Home- Benchmark
Our Training
Learning Portal
Best Practices
in Learning
Orientation to
Legal Services
About Us
Support Us
Contact Us

Session Materials
MCLE Information
       Sign In
       Sign Out-Evaluation
Technical Help

27 Practical Suggestions to Make Your Organization More GLBT Friendly


By Dara L. Schur, PAI, Inc. who modified excerpts from "Out of the Closet & Into Your Agency" by The Alliance for Diverse Aging Community Services.


1.   Don't assume heterosexuality, even when you know the client is married, divorced or has children.


2.   Make sure your intake and assessment forms include partner, spouse, or significant other in the marital status categories.


3.   Educate your staff to affirm the importance of whoever is in the client's file that is special to him or her.  Ask the client to qualify the relationship that is listed as an "emergency contact." Ask who is significant in their support system (example:  "Is there someone who is important to you that you would like included in this interview?  He or she is welcome to join us.")


4.   Don't neglect to ask about sexual orientation and significant relationship when taking a relationship or sexual history, if such histories are relevant to the services being provided.


5.   Don't expect total disclosure about sexual orientation. Respect the privacy of clients you think might be gay/lesbian/bi-sexual.  You may have to be content with very vague references from them about their personal lives. Remember that they may feel fear, shame, or internalized homophobia.


6.   Not all gay people know each other.  Protect your clients' privacy. Unless you have prior permission, never reveal the sexual orientation of a client to another client just because you know they are both gay.  When you are "in the closet" you are hidden from everyone.


7.   Provide diversity training.  Educate your staff to listen for the client's language cues.  Client may use gender neutral terms, talk in third person, or use the phrases "we," "they," "them" when talking about their life.


8.   Include sexual orientation in your agency's non-discrimination policy and in the agency's mission statement.


9.   Include the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population in your diversity outreach program for under-served groups.


10.   Try to create in your staff and Board of Directors a gender, racial and sexual orientation diversity.


11.   Be inclusive in the language such as "spouse, partner, companion or non-traditional family."  Use gay-friendly statements in your brochures and flyers. These are words gay men and lesbians will recognize and appreciate. They may feel safer to participate at your agency.


12.   Gay and lesbian support groups, speakers and activities should be an integral part of your regular programming and publicity.


13.   Include relevant lesbian/gay/bi-sexual/transgender pamphlets and literature in your office waiting area.  Include educational materials and brochures from gay/lesbian/bisexual/ transgender resources. If your local area does not have resources, you can list national agencies, internet sites, gay affirming churches/synagogues.

14.   Hang pictures in your lobby and in your public relations brochures that show non-traditional families and couples.


15.   Advertise in the gay and lesbian press.  Send press releases to gay/lesbian press.  Send your literature to gay/lesbian organizations.  Put flyers in gay friendly bookstores, coffee houses, churches, libraries, social service agencies, therapists' and medical offices.


16.   Invite a speaker from a GLBT organization to do a presentation or diversity training for your agency or for your clients.


17.   Collaborate with other agencies and social service providers to provide more GLBT services and broaden your outreach area.


18.   Advocate for your clients – know the legal documents that can provide protection for GLBT relationships.  Unless they have completed power of attorney documents, they have none of the legal protections that married, heterosexual couples enjoy.


19.   Not all men talk about sports, not all women want to talk about cooking.  Remember to think beyond traditional interests and/or topics of conversation based on gender roles.


20.   Recognize that like heterosexuals, different types of relationships exist: long-term monogamous couple, life-long partners who don't live together, open relationships, marriage or holy unions.


21.   Make yourself as comfortable as possible with the diversity of sexual orientations. Look at your own feelings, values and beliefs.  Remember the best way to make GLBT people feel comfortable is to learn as much as you can.


22.   Be respectful by addressing a transgender client by the name and pronoun he or she uses, regardless of their biology or legal identification.


23.   If you do not know the gender of your client's significant other use gender-neutral pronouns or open-ended language until you find out.


24.   Ask questions in a non-judgmental manner.


25.   Become aware of GLBT resources in your community, and provide links and referrals to the GLBT community.


26.   Advocate for inclusive policies securing equal treatment and respect for GLBT clients.


27.   Learn about and be aware of societal and familial homophobia.