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Pay to Parade
It’s always appropriate to compensate people when they are performing employer-mandated tasks, and it sounds like your company is doing just that. If employees are required to participate in the Pride parade, they should be paid for that time. Anyone would appreciate being offered compensation for volunteering to participate in a Pride parade, but I’m not sure that’s a realistic expectation.
And yet, so many companies only offer lip service during heritage and cultural affinity months. In June, you see the Pride flag everywhere. Corporations alter their logos to include the rainbow. They hold events and send out newsletters and so on. The gestures are generally well meaning but shallow and fleeting. On July 1, it all disappears until the following year.
We could discuss any number of reasons people would resist (or resent) something like this, but let’s not. So often, organizations make decisions based on what will cause the least amount of friction, which means they don’t do much in the way of making progress.
It would be incredibly meaningful to try something different and support queer employees and allies with compensation for attending Pride, especially now. Instead of thinking about all the objections, consider why this might be a great idea.
Is Now the Time to Stand My Ground?
Given the challenges the L.G.B.T.Q. community is facing right now, you are looking at this in exactly the right way. If we don’t take unequivocal stands right now, we will lose more ground than we already have. Your employer is doing what many companies are doing — trying to appease everyone by standing for absolutely nothing.
It’s disgraceful and sets a terrible precedent that allows a very vocal minority to dictate everything from curriculum to health care. Your employer should do the right thing — which is to refuse to bypass or erase L.G.B.T.Q. content and ensure that its technologies will never be used to discriminate against any group. Managers should support their queer employees by demonstrating solidarity in both word and deed.
It is perfectly acceptable to leave a workplace where you don’t feel supported, or where your employer does things that you believe are actively harmful to your community. After two decades, this must feel like a real betrayal and I can imagine how difficult a decision you are facing. Still, your company is demonstrating the reality we all must contend with — an employer is not a friend or an ally. In general, companies will make decisions that benefit themselves first and foremost. You should do the same.
Yes, it is more than OK to ask about pronouns. It demonstrates that you are caring and considerate and recognize that gender exists on a spectrum. We cannot assume that how someone presents is how they identify. Asking about pronouns simply removes any ambiguity and ensures that you’re always referring to your colleagues in the manner they prefer.
The Limits of Care
Your employer’s solution is less than ideal. Unfortunately, when dealing with bigotry, there are few ideal options. Patients can choose medical providers according to their preferences. I’m not sure you have any recourse, but I would love for medical professionals to weigh in on this.
I do know that many health care workers from diverse backgrounds deal with patient bigotry. It’s a significant contributor to burnout in medical professions. I suppose it’s something that the patient visits the office on your off days, but it would be better if your employers had principles and refused to do business with a bigot.
They should value your safety and ensure that you work in an environment that doesn’t tolerate discrimination of any kind. You have to decide if you can continue working at this practice under these conditions. And if you can’t, it is time to find new employment. I wish you the very best as you navigate this.
How Much Is Too Much?
You are never making things too hard for your colleagues by asking for your pronouns to be respected. When you shared your pronouns and said “she/her is fine, too,” your colleagues took you at your word. They are using what is most comfortable for them rather than what is most comfortable for you.
If you want to be affirmed as they/them, you’re going to have to make your preference clear without offering the option of she/her. In an ideal world, people would be mindful of using both sets of pronouns regularly. That isn’t too much to ask, but it may be too much to expect in the workplace where you encounter a range of attitudes toward and familiarity with gender identification.
Write to Roxane Gay at [email protected].