It’s the season when hospitality avatars are sporting rainbow flags for Pride Month, but the time to be considerate of those who count themselves in the LGBTQ+ community is all year long. That is why we asked Chase Brunson, CLE, Austin Bar Association sections and events manager, who is serving as director of marketing for Texas Hill Country Chapter and is a member of MPI’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee for tips on how to show support in ways big and small.

Bold and Proud

Chase Brunson

Penning diversity and inclusion policies is a great step, but if they are stiff, cold and hidden, they are not serving the purpose of welcoming all to events or venues. “Burying in Company Culture tabs is a big mistake,” Brunson said. “They don’t have to be long or fancy, but make it unique to you and let people know your organization is welcoming by displaying it everywhere,” he said. “We’re events, we should be fun. Make it upbeat.” That will make people who are looking for those signs more likely to spend their dollars with your organization.

Brunson’s example text:

Respect costs us nothing. We believe if you are lucky enough to be different, that should be celebrated. We are proud to offer our services to all communities regardless of gender identity, race, social orientation, ethnicity, age, culture, religion or ability.

More: What Meeting Profs Get Wrong About DEI—and How to Start Fixing It

Another indicator of openness: Include pronouns in your email signature line and social media profiles. (he/him/his, she/her/hers, or gender neutral they/them). If you aren’t a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you probably aren’t thinking about it, but it gives the message you are making an effort to show you are accepting. LinkedIn has made it possible to put your pronouns in your name without even typing. “It’s a small step for you, but it shows allyship,” Brunson said.

One more easy step: Google Maps offers the option for LGBT-friendly or trans-inclusive flags on venues. Similarly, a lot of hotel brands run Pride-friendly campaigns. That can attract people who make an effort to work with cities and suppliers that are accepting.

Just Ask

Giving people options is a shortcut to not offending. If your venue doesn’t have gender-neutral restrooms available, ask if you can convert some.

See alsoThe All-Inclusive Meetings Revolution

Sometimes the trick is not to ask. If you aren’t using the data about the gender of your attendee for anything meaningful, don’t collect it at registration.

If you are, give options to self-describe. In addition to male/female, ask “How would you describe your gender?”

That is much nicer than “other.”

The same, “ask only if you need the information” approach works with legal names. You may need for financial or credential purposes, but have an option for preferred name that will go on the name tag.

Ad provide a space for pronouns (see above).

Don’t Do

Brief speakers on how they address the audience in advance. “Welcome everyone” is much more inclusive than “ladies and gentlemen.”

MoreDEI Resources for Meeting Planners

If there will be a team activity, don’t separate by men and women. “Choose shirt color, glasses, anything else,” Brunson said.

Finally, don’t roommate match if possible. “You could potentially be putting people in danger and it could come back to the company. Have other options available,” he advised.

Travel with Pride

LGBTQ+ travelers can face unique challenges when traveling abroad. Many countries do not legally recognise same-sex marriage and more than 70 countries consider consensual LGBTQ+ relationships a crime.  Suzanne Sangiovese, commercial and communications director at the travel consulting company Riskline pointed to an SAP Concur study that showed 95 percent of LGBTQ+ travelers have hidden their orientation on a business trip to protect their safety. Employers need to shape their duty of care polices accordingly.

5 Steps to LGBTQ+ Traveler Safety

  1. Pre-Trip Assessment: Make sure you have relevant and up-to-date information to fully understand the traveler’s destination. Review the country’s local laws and customs—in some cases, acceptance can vary dramatically within different regions of the same country.
  2. Preparation: It is essential that each individual knows they are being taken care of when traveling on their employer’s behalf.Ensure travelers are well informed ahead of time and aware of thelaws that they will be subject to at their destinationCompanies will need to make their duty of care information available to everyone, since they can’t ask who their LGBTQ+ employees are and some may want to keep their status confidential. 
  3. Supplier Engagement: Engage your suppliers so they can help you to support staff. Enquire about their DEI policies and the measures they take for diverse travellers and guests.
  4. During Travel: Having the right technology in place means you can quickly locate and communicate with travelers at any point during their trip. 
  5. Post-Trip: Post-trip evaluation, such as a survey, will gather data which can help to evolve and refine a duty of care policy.