We’ve all been there, that feeling of being on the edge of a group, not quite belonging, not quite fitting in – but for most of us we are talking about not being part of the cool set at school or not being part of the inner circle in a social group. But what if you feel like you don’t fit in with the majority of humanity? Where even a decision about which toilet or changing room to use raises a question in your own mind – who am I? Can most of us even comprehend a life like that? How excluded do these people feel? Sadly the suicide and attempted suicide statistics amongst the trans and gender non-conforming population give us the answer – 41% compared to 4.6% in the population as a whole!
This was the background for us deciding to devote the last WDF meeting of this season to “Diversity and Inclusion” focusing on the second word – “Inclusion”. To quote from our sponsor EY’s website “having diversity is only half the equation. Inclusiveness makes the diverse mix work.” Our aim in hosting this topic was to raise awareness of some of the issues faced by minority groups in the workplace in the hope that by doing so, we could increase collective understanding and empathy, and thereby increasing inclusion.
We focussed in on the issues encountered by people with a disability and the LBGTQ community in the workplace.
It was reassuring to hear about the really supportive approach the Guernsey Employment Trust take in helping those with a disability back into the workforce. We tend to automatically assume that this means those with a physical disability or learning difficulties, so it was informative to hear how they also work with professionals who have encountered difficulties with mental health, including women returning to work after post-natal depression. I don’t think it is widely known in the community this service is available and hope by raising this awareness they can help more women back into the workplace.
I was so pleased to be able to give a platform to Martin Gavet from Liberate to highlight the important work they are doing locally and in Jersey to support the LBGTQ community.
It was also a delight to interview Liz Taylor-Kerr on her journey to mother-hood as part of a same sex couple. I am sure that Liz’s candid and amusing approach has helped in her encountering very little discrimination in Guernsey. She is a fabulous role model for how openness and self-acceptance can make a huge difference to other people’s perceptions.
Personally I was really pleased to be able to highlight the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, a number of people said to me afterwards that they hadn’t appreciated this point beforehand. It is not just about who we are attracted to but our own gender identity, which is a really important point for those who identify themselves as transgender, questioning and genderqueer.
Maybe we can’t do much at one WDF meeting other than raise awareness of these issues, but it is my hope that the more open we are in talking about these subjects the more general acceptance we can engender. Now that’s a good word to finish on!