Equality Institute

Equality Insights Blog

Beyond the Rainbow

My colleague Jenn T. Grace recently released her fourth LGBTQ book and we love it. Beyond the Rainbow shares sage insights to bring businesses up to speed with LGBTQ culture and inclusion.

Beyond the Rainbow is incredibly practical, a fast and easy read, and full of stories that illustrate her points in a way that just make sense. One of the things I liked about the book were the stories that Jenn shared from her own experience working in corporate America, and some of the challenges she faced being out in the workplace. LGBTQ employees still struggle with this and the more employers can do to be supportive of their LGBTQ employees, the likelier they are to win the war for talent.

Although authenticity is a buzzword, there is no secret sauce to become authentic. Companies who are authentic about choosing to have an inclusive workforce and choosing to serve the LGBTQ community will be more successful. It's simple, but it's not easy. Beyond the Rainbow provides logical strategies for authenticity, such as how a company responds and supports its LGBTQ employees and customers after an event like the Pulse massacre.

The LGBTQ market is a 900+ billion dollar market annually in the U.S. alone. Companies can't afford to make mistakes, either with their internal policies or in their customer service efforts. Beyond the Rainbow is practical primer for increasing LGBTQ inclusion that every HR manager, Marketing director, and even small business owner should read.

Introducing FLEX

We realize that pulling employees from the floor for a mandatory training is expensive, often requires overtime pay and sometimes coordination with a union. Equality Institute is proud to introduce a new online training solution designed to integrate with a company or institution's existing Learning Management System (LMS).

Equality Institute's FLEX (Front Line Employee eXcellence) program is a series of videos designed to make cultural competency training accessible for all levels of employees. Our short videos deliver powerful, but simple tips, on how to provide excellent customer service to diverse customers, clients and guests. The FLEX core program focuses on customer service to transgender and gender diverse customers, and the entire training takes about 20 minutes. 

To schedule an online demo of FLEX, email us today!

Bernadette Smith
New Ad Campaigns Feature LGBTQ Couples

It's year-end, which means that your company may be revisiting its marketing images and ad campaigns for the coming year. This is the perfect opportunity for your business to make steps towards inclusivity. LGBTQ individuals are incredibly brand loyal and want to see themselves represented. 

There are a few major corporations which have stood out boldly in the past few weeks with ads that have included gay and lesbian couples. Take a look at some of the ads below by fearless companies such as Hershey, Nordstrom, Sprint and Zales Jewelers and decide if this approach is something that fits with your brand:

Bernadette Smith
Understanding Unconscious Bias and Microaggressions

Unconscious bias is a sneaky thing. We're all guilty of it. If you've ever assumed someone is gay or lesbian, you're guilty of it. Yes, even "gaydar" is unconscious bias.

The "official" definition according to the LGBTQ Council is: an unquestioned or automatic assumption about an individual, usually based on positive or negative traits associated with a group they belong to, that prevents them from treating them as an individual. 

Unconscious bias can relate to every type of person - people of color, people of different religious backgrounds, races, people who are LGBTQ, people who are homeless, people with disabilities, people who are mentally ill and more. There is even unconscious bias towards the most privileged groups. And yes, we can even have unconscious bias towards people in our own "group."

Is this necessarily a bad thing? Not necessarily - if we keep this to ourselves. But often in the business of customer service, unconscious bias creeps in (think racial profiling) and microaggressions occur. It's the microaggressions which can cause trouble for your company.

Direct from our survey respondents, here are just a few examples of microaggressions which can occur in LGBTQ customer service:

  • “Had the owner of one venue tell my wife that she ‘looks straight as straight can be’”
  • "Almost every hotel assumes we are not together and will book us into a two bed room, even when a single bed is specifically requested”
  • “Being told you don’t act gay or look trans as if it’s an accomplishment.”
  • “Seeing every billboard and advertisement depict straight couples as the only option.”
  • "If I walk into a men's clothing store or department, I feel like they reluctantly provide assistance and that I'm unwelcomed."
  • "I'm afraid of other people's aggression when they feel that I am in the 'wrong' area."

How are you preparing your team to avoid microaggressions?

Speaking to a Trans or Nonbinary Customer by Phone

When one of your team members is speaking to a customer on the phone and pulling up their account information, they may find that the account information references a male name when the voice on the phone sounds very female. Or vice versa. Or the person on the phone doesn't identify as male or female yet your data puts them in one of those boxes.

This unfortunately leads to lots of awkward phone conversations and being asked to transfer to a manager. Here are some comments from our survey respondents:


The phone is always the most challenging. I understand but please listen to me when I ask for you to correct it. When I explained I was not a sir he asked if I would rather be called brother.
I get, "I can't give you any information on this account. The account holder is female and you are obviously male." I get referred to managers a lot.
I'm often refused entry to things or access to my accounts because my voice doesn't match my feminine first name. I've even been TOLD by customer service that I'm NOT who I say I am.


Legally changing gender is a LOT of work and can be a significant time and money drain. Additionally, federal offices don't speak well to each other or have linked systems where a name is updated throughout. This creates challenges with transgender individuals but does not need to create major challenges for your institution. 

Training your phone CSRs to sensitively interact with the LGBTQ community is another area your institution can show inclusiveness. Here are some best practices for managing a phone call where one guest is transgender or gender nonconforming:

Internal Policies

  • Consider whether you actually need to collect someone's gender on forms, and how relevant that information actually is.
  • If it is, update your internal policies to allow for a box beyond male or female on forms. Include "other" and/or "transgender."
  • Update your internal policies to allow for titles beyond Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Dr and include Mx (the gender neutral honorific).

Customer Service Best Practices

  • Don't challenge someone's identity. If the name in your files is Danielle yet they are speaking to you with a more "male" voice, ask other qualifying questions such as date or place of birth to verify identity.
  • Avoid use of "sir" and "ma'am."
  • Mistakes happen. If your CSR does slip up and use the wrong pronoun or uses "sir" or "ma'am" inappropriately, apologize quickly with a comment like: “I'm sorry for using the wrong pronoun/name. I did not mean to disrespect you.” 
  • Don't feel the need to transfer the customer to a manager unless there are other issues that arise - it makes the transgender customer feel marginalized.

Do you have a policy in place for training your phone CSRs?