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Kryss Shane: Creating an LGBT+ Inclusive Workplace

Kryss, who are you?

I am the author of “Creating an LGBT+ Inclusive Workplace: The Practical Resource Guide for Business Leaders” and “The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion”

ThisIsKryss.com

How did you start your career in DEI or Social Impact? 

I grew up mostly in a small town in Northeast Ohio. Although there were some great memories of going to get fresh corn and driving around on backroads with the windows down and the music up, it was a really homogeneous place. I was in middle school before I met someone non-white, no one there was openly LGBT+, and I didn’t have experiences with a variety of cultures or backgrounds until I left town for college.  That said, I was in the majority there, so I didn’t notice all of the ways that this experience sheltered me from the types of upbringings others were having throughout the country.  Luckily, I have always been a reader from a very early age and I’ve always sought out opportunities to learn, which helped me to begin to build a foundation of learning about different people from different backgrounds even before I had friends who were much different from me. As an adult, I’ve traveled and lived all over the country, calling NYC, LA, Miami, Nashville, Columbus, and so many other cities my home and actively sought out experiences that make me uncomfortable so I could expand my world view. I don’t find it helpful to surround myself with people who are just like me, I want to learn about how others see and experience the world. The more I know, the more supportive I can be, which also inspires my activism and my seeking out ways to use the privileges I have!

Tell us about a personal experience on why our world needs more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? 

Often, I am brought into an event or space as a subject matter expert. [Author’s note, Kryss has been a sought-after speaker, workshop provider, webinar giver, and media darling for over 25 years.] When I am brought in, it is typically in an experience where I am the expert on my topic area and everyone is in the room to learn from me. In moments such as the movement of Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter, the circumstances are quite different. In these situations, my role isn’t as an expert, my role is as an amplifier. It isn’t my place to take the microphone from Black and Brown people. It is, however, my place as a white person, to work to educate other white people. Too often, society expects a group to shoulder the burdens, to grieve the losses, to process the anger, and to educate the masses. It’s unfair and it is harmful.  As such, I utilize all I learn as a tool to help teach other white people, allowing them to also become better allies and activists without expecting or needing more emotional labor from already over-extended Black and Brown activists.

I believe we must evolve in our individual mindsets and in how we consistently reconsider where we may be implicitly biased. It means using the Harvard Implicit Bias free tools (google it!), it means choosing books and films and tv shows by people not like yourself. It means apologizing when someone calls out a mistake instead of trying to defend it. It isn’t just others’ stories and goals, it’s mine too.  It’s has to be all of ours! 


What does Diversity Equity Inclusion mean to you?  

In some ways, I think it has been evolving for years, decades, and generations. However, it has been difficult to be as news-worthy and to remain at the forefront in the news because most had jobs they could not skip and the news crews did not necessarily want to highlight injustices that news network decision-makers often benefit from. However, the murders of multiple Black men caught on camera paired with the loss of jobs many Americans were facing resulted in an opportunity we hadn’t seen before. It provided the chance for some to witness the violence they had never before confronted. It forced white tv viewers to watch not just the murders but to also watch the reaction of the Black and Brown community.   It wasn’t just that this was happening, it was that it was happening again… and again… and even amidst the protest, with cameras everywhere, again, and again. There was no longer a way for white people to deny it. There was no longer a way to pretend not to see it. 

The same is true for LGBT+ hatred, murders, and skyrocketing suicide rates, along with this being the most anti-transgender year of bills and laws in American history.

When ignorance of a situation is gone, the only remaining decisions are to act or to do nothing. Although some want to make us think that Americans are mostly awful people only out for themselves (so you should only be out for yourself too), the reality is that most Americans are truly decent people. Most Americans do not want to live in a nation where it is unsafe for some. As a result, many began to take to the streets, to join those who had long been protesting and demanding change. While there is significant work to be done (especially as some white people have to do lots of internal work on implicit bias and being willing to be educated instead of being angry when their ignorance is pointed out), seeds of education are being planted, people are beginning to wake up to the realities tht others have lived with for generations. Businesses are beginning to consider making Juneteenth an annual holiday (I personally think it needs to become a national holiday). Lawmakers are beginning to think about whether it is wise to expect the police to do the jobs of educators, social workers, addiction specialists, housing counselors, eviction assistants, and more. In fact, anyone who truly supports the police ought to want to defund or abolish the current system, as the way it stands now only protects the “bad cops” and undermines the “good cops.”  No one wants a lawless land, what is wanted is a place where systemic racism does not lead to more deaths of anymore Black and Brown people. No one could possibly want LGBT+ people to be murdered or driven to suicide. What decent person would not be in favor of that?!

What is your proudest moment as a DEI professional?

There have been so many incredible emails or calls thanking me for training someone and finding out that it prepared them to be ready and loving when someone in their family came out. I love being able to hear how my work impacts others. As a personal moment of pride, holding each of my books in my hands for the first time is what I liken to holding my newly birthed child; I dreamt of it, worked for it, wished for it, wanted it so much for so long and when it was finally tangible, the relief and joy is always overwhelming!

Why is Equity, diversity, inclusion important to you as an individual?

I have so many privileges (both earned and gifted), I have so many struggles (both earned and gifted). I know that the greatest lifetime gifts and what has continued to make me better comes from learning from those different from me. As someone in the mental health and education worlds, I know that we all benefit when safety and kindness prevail. I truly believe that what makes us unique individually is what makes us collectively better. While this can be surface-level thinking, I believe it with my whole heart, which makes me fight for it with everything in me, down to the marrow of my bones.  

If you could change one thing in terms of DEI, what would that be? 

I hate that it’s considered DEI; I hate that it’s a category that many see as optional. I much prefer “equity-centered education” to DEI. I also prefer Sue Sanders’ term “usualizing” to “normalizing” as there has never been anything abnormal about being unique. This isn’t an option, it is ubuitious, so enough with making this a “suggested” training or an “optional” continuing education credit or a “consideration,” it needs to be a throughline for all we do everywhere we do it!

What is stopping your community, organization or company from achieving a more equal and equitable world? 

Fear and ignorance! When a business or organization allows the status quo to prevail, we ostracize everyone else. We lose the richness of their experiences. We surrender to our own implicit biases. We become lesser.  From a financial perspective, people are being more mindful than ever how they spend their money and where they work. Why would any company want to lose profit, lose out on top quality employees, AND risk PR nightmares and legal issues by refusing to recognize that our society wants and benefits from a diverse executive team and the inclusion of all people within the products/services being sold?!


If you could say one thing to the leader in your community, organization or your company about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, what would you say?

1. Get Educated and Keep Getting Educated- You can’t help if you are ignorant. Seek out authors and speakers and activists and listen.  If it hurts you to hear it, dig deep into whether this is hitting a truth you haven’t yet examined. Be brave and examine it.  When you know better, you can do better. When you know yourself better, you can be better. [author’s note: Kryss’ book, “The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion” offers a guide for anyone working in education or working with/raising children and her second “Creating an LGBT+ Inclusive Workplace: The Practical Resource Guide for Business Leaders” offers a guide for anyone working in the business world.]

2. Shut Up- When people in a marginalized community are kind enough to share their experiences and their stories with you, listen. Do not turn it into a story about you or try to be “devil’s advocate.” It’s a gift they are giving to you, be grateful and be quiet so you can take it in.

3. Make a Payment- We have to stop expecting people in marginalized communities to offer guidance or quotes or work for free. Stop telling people that it will be “great exposure” and pay them. Showing that you value them and their work is vital to being a part of ending systemic racism in the workplace, in academia, and in society.

4. Use Your Privilege- Figure out what aspects of your life give you a break in life and use them to support others without that access. Maybe this means mentoring someone, maybe it means donating money, maybe you show up to protest, maybe you write letters or emails to politicians in support of inclusive laws. Whether it’s financial, time, passion, writing skills, knowledge, or anything else in your wheelhouse of awesome or in your categories of privilege, participate in supporting those who are working toward change.

5. Stop Assuming- Black people and Brown people and LGBT+ people are not simply skin colors, sexual orientations, or gender identities. They are full whole people. Do not assume that every person with this identity wants to speak on behalf of everyone. Do not assume that everyone in a marginalized community wants to talk about their identity. Don’t assume that a person’s professional expertise is in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Get to know a person as a whole person, not as a walking talking representation of just one facet of who they are or as a poster child for one aspect of how they identify.

Anything you want to share with our readers?

Often, I am brought into an event or space as a subject matter expert. [Author’s note, Kryss has been a sought-after speaker, workshop provider, webinar giver, and media darling for over 25 years.] When I am brought in, it is typically in an experience where I am the expert on my topic area and everyone is in the room to learn from me. In moments such as the movement of Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter, the circumstances are quite different. In these situations, my role isn’t as an expert, my role is as an amplifier. It isn’t my place to take the microphone from Black and Brown people. It is, however, my place as a white person, to work to educate other white people. Too often, society expects a group to shoulder the burdens, to grieve the losses, to process the anger, and to educate the masses. It’s unfair and it is harmful.  As such, I utilize all I learn as a tool to help teach other white people, allowing them to also become better allies and activists without expecting or needing more emotional labor from already over-extended Black and Brown activists.

I believe we must evolve in our individual mindsets and in how we consistently reconsider where we may be implicitly biased. It means using the Harvard Implicit Bias free tools (google it!), it means choosing books and films and tv shows by people not like yourself. It means apologizing when someone calls out a mistake instead of trying to defend it. It isn’t just others’ stories and goals, it’s mine too.  It has to be all of ours! 

This interview is part of our Diversity Equity Inclusion Social Impact Thought Leader series


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