Shannon Whittington, RN, MSN, CCM, LGBTQ+ Health certified, is a published author and certified speaker with the John Maxwell team. Her areas of expertise include LGBTQ+, Diversity & Inclusion, and Servant Based Leadership. Shannon has a passion for transgender health and she educates clinicians in gender affirming surgeries. Shannon was greatly honored to receive the Quality and Innovation Award from the Home Care Association of New York for her work with the transgender population. She is also a city and state lobbyist for transgender rights and a vocal advocate for equality of care. To date, Shannon has presented virtually and live at various organizations and conferences across the U.S. delivering extremely well-received presentations on leadership, transgender health and LGBTQ+ community.
Recently Shannon served as our expert on a recent LGBTQ+ inclusiveness and health webinar for the Kanarys Resources Center. The community submitted questions ahead of the event, and Shannon responded based on her expertise after a presentation on the importance of inclusion. Below is an overview of the presentation.
Affirming Your LGBTQ+ Employees
Shannon begins with highlighting the fact that affirming LGBTQ+ people is key to building inclusion. We want to see ourselves reflected where we spend our time, resources and energy, Shannon mentions. It has to be authentic, and not just a reaction to Pride Month or instances of discrimination.
In explaining the universe of belonging under LGBTQ (which sometimes is expanded to LGBTQIA+), Shannon explains not only the correct terms and language to use but says that much in the way the trans movement has created more knowledge about equal rights, the intersex community is heading toward the same campaign for awareness. She then provides an overview of the differences but connections between sex, expression, attraction and gender identity.
In a workplace, gender identity can have an impact on interpersonal relationships as it requires understanding and respect of pronoun preferences. Shannon says that when she began working in diversity and inclusion, she had to spend time learning about transgender identity, even as a member of the LGBTQ community. She encourages people to not make assumptions, misgender or use offensive words.
Be mindful of how to use the appropriate language, “it takes practice, it takes self-reflection,” Shannon said.
Audience Questions on LGBTQ+ Topics
One question from the audience came from a transgender employee who wanted to know how they could assist their workplace leadership in addressing their needs for inclusion. Shannon says that it may be the case that the manager does want guidance but isn’t sure how to ask their trans team member for help. She suggests leading them with conversation and demonstrating that you are open to discussing topics related to LGBTQ+.
A recommendation that Shannon makes for employers is to think about receiving an invitation to dine at a friend’s house and leaving early due to the environment being inhospitable. That’s what underrepresented employees will do once they enter a workplace that isn’t centered on inclusion. You want to avoid running off your employees! There are over 9 million gay people and 1.5 million trans people, which equates to talent and buying power for companies who can get it right.
Shannon tackles questions related to:
- Internalized homophobia – determine how much help someone may want to overcome their own internalized prejudices.
- What to do when someone assumes the gender of your partner/spouse – Shannon acknowledged that this can cause some anxiety in the workplace. Correcting people and moving on without making a big deal is recommended.
- How to handle when someone’s personal or religious beliefs are antithetical to your identity – recognize that you won’t be able to change some people’s minds and that you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.
- Addressing a coworker’s insensitivity – Shannon recommended taking someone to the side to talk about the situation to avoid embarrassment.
This webinar ended up being one of the most interactive we’ve hosted, thanks to Shannon for providing such thorough and thoughtful responses to viewer questions and giving a straightforward overview of what we all should know to build an inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ professionals.
You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn, through her company Whittington Consulting, or email her at email@example.com. She has a book coming out soon and you can learn more from her YouTube channel.