Westpac, BNZ, ANZ, and Vodafone have it wrong with their recent withdrawal of support for the Auckland Pride Parade, but the T is almost always silent in corporate LGBTQIA+ initiatives.
The background of the Pride Parade situation hasn’t been widely reported. The Auckland Pride Board has consultation meetings each year and this year many LGBTQIA+ people shared their personal experiences of Police mistreatment. Their statement says “complaints about Police consistently outnumbered feedback about any other institution or organisation” and “the visibility of the Police uniform, in particular, had made them feel less safe about participating in the Auckland Pride Parade”. This might be surprising for White people who pass as straight, but reality is different for others, especially trans people and people of colour.
Before voicing your opinion from a position of privilege, think about this issue from the point of view of a POC or trans person like myself. Seeing a police officer in uniform may be triggering to some and I can confirm that it is for me.
— Miss Geena (@MxGeena) November 12, 2018
I just wish my 'daily' rights as a trans person were as important as an officer being told they can't wear their work uniform in a parade 'once a year'…. *sigh*
— Miss Geena (@MxGeena) November 12, 2018
So, a compromise was reached. The Pride Board said Police were welcome to march in the Parade, just not in their Police uniforms. In response, Police decided they would not march at all, and a number of companies, including Westpac, BNZ, ANZ, and Vodafone pulled out of Pride in solidarity with the Police.
This has brought a tension that’s existed inside corporate Rainbow groups into the public eye. Most people involved are White and cisgender (the gender they identify with is the same as their birth sex). Most also have class privilege, being employed in white-collar jobs. Sometimes ‘allies’ (non-Rainbow people) are involved in the groups as well. It certainly seems in the cases of at least Westpac and Vodafone that non-Rainbow employees were involved in the decision to pull out of the Pride Parade. But even if they weren’t, the majority of Rainbow employees would have very different experiences with the Police to trans and Rainbow people of colour, whose experiences with Police are largely negative.
Westpac, BNZ, ANZ and Vodafone have all indicated that the Police uniform being present at Pride is more important from an inclusivity perspective than making all members of the Rainbow community feel comfortable at Pride. They’ve got it wrong, and it’s partly because their groups of Rainbow employees, and employees generally are not diverse.
Corporates, even if they’re Rainbow Tick certified, often fall short in relation to the trans community. The lack of lived experiences of trans people in corporate Rainbow groups is evident with how difficult some trans customers find it to change their title, name, or gender. Have a look at your driver licence – it doesn’t list a title, or a gender, and most organisations will let you open an account using it as identification. But trans and other gender diverse people have to jump through hoops to have their title or gender changed, even though they never provided ‘proof’ of their current gender or title when opening their account. For example, they might like their title (e.g. Mr/Ms) on the mail sent to their house or flat to match the gender they present as – but this is sometimes a big ask.
Cisgender people, even if they’re part of the Rainbow community and employees of the organisation would never have experienced this. They’d also never experience a code being placed on their profile without their knowledge ‘outing’ them as trans or gender diverse to all staff so call centre staff don’t lock them out of their accounts for sounding like the “wrong gender”. This is one way to address a poor experience – staff otherwise using how someone sounds on the phone as an indicator that they’re talking to the right person – but the other is simply to train staff not to consider how someone sounds on the phone if they pass all other authentication questions, avoiding storing highly sensitive information about customers. It’s tough to rely on corporate Rainbow groups to make sure companies get things like that right. Even if one person raises a concern they can be drowned out by the majority of White and cisgender members, or by the White, straight, cisgender decision-maker.
It’s unfortunate that some people seem to have forgotten that their experience of the world as a member of the Rainbow community might be very different to other’s. Maybe at next year’s less corporate Pride Parade we can reflect on that.