LGBT+ inclusion in Rotary

As I have started to share my ideas, opinions and stories about LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse, queer, and questioning) inclusion in Rotary, I have heard so many of our leaders say to me: “We’re a really decent club/district. We don’t have any bad people. So, we don’t have a problem. Right?”

I’ve also heard things like “why is Rotary doing something so political” and “there are no gay people in my community.”

These comments come from a space of ignorance and I always consider them a teaching moment. LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. But while diversity and inclusion have climbed the Rotary agenda over the past decade, many LGBTQ+ members continue to face discrimination, discomfort, and even danger in our clubs. When it comes to true inclusion, everyday interactions with peers and leaders matter as much as organisational policies or formal processes.

Here are a number of ways to make your club and Rotary as a whole more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community:

Start having conversations.

In order to understand the challenges that exist for LGBTQ+ people, leaders at all level (club, district, zone, and international) should stay connected to what it means to be LGBTQ+ in Rotary. This means:

Once you start having these conversations both internally and with the communities your club serves, you will see that there are gay people in every community, and maybe already in your club!

Set a meaningful public example.

We need to do this to become more welcoming to LGBTQ+ communities.  This could include:

  • Small gestures like putting a rainbow flag at the bottom of your website, using the LGBT Fellowship’s rainbow heart logo on event flyers or using Rotary’s global statement on diversity, equity and inclusion to make a bold statement that we are accepting of everyone.
  • Asking everyone to include their preferred pronouns on name tags at club meetings and in email signatures. This signals support for the LGBTQ+ community and is a powerful education piece, helping people understand the importance of using individual’s preferred pronouns. It reduces the chances that people will mistakenly misgender someone who is trans or gender diverse.

Support projects that address key issues for LGBTQ+ communities.

As people of action, we do amazing work to improve communities and the world. When you are considering your next project why not target an issue like HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, addressing mental health issues and homelessness in LGBTQ+ communities, or preventing violence towards LGBTQ+ people

Support and promote the LGBT Rotarians and Friends Fellowship.

Global research has shown that employee pride network groups play a vital role in delivering workplace equality for LGBTQ+ people. In Rotary, the LGBT Rotarians and Friends Fellowship is our pride network. The fellowship is dedicated to promoting global friendship, service and education, aiming to create an inclusive, understanding and welcoming community, fostering goodwill and peace, and realising a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for LGBTQ+ people

Diversity, equity and inclusion is complex, and Rotary is making some great steps forward. We have started to address gender, generational and cultural diversity. There are still many other aspects for us to discuss including LGBTQ+, disability, indigenous people and others, and then also how these identities can intersect (for example, how someone can be both LGBTQ+ and disabled). I’m excited about our progress and encourage people to reach out to the LGBT Fellowship, leaders and district membership committees to continue the discussion.

Grant Godino (he/him) is the charter president of Gateway Rotaract, a member of the Rotary Club of Strathmore (Australia) and president elect of the LGBT Rotarians and Friends Fellowship. Grant identifies as a gay cisgender male and lives with his partner Lee (he/him) (also a Rotarian) in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne.