On December 2, I attended a workshop called Working Well with LGBTQ+ Communities: Business Skills Workshop, led by ARCH (HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health).
The workshop was a pilot project based on their Voices of Value program for service providers that was adapted to fit the needs of for-profit businesses. The goal: to help businesses learn more about the challenges that LGBTQ+ individuals face, particularly folks who are trans or non-binary, and how businesses can use that knowledge to make their spaces more inclusive.
It was a neat intersection of participants with folks who work in community health, restaurants and small business owners. The 10 or so participants embarked on a journey to educate themselves and consider how they can bring that learning and awareness into their business practices.
At the end of the workshop, all the participants signed an agreement to work towards developing anti-discrimination policies for their businesses that include the protection of queer and trans individuals. In exchange, participants received a window and digital decal, and their business will be listed on a safe spaces map of Guelph.
The workshop made me think about a lot of things I can incorporate into my freelance writing business. The great thing about working for yourself is that you get to decide how you want your business to run and make up all the rules as you go along. Aka no red tape, no bureaucracy, no one to convince when you want to try something new.
So I came up with a few ideas for how I’d like to make my business as inclusive as possible.
- Develop a mission statement and set of values. This would include a focus on regular anti-oppression training and education for myself as well as developing specific processes that aim to be inclusive of marginalized groups. LGBTQ+ folks are just one group out of many who experience the negative effects of capitalism, racism and patriarchy, and I hope to work towards creating a business that challenges those processes and works towards including the vocies and experiences of marginalized folks, whenever possible.
- Create forms and processes that are inclusive of diverse identities. This could inlcude a lot of different things. One that came to mind in the workshop is starting every interview and client agreement by recording the person’s name and pronouns as they wish them to appear. Another idea I had was scheduling meetings in locations that are accessible and have gender neutral washrooms, and relaying that information to the person I am meeting with in advance. It is important to me that I not make any assumptions about a person’s abilities or gender identity, so I want to make our meetings and interactions as safe as possible for as many types of people as possible.
- Keep educating myself. This workshop was a great first step towards working with a specific group of people – LGBTQ+ folks. But in order to have a business that challenges capitalism and other structures that disproportionately affect minority and marginalized groups, I must be constantly working to educate myself about the experiences of people whose lives are different than mine and how I can make my work and my business more inclusive of those experiences. I would like to set a goal of attending anti-oppression training at least twice a year and holding myself accountable to that by writing blogs about each training experience.
I am excited about the possibilities that this training started to get me thinking about, and look forward to carrying out some of the steps I came up with during the workshop. Huge thanks to ARCH and Jasper for running this event!