Updated: Aug 19
Tips on Working in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) from a DEI Professional
Chris Angel's journey to becoming a LGBTQ+ Speaker and Trainer was not a straight line, and neither was their journey to identifying as queer, trans, and non-binary today. As they grew, career titles changed and so did their identification. Both journeys are filled with many experiences, especially experiences in DEI, that make Chris Angel the perfect candidate for offering up tips to future DEI workers.
Join a GSA
Chris Angels' first tip begins at both the beginning of their seasoned DEI career and their journey to identifying as queer, trans, and non-binary. In high school, Chris Angel joined their school's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and by the time they graduated, they were president of their chapter (and they also became the president of their chapter in college). Chris Angel's GSA experience gave them the opportunity to plan social and political events, develop leadership skills, find peer support, and gain access to lots of education and resources pertaining to LGBTQ+ topics.
"I'm most proud of what we did for Day of Silence. Although many of us remained silent, we had an outside speaker come and share her story. Teachers were able to request a spot for their classes. Spots filled up so quickly that we weren't able to accommodate everyone, which was amazing and also proved the need."
Joining a GSA could be your first step to becoming a DEI professional. While chapters may go by different names on varying high school and university campuses, they offer a ton of similar resources for members and their respective communities. GSA Network or inquiring about GSA on your school's campus could get you connected into the world of DEI.
2. Share your story (if you're comfortable doing so)
Chris Angel wrote for two organizations, while completing their undergraduate and bachelors, planning events as the GSA president, and figuring out their identification. One of these organizations was Lesbian News.
At that time, I identified as genderqueer and had a whole thing about sporks, using it as a tool to help explain to folks how I identified. Although I now identify as queer, trans, and non-binary, it was fun to write Life as a Spork and I look back fondly on that time. It's hard to say who all I reached or touched with my articles. It helped me to get clear and concise about specific messages I wanted to share, including my own shortcomings and how I grew as a person as a result of learning how to do better.
Chris Angel suggests that there are lots of opportunities to get your name out there and get published. They suggest writing opinion pieces, getting published in a local library, and reaching out to LGBTQ+ magazines and journals. Publishing your art is a good idea too, and online platforms like Instagram and Etsy are giving creators the opportunity to sell these works.
3. Keep learning
Chris Angel is always changing and learning. This is not only reflected in their changing identity through the years, but is also reflected by the development of GenderSexuality.info. Originally called QueerBox when launched in 2007, GenderSexuality.info is a collection of LGBTQ+ information and organizations.
Outside of leveraging your contacts and letting them know about the services you offer, stay up-to-date. Keep reading, learning, growing. Follow people on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and beyond to see various takes on key issues. Read books. Attend conferences. Don't stop learning - because the information can change so quickly. We used to talk about cultural competency, as an example. Now, we talk about cultural humility and cultural responsiveness.
GenderSexuality.info and the other resources mentioned above by Chris Angel are a great way to continue educating yourself on LGBTQ+ topics and opportunities. Chris Angel specifically suggested the College and Higher Education page, the K-12 Education page, and the LGBTQ+ camps page when I asked them for the best resources he offers for current high school and college students.
4. Be an active ally
Obviously, being an ally is necessary in order to be an effective DEI professional. Allyship is one of Chris Angel's passions, given their background in GSA. This has most recently been hilighted in the release of their podcast, Allyship is a Verb. The podcast has exposed Chris Angel to various experiences due to geographical location, generation, and intersectionality.
I've been surprised by the amount of LGBTQ+ folks themselves tuning in, which I think also highlights something I've been saying for years: the LGBTQ+ community can also serve as allies to each other because we don't all have the same wants or needs, nor do we all want to be treated in the same ways.
This last tip brings everything full circle. Active allies will attain more leadership skills, are connected to more safe spaces and opportunities, and are education on LGBTQ+ issues. Furthermore to Chris Angel's point, if we are allies for each other, we can all grow together not only professionally, but as people with changing attitudes and identities, too.
I've barely scratched the surface regarding all the services that Chris Angel offers. If you want to support Chris Angel and learn more about their professional and personal identification journeys, visit their website to see what all they offer, and consider downloading slack pronouns.