Diversity and Inclusion: Sexual Identity

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Traditionally we think in terms of man or woman. This binary is not inclusive of all people. Both staff and residents are likely to have gender identities that do not fit into these traditional stereotypes. Residents whose identities do not conform are placed in a bind when they fear that they need to conform to traditional gender stereotypes in order to receive good care. For example, a lesbian who lived her life openly may feel forced now to hide her identity in a residential setting. Staff are constrained by organizational requirements such as resident choice of gender for their caregivers or appearance expectations related to hair, make-up and dress. A male staff member who wears acrylic nails of reasonable length should not have to remove them to come to work.

Unknowingly, organizations reward gender conforming and punish those who do not. These codes are found in practices and policies that inhibit expression of a multitude of gender identities.

A person-centered approach values diversity. Empowering both residents and staff to be who they are at work and in the life of your community.

How can you and your organization take a more inclusive perspective on sexual and gender identities?

Some starting points might be:

  • Ask staff to write down five words they associate with women and five more they associate with men, share words and reflect on those as a group. How do these limit the ability of staff and residents to be themselves?
  • Create groups that include both staff and residents to review by-laws, organizational policies and practices that narrowly prescribe gendered behavior and suggest revisions.

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