Because we live in a world that has a beautiful assortment of people, our events should also reflect those demographics. As a Event Planner in DC, I’m always asked how can events be more diverse. The problem with that is many people only see diversity as the color of your skin or gender.

While having multiple ethnic backgrounds at events is amazing, it doesn’t stop there. One community to consider is the LGBTQ community. Now before I go on, let me be clear what this blog post is not about.

What are LGBTQ Inclusive Events not about?

  1. Converting your sexuality
  2. Making you participate in any agenda you don’t want to
  3. Getting you to plan a LGBTQ event

The purpose of this is to allow you to understand that if you are planning a corporate or social event, you must plan it for all attendees. Inclusive event planning means catering to who is in your workforce. While some may not be open to sharing their sexual preference, you don’t need to know in order to have a LGBTQ inclusive events.

Gallup reports, the percentage of American adults identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) increased to 4.5% in 2017, up from 4.1% in 2016 and 3.5% in 2012 when Gallup began tracking the measure.

Because attendees want to feel included, when a company fails to do so, they can be seen as out of touch, disrespectful and even offensive. Did you know that more than 571 major businesses have received top honors as “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality,” according to HRC’s Corporate Equality Index?

 Photo: Mercedes Mehling Photo: Mercedes Mehling

What Are 8 Ways to Have More LGBTQ Inclusive Events?

LGBTQ Speakers

I really love seeing TED Talks. This company is a perfect example that we can all follow. They focus on topics and not on sexual orientation or skin color. If you are having a conference consider who will be presenting. If you have the opportunity to book 10 speakers, how many of them are in the LGBTQ community?

LGBTQ Vendors

When attending a fair, job expo or convention are you inviting business owners from the LGBTQ community? You can easily search the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce website for companies in your area that could benefit from your event.

Event Communication

One industry that is still struggling in the communication field is the wedding industry. Despite the Supreme Court granting LGBTQ couples the right to marry in 2015, there are companies that continue to use

  1. Bridal party vs wedding party especially when two grooms are getting married
  2. Always addressing the Bride and not Bride and Groom
  3. Having entry forms that say Bride and Groom which for LGBTQ couples is offensive

As you can see the words you use truly matter. Avoid using him, his, her, hers, guys or even ladies and gentlemen. There are many who do not identify with any of these titles. General terms such as guests, they, and colleagues are accepted.

All Gender Restrooms

Photo: Tim Mossholder

I for one think all gender restrooms are the best when feasible. I also understand that for large venues it becomes more difficult to have a ton of individual bathrooms. When that isn’t possible at least consider a few single-occupancy restrooms that allow those who do not identify as male or female to use them without feeling uncomfortable.

Event Registration Forms

We use registration forms for various reasons. Maybe you have a workshop, conference, or charity dinner coming up. You want to get the demographics information so you can see what your audience looks like. However, registration forms have moved from selecting Mr. or Mrs. as the title. To be more inclusive, consider allowing each person to enter their own title.

Pay Attention To Your Event Location

If you are hosting an event, location is critical for obvious reasons. One thing to consider is whether or not that venue is open to LGBTQ inclusive events. Using weddings to provide another example, not all churches support gay marriage. Hosting an event at their location may send a sour note to those in the gay community who would have attended if not for the venue’s position.

Event Will Call Procedures

There are tons of events that have a Will Call for guests who purchase tickets and want to pick them up at the venue. Concerts, plays, baseball games all offer this option. It’s critical that if you have a check in that you understand some attendees might not match the name on their ID. This is important to the transgender community.

TSA and some airlines have run into issues with this. Lenore Herrem, a transgender woman, had never encountered problems with her ID while traveling before. However, on August 8, a WestJet gate agent outed her as trans to an entire plane. Could you imagine going through this experience?

Train Your Event Staff

Staff Meeting

As a DC Event Planner it is my responsibility to ensure my team is sensitive to all types of people. It’s also your job as the event host to have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to homophobic and transphobic language. At any event that serves alcohol people tend to get too relaxed and can act inappropriately. It’s up to us to act fast and ensure all guests are respected and if necessary remove guests from events.

This also has to do with your company culture and the values you enforce. All employees should know what you stand for. Allowing comments to be made in the office, jokes or not, should not be tolerated.

In Conclusion

As easy as it is to respect others, it’s just as easy to be disrespectful. Please research how to be more LGBTQ friendly and what diversity training involves. There are many agencies who teach multicultural awareness and diversity. Consider creating a diversity and inclusion program in your company.

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