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Pride 2021 - Let's talk LGBTQ+

Mykenna Cepek Community Leader Jun 15, 2021

Happy Pride 2021!


June is “Pride month” across much of the USA (where I’m located). This is a great opportunity for me to write my first Atlassian Article.

A goal I have is to stretch beyond the usual LGBTQ+ prose and, I hope, offer some information which might be new to you.

Eschew the Binary

To truly open up to all the diversity in the LBGTQ+ community we have to get comfortable with “rejecting the binary”. The binary tends to manifest in either-or assumptions like:

  • male OR female
  • gay OR straight
  • feminine OR masculine

The problem with these black-or-white choices is the quiet assumption that the only options are one OR the other. But there are many shades of grey between these endpoints. Many LGBTQ+ folks feel “erased” (not acknowledged as even existing) when they identify themselves as being between the ends of a spectrum.

One easy example is that bisexuality falls between being gay or straight. However, even here there aren’t just three options. The Kinsey Scale outlined 7 gradations between the extremes — and that was over 70 years ago.

What can we do? Listen for the binary in conversation, and gently challenge assumptions. For example, saying "I read that butch-or-femme is actually a myth" can be a safe way to help people challenge their binary thinking.

Open Secrets

Question: do you share most of the details of your personal life with everyone at work? Of course not. We are selective about what we share.

LGBTQ+ folks sometimes don’t have this opportunity. If you see a wedding ring, you might ask the new hire about his wife. But if he’s gay, things might get awkward fast, for both of you.

I found myself facing such situation in a large, group job interview a few years ago. The CEO asked me for an example of community advocacy in my life. I took the risk and outed myself as a lesbian, leveraging that into my years of lobbying efforts for same-sex marriage. It felt like a huge risk (spoiler: I got the job).

Lesbians and gays can’t avoid some of these situations in society. It can be easier (sometimes, but not always) to be bisexual, transgender or otherwise queer, without it being apparent to anyone else.

How to help here? Simply be considerate. Use requested pronouns and names. It’s ok to apologize for assuming your colleague was straight. Be accepting of the many LGBTQ+ folks you encounter.

Insides vs Outsides

While sexuality is often one aspect of the LGBTQ+ experience, there are other aspects to remember. Consider the social challenges for someone who is transgender. Here the issue is gender identity, not sexuality.

I followed the story of Jazz Jennings, who knew at a young age that she was a girl, not a boy (despite what the birth certificate said). Hers is an inspirational tale, to be sure. But let’s consider a mythical person named “Sam” instead.

At 30 (or maybe 45) years of age, Sam finally realizes the need (and it truly is a need) to be in the world as a gender different from that assigned at birth. Currently, everyone in Sam’s life sees her as a woman. But Sam has longed (for decades!) to be in the world as a man. 

Sam starts the substantial process of gender transition, yet it is gradual and takes years. Take a moment and consider the challenges Sam will encounter with family and friends, in society, and in the workplace, during this metamorphosis.

Fast-forwarding a few years, Sam now moves through the world more easily. As a man, how he is seen by others is now consistent with how he feels about himself. Sam’s outside will finally match his inside.

Action items: be supportive during gender transitions, especially in the workplace. Follow their lead on pronouns. Discourage transphobia.

Further Learning

I acknowledge that I’ve barely scratched the surface with this article. The “Q+” in LGBTQ+ is a placeholder for a fantastic smorgasbord of different ways to be in the world, in relationships, and within oneself.

I’ll share two resources that can help further your learning journey.

One great resource on these topics is the Genderbread Person. It helps clarify the various aspects of inside/outside, seen/unseen, and the spectrums between the binaries.

Also, if you’re up to it, here's a “word-a-day” challenge for you! Bookmark this LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Glossary of Terms and learn the lingo. I just learned what it means to be a “skoliosexual” — you can too.

This is more than trivia. Let’s try to better understand each other, and move toward greater respect and compassion for the amazing diversity of humanity all around us.


Erica Moss Community Manager Jun 28, 2021

@Mykenna Cepek Thank you so much for sharing this, Mykenna!

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RJ Gazarek Atlassian Team Jun 28, 2021

Thanks for sharing and talking so openly about this! And you're right, you've barely scratched the surface - but we have to all do better to start talking about this - and starting somewhere is better than never starting at all.  My mother is part of the LGBTQ+ community, and had to leave the country many many many years ago so she could get married. 

Thank you!

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Thank you for this article @Mykenna Cepek 🏳️‍🌈 🏳️‍⚧️ 

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@Mykenna Cepek Thank you for sharing this article and for the links to the additional resources!

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Chris Martin Atlassian Team Jun 29, 2021

Such a good article @Mykenna Cepek Thank you for taking the time to write. this and research those resources!

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Mykenna Cepek Community Leader Jun 29, 2021

Thanks Chris!

I've known about the Genderbread Person for a few years. I even made an enhanced version once for a presentation, expanding on the relationship aspects by differentiating preferences for life-partner(s) vs sexual-partner(s) vs platonic friends.

Just another example of spectrums within spectrums -- or as I like to say: "rainbows within rainbows". 

Jay Atlassian Team Jun 30, 2021

Great resources! Thank you so much for this! 

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I love that you posted this, there is so much really helpful information here :)

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Howard Eberhart Community Leader Jul 14, 2021

Thanks for posting this, Mykenna.  I am so happy to see another LGBT+ community leader!

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Mykenna Cepek Community Leader Jul 14, 2021

Ticking the boxes -- diversity for the win!

Thank you for your post. As you said, you're barely scratching the surface. But you started with some important actions we can all take: learn new words, learn new ways of thinking and talking about our fellow human beings, and so on. For many people, this is all new, so a list of concrete actions to take is helpful.

We as a worldwide community of human beings continue to grow and evolve. It's great to be aware and educate ourselves as we go, and be open to change.

I've been doing that with the help of friends and family in the LBGTQ+ community.

But I sometimes make mistakes. For example, I worked for a year with a genderqueer author. When I first met her, I asked her which pronouns she preferred, and she most emphatically said she/her.

Unfortunately, to my lasting shame, I used he/him to her after we'd been working together a few months. I immediately apologized and strove to do better.

Mistakes are human. We aren't robots and we're on a journey of discovery and evolution. But I still cringe inside at the memory. 

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Mykenna Cepek Community Leader Aug 26, 2021

@Marina Michaels Thank you for your comment and your sensitivity to pronoun preferences. I wish more people would follow your compassionate example.

Here's a quick story that might help us all more easily forgive ourselves for such a situation. I know a transwoman who shared with me that she even misgendered herself (when speaking to others) early during her gender transition. It happens.

A mistake is only a failure when we choose not to learn from it.

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