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Kirsti Mathers McHenry on navigating the workplace as a member of the LGBT community

This piece was originally published in the MyHR LAO internal newsletter.

World Pride Month is here! Pride refers to a world-wide celebration incorporating activism, education, and the history and culture of global LGBT communities. It’s also a time to highlight Canada’s continued progress in human rights, and the diversity and dynamism of our people.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Kirsti Mathers McHenry, Director, Strategic Initiatives and Planning, Corporate Services Division, to talk about her experience in navigating the workplace as a member of the LGBT community. Here’s what she had to say.

How is Pride Month meaningful to you? 

Kirstie

Kirstie Mathers McHenry

“Pride is an opportunity to gather and celebrate the beauty in diversity. It’s a space where people can come to celebrate every aspect of who they are. However difficult it may be to express your true self on other days, on Pride your true self is the thing that makes you special and you have a place in a community that celebrates that. I love the joy of it all. I love watching PFLAG marching and seeing the parents come to express their love and solidarity for their children. I also love seeing young people who are just figuring out who they are find a home and a community. It’s a joyful celebratory time that shows us the power of celebrating our individuality collectively. Being a mom at Pride is new, but great. I love watching my daughter get welcomed into this community and build her own relationships and place in pride celebrations.”

What were some of the challenges you faced navigating the workplace as a member of the LGBT community?

“I think it’s sometimes difficult to ‘come out’. As a bisexual woman married to a woman, I find people assume I’m a lesbian. Ultimately, I have a great deal of privilege. In particular, as a lawyer, I have a solid grasp on my rights and many choices about where to work. I have had the ability to choose welcoming workplaces where my perspectives and commitment to equality have been valued. As a lawyer and a person with privilege, I feel an obligation to be out and to be a part of the group of LGBT adults who demonstrate that it can get better.”

What is the impact of stereotypes when it comes to LGBT issues in the workplace?

“Discrimination evolves. Historically, stereotypes were more prevalent but as we evolve socially, discrimination also evolves. Challenges around systemic discrimination and managing change to build more inclusive institutions that are welcoming to everyone are serious issues. It’s important that we look at intersectional discrimination and the ways that different aspects of identify can privilege and marginalize simultaneously in complex ways.”

What are some examples of things people can do in everyday interactions to make the workplace more inclusive of LGBT people?

“Everyone has a sexual orientation and a gender identity. Remembering that we each come to this work with our own experiences and perspectives is important.”

As a member of the Inclusion and Diversity Committee at LAO, what is the main goal you hope to achieve during your tenure?

“Build on LAO’s existing culture – we are a welcoming and supportive network of talented people working to make meaningful change in the justice system and the lives of our clients. If we can improve our understanding and engage with our clients and service providers, we can improve access to justice



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