Currently in the United States, the political presidential race has begun and the un-savoury mud-slinging appears to be in full effect. A portion of the current roster of potential presidential candidates (and sadly the most spoken about) seems to be gaining steam by utilizing what I view as a blatant LGBTQ discriminatory stance. Many of them cite their religion as the base reasoning behind their aggressive anti-equality platform.

With major brands and organizations helping to fund political parties, politics are increasingly becoming a part of organizational values. Added to the fact that politics and religion are so closely tied in many cases, religious views are sneaking their way into workplace situations more and more frequently in tandem with politics, from basic “water-cooler” talk all the way to marketing, employment and decision- making.

I believe in debate. I believe in expression of belief as long as the fundamental rule of “it’s not only what you say, it’s also when and how you say it” is taken into consideration. Of course, I proudly promote the freedom of religion and the right to express it in appropriate ways, at appropriate times.

As a diversity and inclusion specialist, I must certainly recognize the views of all people at the table, even when at times I don’t personally agree with them. The existence of difference must always be respected. It’s a golden rule to live by, in and out of the workplace.

But what happens when it comes to facing expressed opinions and beliefs that appear to promote discrimination? It’s my job to mediate a multitude of diverse cultural ideas so that organizations around the globe can function with higher quality. However, there are times when my sensibilities scream at me to draw a line. But if I did so, I wonder: as a diversity and inclusion practitioner, am I walking my own talk? Diversity See, Diversity Do

When it comes to discrimination, there is often a “bad guy”, which makes it very easy to point a finger and say “you are wrong.” While LGBTQ discrimination in any form is avidly against my own personal values as well as my group of companies, I am clearly seeing that there are people, and subsequently organizations, who sincerely disagree with me. These people aren’t monsters; they aren’t all hate-mongers. Many of them are hard-working citizens who pay their taxes and put their shoes on in the morning just like the rest of us. However, they have grown up in an environment that has taught them to value something that, in their minds, they believe others shouldn’t have, and they sincerely believe they are in the right.

Global Learning has been and always will be a bold advocate for LGBTQ rights, in and out of the workplace, on a civil and global human rights level. Several members on our Global Learning team, both here in Canada and in the US, including advisor (and this year’s Toronto Gay Pride Parade Grand Marshall) Michael Bach of KPMG Canada, who are very proud LGBTQ global citizens. I have personally witnessed each of these team members strive to make this world a more inclusive and proud place for all of us to live in.

My personal and professional experiences have led me to the following understanding:

Homosexuality is a facet of human nature, meaning it is natural or organic. I’m a firm believer in LGBTQ people being born LGBTQ – a debate that has always baffled me. None of us know the full sincere experience of another, ever. It’s impossible. My brain is not your brain; your eyes are not my eyes. We have the ability to feel empathy. We can understand. But two people can never share the same identical experience. So if I, as a heterosexual woman, am told by a multitude of highly regarded, brilliantly educated, and upstanding LGBTQ people that they know they were born as they are, I have nothing in my arsenal to say otherwise, as I am not LGBTQ. I would also ask the naysayers that if they know for fact they are heterosexual, why is it outrageous to believe the same of a homosexual person? Interesting how we often get lost in what makes us different and forget to examine the power of similarities – the bridge between diversity and inclusion.

While I must and do always respect that there are people who, as a part of their religious views, will not adjust their mindset in regards to LGBTQ citizens, I most certainly will never support the belief that those religious individuals have the right to restrict or deny the civil rights of any other portion of the global population, let alone their own national population.

As you can see I clearly don’t agree with the anti-LGBTQ view point, but as a diversity and inclusion professional, my opinion is neither here nor there. I can’t say that’s ever an easy pill to swallow in situations like these. But I must work to find the common ground between both sides of this issue when it comes to workplace mediation and diversity training.

In the professional world of diversity and inclusion, I have found the political difference line, which subsequently often ties in with a religious thread, one that takes lots of skill and finesse to navigate on a corporate / organizational level.

In this time of economic strife and social disenfranchisement, as diversity and inclusion entrepreneurs we must clearly define our role. Are we activists? Are we mediators? Are we both? And if so, how do we make that work without it being a conflict of interest?

I can’t say I have all the answers. It’s something we need to think about and be sure we are handling appropriately. If the “”It Gets Better Project” and “The Trevor Project” have taught us anything, it’s that actual lives are at stake when it comes to this issue, and we are the change agents that can help make this shift on a corporate level.

What is your plan?

“I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
~ Roger Ebert (post tracheotomy)

about the author - Elaine

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