One of the interesting phenomena of being an out non-binary, trans speaker on pronouns and belonging is that people come out to me. Strangers. People I’ve known casually in business for years. People from my college days. Out of the blue, I get a message. It usually starts a little like this: “I wanted to tell you something. I don’t know why, but I knew I had to talk to you…” We set up a call to check in and I listen as they stutter and stumble until whispering, sometimes exclaiming, their truth.
“I’ve never told anyone this, but I’m trans/gay/I don’t know but I’m not straight.”
In other cases, it’s the parents of queer kids. They come out to me too, but not as queer. They come out as scared. Proud. Petrified they’ll get it wrong somehow. Seeking a little hope.
I feel so honored to hold this space in their mind as someone they can trust. Someone that knows the right answers, but truthfully I don’t know how to make the whole world a safer place for a kid to just be.
I do know how to be a safe space. To teach others a few ways how.
Speaking at organizations and events celebrating Pride last year was life-altering for me. Healing. See, when I talk about pronouns during Pride, I talk about the first place I remember feeling safe. I was in the passenger seat of my grandfather’s truck. A 1971 Chevy that smelled like the perfect combination of oil, cologne, and cigarettes.
I don’t talk about my experience with the rest of that family. I was outed when someone blurted out a derogatory phrase over a holiday meal. A meal much like the ones many of you have every year on holiday weekends. That revelation began a slow shedding of my family. One by one they disappeared from my life. To be clear, it was mostly by my choosing. The gentle jabs became more sharp. The dismissal of my major life events added up.
In every room where I speak during Pride, I know there’s at least one person that has made the gentle jab. One parent who doesn’t know what to do. A manager who feels frightened. The person who someone else has come out to. The child that doesn’t call that family member any more. The co-worker who wants to be safe enough to thrive at work.
Helping them heals all of us. Helping them heals me.
These conversations are so much more than lessons and lectures on gender inclusive language. They are healing. That’s why you should hire Pride speakers, and I hope you would consider me. I want to speak again this year. I want to hold space and give your people a chance to become safe spaces for each other. To become safer spaces for everyone they encounter in life.
I can’t wait to see you in June. We can heal together and learn to become a safe space for others.
PS: If you aren’t getting qualified applicants, you need to read this week’s blog. Change your job title, change your applicant flow. I’ll show you how. Read more.
Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.
Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.