Let's talk about equality monitoring
The introduction of GDPR meant we needed to update our membership application forms to explain how we manage and use our members data. While we were redesigning our forms, we took the opportunity to ask some questions that we’ve never asked before, and to update others.
Accord is committed to promoting equal opportunities for all members and this means ensuring that we provide equal access to our services too. Like most organisations, we need to understand any barriers preventing this and equality monitoring helps us do that.
In addition, Accord takes part in the TUC Equality Audit which examines the steps unions are taking to promote equality in their membership and structures, and reflect the diversity of membership. It’s therefore important that we ask the right questions and understand who our members really are.
Since we’ve introduced our new membership forms we’ve had some interesting conversations about the choices we made, so we’re sharing more information about how and why we reached some of these decisions.
Why use the term queer?
We made an active choice to be inclusive and incorporate as many different identities as we could into the new application form. We could simply have added the binary identities we’re all familiar with, however these don’t work for everyone. We could have simply added the choice of other, but this denies people who may identify as queer from saying so and the LGBT+ community is an inclusive community — we know it’s annoying when your identity is erased or ignored.
"Queer is an umbrella term, and it’s pretty unlimited. Some people simply don’t wish to conform to binary choices (and why should they?) but others feel it describes the true nature of their sexuality/gender identity better. It also means that if the nature of someone’s relationship changes over time, they don’t have to erase their past or face complicated questions (for example if a straight woman develops a relationship with another woman, by using labels it may erase the past relationships and experiences she had with men)." - Chris Rimell
But isn’t it offensive?
No, but of course it can be.
Over the years, the LGBT+ community have tried to reclaim the term queer from those that sought to use it to disadvantage others. That doesn’t mean it’s without controversy. Some in the LGBT+ community remain divided, but that doesn’t mean it’s out-and-out offensive. It comes down to personal preference and individual choice.
It’s usually pretty straightforward to work out if you’re being offensive or not. If you intend to cause harm to someone, highlight their difference, or you are making assumptions about them or their appearance, then you’re probably causing offence and should stop." - Chris Rimell
People often talk about political correctness, thinking that by ignoring certain words you can avoid offence — however if you simply ignore someone's identity, you might well cause offence without even realising it.
The important thing is to create the right kind of environment where people can be themselves and express their identities without fear. If someone discloses their identity to you and gives you permission to refer to them in a certain way, then do so.
I don’t identify with the term queer and don’t like it. Why have you used it?
That’s absolutely fine. We have included a number of options to select from, and we would encourage people to let us know how they identify themselves. Of course there is also an option for those that prefer not to disclose as we understand we’re asking people to share with us very private and sensitive information — this option can be used if people simply don’t want to tell us too.
It’s important that we avoid being opinionated about liking or not liking a particular term. Just because one person might favour a term, doesn’t mean that there aren’t others that feel it describes them — it’s important to be inclusive and not to restrict how others would identify simply because we don’t particularly like the description.
Why did you use the term heterosexual rather than straight?
Although they are often used to mean the same thing, there is a nuanced difference. Throughout history the LGBT+ community have suffered from discrimination (and this continues to varying degrees today). Words have always been at the forefront of this discrimination and the term straight is part of the weaponisation of language to cause harm. That’s not to say it’s offensive, but it’s also not inclusive either.
"We use the term heteronormative to describe the societal norms and the default societal assumptions about who we are. For example, a heterosexual person never has to ‘come out’ and explain when they first decided they were straight, or justify their sexuality , and society always affords the right to marry. We call these privileges when one section of society has something that another does not. Even though the term straight is pretty commonplace, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t check our privilege and consider where and why the term originated. We decided to avoid using the term as it has the effect of highlighting difference, even if it’s considered an acceptable and inoffensive term by society." - Chris Rimell
Hopefully this article helps illustrate the ‘science’ behind the choices we made for our monitoring form. Words hold power, and it’s important to consider what we want to say and what the intentions of our words are.
About the Accord ED&I group
The Accord Equality Diversity & Inclusion group aims to ensure every individual has the right to an equal opportunity to maximise their potential, regardless of background, and to be treated with dignity and respect. It’s a place where diversity is celebrated, and all contributions are welcomed and cherished without prejudice or judgement. It’s also a chance to collectively learn from our experiences, allowing us to remove barriers and enrich each other’s lives.
If you’ve experienced any issues surrounding transphobia at work, or you want to know more about what Accord’s approach to equality, diversity & inclusion, get in touch at [email protected]