The LGBTQ alphabet soup might be overwhelming, and lots of people might consider the acronym and related terms overly "politically correct." The reality, however, is that young people (and not just young Americans) are increasingly identifying as queer. In fact, 20 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds now identify as LGBTQ (GLAAD, 2017), with 12 percent identifying as transgender. Paying attention to these folks is simply good business and should matter to any organization planning an event, whether it's an LGBTQ event or not.
Being LGBTQ-inclusive is easier than you might think, and it starts with your choice of destination. Here are some tips to create an inclusive meeting or event.
Seek to host your event in a state, or at the very least, a city, that is LGBTQ-friendly. This means, at minimum, a citywide antidiscrimination policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It's easy to check the policies at LGBTMap.org. Bonus points for locations that actively market to the LGBTQ community (ask the CVB about this). If your event is held somewhere besides a convention center, look for a hotel that scores a 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, a nationwide barometer of LGBTQ equality. Most major hotel chains score 100.
Train your front-line employees to understand the fluidity of gender, and that gender is a spectrum beyond the binary male or female. Train them on the basics of transgender folks, so there are no embarrassing incidents where an attendee is misgendered. Remove gendered language such as "sir" and "ma'am" from your standards for greetings.
Include pronoun identification as part of the event registration process and show pronouns on name badges, or offer as stickers at the registration desk. Google recently held an event where registrants were given the option to add pronoun labels to their name badges. Singular pronouns are no longer just he or she. Many people are identifying with the pronoun "they."
Update your registration and other forms to include "other" as a third gender option, and offer gender-neutral honorifics (such as Mx). Many companies now understand that great customer service starts with policies that provide diverse gender options on forms. When folks self-identify using "other" as a gender option and/or select an honorific such as "Mx," your service to these attendees will be elevated because you can address them properly.
Create a policy that allows attendees to choose the restroom of their actual gender identity and create at least one gender-neutral restroom in the event space. This could be as simple as rebranding a single-stall restroom for "all genders." For an even bolder approach, rebrand multi-stall restrooms for all genders. Then, make sure your team is prepared to direct attendees appropriately and explain the policy. This is so important that there are actually cities and states in the country that now require all single-stall restrooms to be labeled as all-gender restrooms. These new laws are designed to ensure that transgender and nonbinary people feel comfortable using the restroom (and as a positive side effect, will also cut down waits for women, who often have longer lines).
Bernadette Smith is CEO of the Equality Institute, a company whose mission is to help organizations win bigger by treating diverse workers and clients with dignity and respect. She has spoken to thousands at conferences and her expertise has been sought by the New York Times, the Washington Post and Fast Company, among many others, and she has appeared on the Today Show, the BBC, National Public Radio and CNN.