4. Gender and Identity: Diversity

In this lesson we will consider and better understand the inherent challenges of the LGBTQ community in workplace environments.


Gender identity is one’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender(s). Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their own internal sense of gender identity are not the same.

Gender expression/presentation is the physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. Most transgender people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender identity (who they are), rather than their sex assigned at birth.

Sex assigned at birth refers to the assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex based on a combination of anatomy, hormones and chromosomes.

Who we are sexually attracted to is considered to be our sexual orientation. Who we are romantically or emotionally attracted to may be defined as our romantic or emotional orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic or emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth.



Censoring information about ourselves can be awkward and stressful. The workplace has many minefields within its protocols for employees who are reticent or worried about disclosure. Consider all the implications and anxiety associated with disclosing one’s gender identity or sexual orientation in the workplace.


In the following vignette we hear from Mikiki, HIV/AIDS Harm Reduction Outreach Educator, Queen West Community Health Centre. Originally from Newfoundland, he is an artist working in the social service sector. He runs outreach teams for people who are homeless and use drugs, but his background is in sexual health education.



Diversity in gender identity may not be a part of our lived experience, and discomfort in the face of the unknown is a normal response. If we can live with our discomfort, educate ourselves, and get to know each person as an individual then we can take full advantage of the benefits of having a diverse team.

Here is a reminder of the power of diversity:



This next video shows an impromptu discussion in which team members seem to be moving towards an understanding that they need to address some diversity issues—and a reminder that your team might already be more diverse than you realize.



There is a huge effort required on the part of employees to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity. This effort affects productivity; physical, emotional and mental health; and professional relationships.

As an employer, are you prepared for the likelihood that anyone could appear and disclose their LGBTQ or gender reassignment status?

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