It’s no longer enough to just be aware of the issues bred out of inequality and discrimination (in reality, this was never enough). Whether you run Zoom events, organise gigs or orchestrate world-class conferences, as an event planner, it’s important to take action to make sure you’re genuinely helping to affect change.
If you’re keen to contribute to the cause by making your event LGBTQIA+ inclusive, you might not necessarily know exactly what actions to take, though. With this article, we hope to provide you with a starting point.
Here are some of the most tangible and effective things you can do to foster inclusivity at your event.
Choose a location that has a reputation for being inclusive
It’s a sad truth that large segments of society practice discriminatory behaviour towards certain groups. One result of this is that some regions and areas are inherently less accepting of LGBTQIA+ people than others. Hosting an inclusive event, then, means making sure it’s held in an area that all people feel comfortable – and safe – spending time in. While this is far from a solution to the problem at large, it’s the best way to look after your attendees’ wellbeing, and show that you stand in solidarity with each and every one of them.
Avoid generalisations across all aspects of your event
From the dress code of your event, through to the language used in its content, it’s so important to educate yourself and other event stakeholders about the damaging nature of generalisations. That means not assigning a gender-specific dress code for men and women (e.g. ‘black tie’ vs ‘cocktail dresses’), and definitely not making assumptions about your audience through the use of dated language like ‘ladies and gentlemen’. Friendlier, more inclusive language includes addressing audiences with terms like ‘folks’ and ‘friends’. And dress codes should scrap the gender-assumptions, with language like ‘smart’, ‘party-ready’... ‘favourite superheroes’? The world’s your oyster!
Actively seek out diversity and true representation with your speakers, performers and event staff
When groups aren’t adequately represented, it fuels the fire of discrimination. Stereotypes are strengthened, and whole groups of people are left feeling as ‘other’, as opposed to ‘equal’. For this reason, it’s so important to actively make sure your event represents a truly diverse range of people. From speakers to performers to bar staff and vendors, it’s your duty to make sure a wide variety of voices are heard, and identities seen, at your event.
Carefully think through practical elements like restrooms and ID’s
First off, make sure all attendees to your event know they are free to use whichever restroom they feel comfortable with. Ideally, gender neutral restrooms should be used, or singular restrooms if gender neutral communal ones aren’t possible. Make sure signage on restrooms avoids generalisations and is inclusive – for example, it can help to scrap the old-school ‘man’ / ‘woman’ icons and use a toilet symbol instead, plus the standard wheelchair access symbol.
When it comes to attendee ID’s, it’s good to be aware of the fact some people may have names or pictures they no longer use, for example transgender people. Consider whether you really need to ask for ID – it might be enough to simply have a name list to check off. If you plan on using name tags, it can also be a good idea to offer pronoun stickers so people can clearly display which one they use. For example, ‘he/him’, ‘she/her’, ‘they/their’.
Do due diligence on your usual vendors and suppliers – seek out partners who are LGBTQIA+ inclusive
Walking the walk is as much about what you do as the people you partner with do. It’s no good being seen to support LGBTQIA+ communities if one of your sponsors has a reputation for doing the opposite. That’s why it’s vital to really do your due diligence with those your event is associated with. In turn, you should develop a zero tolerance policy for brands, organizations and companies whose values don’t align with yours.
Genuinely seek to grow your knowledge and understanding of the issues facing LGBTQIA+ communities
One of the reasons it can feel overwhelming to tackle issues of discrimination comes down to a lack of knowledge or understanding. The way to rectify this? Dig deep and do plenty of research; have an open mind and accept that there will be things you don’t know or ‘get’, but which you can strive your hardest to learn about.
Train your staff thoroughly and effectively
Investing in staff training is a crucial part of ending discrimination across all industries – not only events. Through providing staff with the proper education and knowledge, you’ll significantly increase the chances of your event feeling authentically inclusive, which is what – at its core – it should be.
We hope the above points have provided you with some initial inspiration for making sure your event is LGBTQIA+ inclusive. The most important thing you can do, though, is to keep reading, keep learning, and keep talking. The more the dialogue around LGBTQIA+ inclusivity continues, the closer we’ll get to it becoming an unwavering benchmark for all future events.
You might also find our article on fostering gender equality and inclusivity at industry events useful >