Work, Insights, Q&APOSTED February 10, 2021

Learning & Unlearning: How to be an ally for LGBTQ2S+ Community

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Rainbow Pride flag (Freedom flag) with heart elements – LGBT community and movement of sexual minorities.

True diversity and inclusion are about genuinely listening to others while unlearning negative stereotypes towards certain people groups that society presented us with. We sat down and spoke with trans advocates and educators Angel Glady and Virgin Mariana Cortes from The Milkshake Sisters to learn more about what inspired them to launch their LGBTQ2S+ training program.

What motivated you to create your LGBTQ2S+ training?  

Angel: We were inspired to create the workshop because trans people have a different lens they can bring to the table. Trans people have special skills and insights in so many things, just like cis people, and they will enrich creative and strategic thinking for any organization that includes them. We also wanted to highlight that everyone must be treated equally no matter what their background.

Virgin: We wanted to inform people about how complex it is for trans people to achieve something that is considered normal for cis people. Trans people don’t have the same access to support and education, and they face rejections on so many fronts. It’s crucial for employers to be understanding of this and intentionally create a safe and friendly space for them. We wanted people to understand trans people’s identity and context so that organizations can lay a proper groundwork to support these individuals.

Why do we see high unemployment in trans population?

Virgin: The high unemployment rate in trans people is not surprising because there’s a lot of misunderstanding and false preconception around trans people. There is automatic assumption that they are not qualified.

Angel: To add onto Virgin’s point, bias is not just about trans people but also people of colour. Even accents and skin colour can be a disadvantage added on top of being trans.

What do cis people need to be aware of in terms of their privileges?

Virgin: Just having access to basic needs and being oneself is a privilege. Trans people have to fight for these basic rights and everything’s hard for trans people. They have to fight for small things such as access to safe washroom and having any kind of relationships.

Angel: I think cis people don’t necessarily have the nuance to understand the trans community. I find that some use trans people as token to show off equality and inclusion. Just because organizations think they are being inclusive doesn’t mean that they have full understanding of something they didn’t experience. You need to have training to fully understand trans people’s situation. Besides, you need to be friends with trans people because you genuinely like them, not to fulfill any ulterior motives.

Any hopes and aspirations for the workshop in 2021?

Virgin: I want to see more trans people being hired and having powerful roles. Having more options for education and employment and stop seeing trans people being murdered because they are trans.

Angel: Most trans people that are being murdered are people of colour. It’s tragic because it adds a layer to it. Being trans and people of colour at the same time is extremely hard. I want to see lot of trans people being empowered so that they can make changes to our society. We need to evolve and adapt for all the things that are coming. Trans people should be understood and accepted for who they are.

How did you choose to name yourselves as The Milkshake Sisters?

Angel: We chose the milkshake sisters because it has a touch of humour. Technically, it means two women that dated the same guy at different times, and we wanted to own that in some ways because we are so connected since we faced similar situations in our lives. We wanted people to laugh at it and we wanted to use it boldly.

Virgin: The fact that Angel and I, even though we are from India and Colombia, have had similar life experiences because of our background as trans women. We are like a milkshake in the sense that we put everything in there and it blends well.  We also use humour as a tool to make it friendly and interesting.

What achievements are proud of in your career?

Angel: I was born and raised in a small village in India which meant that I didn’t get to go to English school like other kids. I also thought my life was going to change in Canada drastically when I moved here, but I quickly recognized that there is so much work to be done. Because we still have a long way to go in Canada, doing a workshop about gender and sexuality now is a big achievement for me. I have a platform here and I am proud of that.

Virgin: I’m proud of myself for coming to Canada, being here today, getting education, and starting a new career. The fact that I met Angel and we were able to start building small pieces with Ken from APEX PR’s support for The Milkshake Sisters means a lot to me. That project is my baby, and I am proud of how well-developed it is.

What are the best ways to be an ally to the LGBTQ2S+ community in workplaces?

Angel: Ask proper questions to these people. Treat them as you want to be treated. Listen to them fully. Don’t wait for trans people to come and educate you. You need to educate yourself first because that way, you won’t burden trans people with more. Remember that they have been fighting their whole life for things most people take for granted and that on its own is a big burden.

Virgin: Doing your homework is so important. Also, be mindful that not every trans person has to tell you everything about themselves; they don’t have to explain everything to you. We have Internet access these days and this means that you can do your research easily. You can ask questions after doing your homework for further clarifications. Most of all, be willing to learn.

Angel and Virgin are featured in our latest episode of The Pivot. For more on their LGBTQ2S+ training program, tune in here:

The definition of the word ally is not enough as a noun. We need to transform its meaning into a verb so that we can be proactive allies for marginalized groups in our society. We may have a long road ahead of us towards full inclusion, but the power of taking small steps and keeping an open mind is more powerful than we think. Taking the first step itself could be difficult but it will be well worth it when we look at how enriching and rewarding authentic inclusion is.

To book for The Milkshake Sisters for a exclusive workplace workshop, please contact Ken Evans at kevans@apexpr.com

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