Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2024

How to Make Pride Month Meetings Safer and More Inclusive

The spotlight is on the LGBTQ+ community during June, which is Gay Pride Month, but the need to make this audience segment feel both safe and welcomed requires a year-round commitment to inclusivity. Here are some ways to do just that.

As an LGBT Chamber of Commerce-certified LGBT Business Enterprise, ConferenceDirect has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community that is being celebrated in June, which is Pride Month. While Pride is celebrated around the world with parades and other celebrations, the danger level for this community is alarmingly high this year. In fact, for the first time, the U.S. State Department has issued  a Worldwide Caution against the “increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events.”

Safety First

Among the precautions for LGBTQ+ attendees at events that the U.S. Department of State recommends — and event organizers with events outside of the U.S. this month should include in their “know before you go” reminders, are:

• Those who have an X gender marker on the U.S. passports should be aware that some countries do not recognize the X gender category. Those with this marker may encounter entry restrictions and should be sure to check with the foreign embassy or consulate in the U.S. before getting on the plane.

• Check the country information page for your destination to see if the event is being held in a country where same-sex marriage and/or relationships are illegal, and/or where public gatherings supporting the LGBTQ+ community are banned. Police in some countries may surveil meeting venues to ensure local laws aren’t being broken, and some local criminals may specifically target LGBTQ+ individuals for extortion.

• Even if the venue itself is welcoming to LGBTQ+ individuals, the area outside of the venue may not be, so take care in participating in any offsite events or activities.

Other useful links on travel.state.gov include:

• TSA Transgender Passenger information

• Traveler’s Checklist

• IGLTA, the International Gay/Lesbian Travel Association

• International Lesbian and Gay Association

• Equaldex collaborative LGBT knowledge base

• National Center for Transgender Equality travel page

Remember, while the State Department alert focuses mainly on precautions to be taken for travel and events outside of the U.S., the memory of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, where 49 people were killed in Orlando just eight years ago, is a good reminder that this population needs extra protection for attending events in the U.S. as well, especially in today’s volatile political environment.

Among the possible indicators of potential threats (to LBGTQ+ attendees and generally) that event organizers need to be aware of, according to the FBI and DHS, are:

• Threats of violence made online, in person or via snail mail

• Unusual or prolonged testing or probing of security measures at events or venues

• Photography of security related equipment, personnel, or access points consistent with pre-operational surveillance without a reasonable alternative explanation

• Unusual surveillance or interest in buildings, gatherings or events

• Attempts to gain access to restricted areas, bypass security or impersonate law enforcement officials

• Observation of or questions about facility security measures, including barriers, restricted areas, cameras and intrusion detection systems without a reasonable alternative explanation

• Eliciting information from facility personnel regarding the nature of upcoming events, crowd sizes, busiest times of day, etc., without a reasonable alternative explanation

• Attempts to enter a restricted area, bypass security or impersonate law enforcement officials

Event organizers should take any threats they receive against this community, or anyone attending their meeting, seriously. If there is an immediate threat, call 911 or the local police. Otherwise, report them to the local FBI field office (https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices) or closest international office (https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/international-offices) or call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).

Safe Is One Thing — Inclusion Is Another Essential

While participants must feel safe as a baseline, inclusivity also needs to be a priority. A few strategies to consider are:

• Make it clear in your promotional and registration materials that discrimination of any type won’t be tolerated.

• Include gender-inclusive language and imagery on all your communications with attendees.

• If you don’t already have one, create a policy that outlines that discriminatory or hateful language and/or behavior will not be tolerated at your event. Include what the repercussions will be for those who violate your policy — and act accordingly.

• Partner with vendors, sponsors and ally organizations that align with your organization’s values.

• Ensure that your speakers reflect the full range of your audience — and don’t pigeonhole speakers based on the underserved community they represent. This means include LGBTQ+ individuals on panels about general industry hot topics, not just those specific to LGBTQ+ issues (this also goes for not just including Gen Z speakers in a session on dealing with that generation, or women speakers on gender equality issues, etc.).

• Educate your speakers about the importance of using gender-neutral language.

• Make it clear that everyone can use the restroom that matches their gender identity and ensure that there’s at least one gender-neutral restroom available.

• Enable attendees to include their preferred pronouns on their badges and name tags (he/him, she/her, they/them, for example). Also, consider adding a third gender identifier of “other,” and adding a gender-neutral title (for example, adding Mx to the usual Mr., Mrs. and Ms. options).

What are some of the other ways you ensure that all your attendees feel safe and welcomed at your meetings and events? Contact Sue Pelletier at sue.pelletier@conferencedirect.com to share your best practices.

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates. www.conferencedirect.com

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually. www.meetingmentormag.com

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