a little challenging when we're experiencing the change not that often, right? So for example, like if we just give your name change as an example. So this is my first time actually interacting with you since the name change, right? Obviously people who see you all the time are able to do it, right? Or people who have people in their lives who are using they/them, all this, they're getting this facility with it. So for others who are not, who unfortunately are not being, I guess, tested or not tested, what is the word? They're not having the experience over and over again. How do they bring that experience to their lives on a day-to-day basis so that they become more flexible with respect to name changes, pronoun change, just more flexible with respect to neopronouns. How do we get more flexible? Especially if we're, for some reason, we're not getting the practice every single day of our lives.


- Yeah, I think part of it is educating yourself as best you can. I used to be jaded and say Google is free, figure it out. But that's not fair, because first it's like, that's ableist. If you don't have like access to the internet, it's classist, it's racist, it's a problem. So don't say that. So I love the Williams Institute. They're based out in Los Angeles. I love the Trans Lifeline. They are a crisis line run by and for trans people. I love the Trevor Project. It's an LGBTQ+ crisis line. There are going to be LGBT centers or research organizations in almost every major university in the area. Stony Brook has an incredible one, UMass Amherst has a great one, NYU has a great one. So turning to institutions of higher ed for their resources is gonna be a better bet than like Googling, what is a pronoun? Because you never know like what you're gonna get there, because like anyone with an IP address can make a website and anyone with Google Ads can put their website at the tippy top of your Google Search. So being discerning and careful about what sources you're looking for information on is super, super important. Part two is listening to stories and engaging with LGBTQ folks however you can. Maybe this is LGBTQ folks like literally in your life. Listening to them when they are sharing their experiences without like making them be the educator, doing all of it with consent, of course. If you don't have LGBTQ people in your life that you can talk to or connect with, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, any of those like social media websites are filled with people who are consenting to sharing their story. The caveat I will say is to get like various experiences and listen to a bunch of different people's stories and not just like take one trans person's story as like, ah, this is the trans experience. I nailed it, I got it. Because it's one person's experience. It might not necessarily ring true for everybody. So taking in as many of those stories as possible, I honestly believe, is the best way to learn, because there's emotion there and there's feelings and reactions and sincerity and vulnerability that you're not gonna get from an article that you find in the library about what it means to be intersex. Like listening to that intersex person is so much more impactful. The other thing is find a trusted agent, cultural agent, and take on a mentor, and pay them. If you are going to ask someone to do emotional labor for you, pay them and honor the fact that you've asked them to do emotional labor. I am always happy to give a training to come and talk to a space. And if it's, I'm coming to talk to like my friends or my loved ones, the payment is like a cup of coffee or like a hug or like camaraderie, like that's enough for me. But if you want me to come and like give a panel, you gotta pay me, because this is emotional labor, because I am a queer person and I'm talking from my experience. So that's just good practice and really, really important to recognize that like story and lived experience is unfortunately, in the world that we live in, a commodity. And it's right to pay for the commodities that you're using. And recognizing that like on TikTok and YouTube, there are mechanisms in place for that. So believe it or not, you are paying them when you're watching their videos on TikTok or YouTube, but like being really careful about how you're asking real live humans in your life to do emotional labor for you, tread very carefully with that.

- Yeah, great, I have another idea to add. Something that I think I can do in my own life and that is even if I may not see a person, talk about the person.

- Yeah.

- So the practice of using the pronouns. So for the person I was mentioning before who, before went by she/her and now goes by they/them, if I just even practice every day with, you know, my son, 'cause it's my son's friend, oh, how are they doing? Did you see them in school today? That, like, I can practice even without, even though I don't see the person every day, just practice using it so that it's more natural the next time I'm engaging directly, okay? So just make a point of just saying it. And you had mentioned when you were discussing neopronouns, and I would say they/them for one person, to a certain extent, could be argued as a neopronoun, let it just come out the mouth, practice. Just practice it coming out the mouth, they/them for one person, they/them for one person, because if you don't practice, you'll be rusty as with everything. So thank you so much. Really, really, really great points. Really, really great points. Okay, so we are coming to the end of our program. I'm going to just engage in our conclusion here. So, oh my goodness, we did the ABCs of LGBTQIA+, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer questioning, intersex, asexual, and more. Important to note, this is something that Micah said to us that I think is really crucial. Just because a person meets a definition, does not mean a person identifies. Just because a person meets a definition, and for many people who are very into strict interpretation, it's gonna be shocking, does not necessarily mean the person identifies. And so we use these pronouns, it's good to know, but it's also good to know that we just have to make sure that we are following other people's leads with respect to how they identify. Landmark legislation for LGBTQIA+ rights, Lawrence v. Texas 2003, sodomy laws are unconstitutional. If you just wanna remember, obviously you can go look at the case law. Obergefell versus Hodges, 2015, same-sex couples in the United States have the right to marry regardless of where they live. And let's hope that that stays the case. Ely versus Saul, 2020 establishes the Ely class of same-sex spouses who are entitled to benefits if they could not get married, quote/unquote in time due to bans against same-sex marriage. People should not be penalized for not being married, because they were not unable to get married due to the law. And then Bostock v. Clayton, Title VII protects employees who are gay or transgender. This was our point regarding the fact that sex discrimination, this is sex discrimination. If you're discriminating against someone for the same like desire, activity, whatever, that if it had been done by a man or a woman or, et cetera, it is discrimination based on sex. I blanked out on my Roman numerals before. Title VII, everyone, Title VII. Next, provide stellar services to LGBTQIA+ community members by promoting a culture of respect for gender identity and gender pronouns as well as consistent review of bathroom, health, family leave, and other policies. All right, everyone. But I think that if we have to summarize this really based on our experience, it's lead with love. Mistakes are going to happen. You know, I made mistakes during this program and I also noticed that Micah, in discussion, was using very measured language. Even as an expert in the field and a member of the community, I could tell at some point there were pauses to make sure that the language was accurate. And she's been doing this for over a decade, right? For a very long time. And so that shows you that you never are there. Isn't that how we started the program? With diversity, education, you're never there. It is always a process and it's always a practice. So thank you so much, everyone. So glad that you could share this with us and be here today. And I hope that you will continue to do the work of learning and that you will continue to work. Reach out to consultants. My organization is here for you. And as you see, we work with great people such as Micah in order to make sure that your organization becomes a more diverse, a more inclusive, a more equitable place where people feel like they belong. Thank you, thank you so much, everyone. Goodbye.

Presenter(s)

Ama Karikari-Yawson
Founder
Milestales Publishing and Education Consulting
Micah Schneider
Assistant Director of Programs
ECLI/VIBES

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