Back for season three: The Riverdale Universe: Ride or Die conference returns

Back for season three: The Riverdale Universe: Ride or Die conference returns

Jess Wind
Photos by Sarah Sovereign Photography, used with permission from Raspberry.

Academics, nerds, and fans alike will gather on March 13 for the third annual Riverdale-themed semi-academic conference about the Archie Comics adaptation and its expanding universe.

What started as a joke on Twitter in 2017 quickly ballooned to an interdisciplinary, multi-year conference and accompanying anthology (Riverdale: A Land of Contrasts due out in 2020), that explores and critiques themes represented (or lack thereof) in the CW’s Riverdale, Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and other Archie Comics content. Previous years have featured a body-positive, feminist photoshoot, tales from a casting agency, cross-property conspiracy theories, and an annual Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style interactive fanfiction, along with a healthy dose of academic critique.

The Riverdale TV show is the latest in an expansive property featuring America’s favourite blundering redheaded teen, the two women that fight over him, and his burger-loving best friend. Though many scholars and critics have pointed out this contemporary adaptation bears little resemblance to the “All-American teen” on which it is based.

What we’ve come to refer to as the Riverdale universe is an ever-expanding media-verse, including now three TV shows including Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix), and Katy Keene (CW), and tie-in comic book series.

Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are both filmed in the Fraser Valley and Vancouver areas, giving the show a strong sense of place for those of us that drive past Rocko’s diner in Mission, or the Fort Langley Community Hall regularly. Riverdale is not just “anywhere USA”, but also distinctly BC’s lower mainland. One thing continues to be true as we prepare event logistics for the third time: this “semi-academic” conference made up of fans, industry professionals, and scholars, could only exist here.

“What we’re doing is not quite academic, and not a fan convention, but something weird, and strange, and fun — fun being the key thing” says Heather McAlpine, conference organizer and associate professor in English at UFV in an interview with Raspberry last year.

What this have to do with communications?

In communications, we spend a lot of time talking about people. We talk about audience, and the relevance of purpose. We talk about inclusivity and barriers. We talk about stories.

The Riverdale Universe: Ride or Die conference breaks these conversations out of the classroom and gives them more real world significance. Engage in the public exchange of ideas in a laid back atmosphere that does away with long-held stereotypes of the stuffy academic lecture-style presentation.

That said, Riverdale itself doesn’t always burden itself with questions of audience relevance, inclusivity, or storytelling, and past presentations have critiqued how, why, and what we expect of our entertainment. McAlpine explains the relationship between audience and content in Riverdale.

“Audiences are totally starving for better, more thoughtful, more inclusive representation in our media,” she says. “And we get so excited when we’re promised that kind of representation, but in many cases we’re let down by tokenism or representation that actually ends up reinforcing negative stereotypes.”

Whether Riverdale is “good” television (it’s not) isn’t a question. It is, however, exceedingly enduring (Archie first appeared in Pep Comics in 1941), problematic at times, campy and nostalgic at others. It fails (often) and gets back up (always). And it’s these in-between spaces that offer rich ground for critique and push boundaries, and where we situate the third annual Riverdale-themed semi-academic conference.

The conference is an interdisciplinary effort made up of faculty from UFV Communications, English, and elsewhere across the College of Arts, as well as UFV alumni. Presentations this year include the return of Citizen of Riverdale, a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style fanfiction, staged readings and new conspiracy theories, a preview of the upcoming academic anthology: Riverdale: A Land of Contrasts, and a fresh dose of scholarly criticism.

The Riverdale Universe: Ride or Die conference takes place on March 13, 2020 in the South Asian Studies Institute (F Building) on Abbotsford campus with panels beginning at 9 am. The building is accessible, registration is free, and anyone from UFV and the public is welcome to attend.

See you there!

Communications Opportunities in the Fraser Valley

Communications Opportunities in the Fraser Valley

By Jennifer Barkey, UFV practicum student

Living in the Fraser Valley is desirable because of the beautiful setting, easy access to recreation activities and exercise, and its wide variety of opportunities for healthy living.

Wouldn’t it be even more attractive if we were able to work in our community as well?

Armed with this idea, I hit the internet to find out how many job opportunities there are within the Fraser Valley that also involve excellent communications skills and perhaps advanced communications schooling. I was not disappointed with the myriad of postings scattered across the information highway; I found a plethora of them quickly and easily through popular websites such as indeed.com, ufv.ca, bcjobs.ca and abbotsford.craigslist.org.

Sifting through the postings, I quickly realized that excellent communications is highly sought after in almost every industry out there. I saw postings for web specialists, marketers, managers, cooks, dispatchers, sales associates, and many more, all listing excellent communications as a required skill. A few postings required detailed working knowledge of communications practices and processes. The individuals these companies seek are able to discern which type of communication is most effective for the situation. Some prestigious postings also required a bachelor’s degree in Communications.

So how do we do it?

The best answer I can offer on how to acquire these exemplary communications skills is this: education, of course!

Thankfully, The University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) is conveniently located here, with campuses in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and Hope—and can meet your educational needs in this area. Want to advance in the workforce? Enroll in a communications program at UFV: UFV offers a professional communications certificate, as well as a communications minor.

It will change your life for the better by giving you an advantage over other candidates, and open the door to opportunities in the Fraser Valley that are waiting for you.

Talk to an advisor today, or email cmns@ufv.ca.

*Photograph by Jennifer Barkey

Catching up with public speaking award winner, Liz Power

By Jess Wind

Every year one student from each section of CMNS 235: Public Speaking is nominated by their class for the Rise and Shine Toastmasters award at the end of the semester. These nominees present an acceptance speech as their entry for the award and one exceptional speaker is chosen for the annual $600 prize.

Our most recent winner is Liz Powers, a Bachelor of Arts student with plans to major in psychology before moving on to a Masters in counselling. She’s prepared for it to take longer than the average four-year degree because on top of being a student and server, Liz is a mother of three.

Liz came into every class with a smile and enthusiasm that radiated to everyone around her. Liz’s speeches were relevant to her life, and that of her audience with a healthy dose of humour to draw her listeners in. Most memorably, Liz taught us how to bake cookies for her demonstration speech, and there were plenty of samples to go around.

I caught up with Liz to find out what it took to earn the nomination from her classmates, and the mark Public Speaking has left on her.

Talk to me a bit about your decision to take the class and your journey throughout the term.

So I took the class because I was told there was no final exam. I was just trying to balance out my course load and figure out how to do that with kids and going back to school because I was still really new to the process.

And then the process of learning how to write a speech and then how to execute it was actually far more interesting than I thought it’d be.

What did you think about being nominated, and then about winning?

I was actually very surprised. And then I was grateful and also ungrateful in that I was like “I don’t have time to write another one of these and memorize it,” but I thought, it’s good practice.

Winning the award was a nice confidence booster. It was almost necessary at that stage. When I got the email that I won, it was at a really difficult stage in my life personally with my kids and what not and that was just like a nice moment in what was a really chaotic couple of months.

How’d you plan for the final speech?

One of the memorization techniques that was mentioned in my psychology class was the memory palace. And so I used that to memorize my last speech which was so helpful.

I memorized the speech walking through my house from room to room and each space in my house had a different component of my speech. So when I was giving my speech it was a lot easier because it had a flow to it … I feel it made the process far less nerve wracking.

Do you find you’re more aware of speaking skills in others now?

I am more aware of my hand gestures when I’m talking, because when I started I looked like an aerobics instructor from 1980. Which is really appropriate being the size of my hair typically.

I went to the Tedx Chilliwack, and it was very interesting watching the different speakers because they work with coaches and some of them were so on point and I can tell [they’ve] really dialed this down. I was so impressed — things I probably wouldn’t have noticed before … but now when you understand the number of things that need to go into that. And then the moments where they would forget you could see them stop and close their eyes and look for it in their mind … I know what that moment feels like.

Do you have any tips for the next round of public speaking students?

In terms of memorizing, the memory palace was key for me. And the other thing that I think helped was … I practiced in front of my video recorder … and then I would watch it. And then I would do it again and I would watch it. I would see where I stumbled or where I missed and then I would try to make those pieces more memorable.

And I would also practice in my car, anytime I was driving anywhere, it was repeat, repeat, repeat.

Looking toward the future, Liz dreams of opening a bed and breakfast one day and possibly combining that with her counselling focus into a retreat centre.

I actually just love making people’s beds and cooking them breakfast and telling them about the community and all the cool fun things there are to do.  

 

Another (awesome) Writer in the House

By Mai Anh Doan

Jennifer Browne gets things done FAST. There is no doubt about that when you are her co-worker and witness the way she organizes her tasks and wades through the myriad of administrative requests of an ever-growing department. She simply puts it down to being a mother three kids.

But of course, we know there’s more to it.

What some of us don’t know is that Jen is a published writer with six books under her belt. Outside of her current full-time job as the Communications Department Assistant, she’s a professional writer, copy-editor, and event coordinator. Jen writes extensively about plant-based food, digestive health, and mental health.

Writing and publishing books to her is personal. It started with her personal interest in finding practical books to tackle everyday physical and psychological health issues. When she became frustrated and couldn’t find what she was looking for, she decided to write what she felt was missing in the bookstore. She also creatively involves her children in her writing projects. She co-wrote her latest book, Understanding Teenage Anxiety, with her oldest son while having her younger son photograph another book.

“How do you do it?” I asked Jen about her finding time for writing.

“I believe that health is a very relatable issue. When I interviewed people for my books, I could feel it in the tone of their voice. How they were (just like me) concerned about their own wellbeing and wanting to find ways improve it. They empowered me; I wrote everywhere including during my kids’ soccer games, ballet lessons, you name it. Anywhere I had five minutes of free time.”

And that passion fuelled her writing ferociously.

After completing her first book, Happy Healthy Gut, in 2014, she was asked to write a follow-up cookbook (Vegetarian Comfort Foods). After that, she immediately started not one, but two books, at the same time. Baby Nosh and Medicinal Tea came out in 2016 as the results of this creative craze. She vowed to herself to never write two books simultaneously again—until 2019. Two of her latest books, The Anti-Anxiety Cookbook and Understanding Teenage Anxiety, were released in the same year she started a new job in the Department of Communications here at UFV.

Since joining the department in March 2019, Jen has been more focused on her full-time role here, but she still keeps writing in the back of her mind. “Working in this environment constantly reminds me of how important communicating with the audience is—just like writing. If you put your students or your readers in the center and try to understand what they need, you’ll achieve leaps and bounds, for sure.”

“Would your busy schedule mean that we might not see another book of yours for quite some time?”, I attempted to fish information about her writing plan.

“I’m still learning a lot about this job, and I’m loving it, but I keep my creative juices alive too. I’ve been administratively coordinating the SiWC (Surrey International Writers’ Conference) to help writers develop professionally for seven years now. Being surrounded by these motivated and inspiring people at these events, I can’t help but think about my next book. I’d love to write some fiction next time around.”

Well, fiction or non-fiction, we wish Jen the best a new year as a new semester has just started. We are thrilled to have another writer in the house (or department, to be correct) that shares the same philosophy with our other members—connecting with and focusing on people.

Useful tools for a virtual world: team communication

Communication styles in virtual communication by Francis Norman (https://ulfire.com.au/communication-styles-virtual-teams/)

Students taking CMNS 420: Virtual Team Communication in Winter 2019 had to communicate virtually with their instructor and online classmates, because their instructor was teaching from Australia. Virtual teams create collective action without team members working in the same time and space. In this class we used technologies including video conferencing, instant messaging, blogging and short videos to interact with each other.

We researched useful platforms and tools for virtual team communication including SSharepoint (and IR System), Yammer, Trello, Slack and OneNote, BlueJeans, Skype, Dropbox, Google docs, WhatsApp chat and Blink.

Check out the videos below where students, Lisa Matty and Heather Simpson describe the features of some of these tools.

Watch Lisa Matty’s self shot review of OneNote, Collaboration at your fingertips (5.07 mins). Lisa demonstrates how to be a responsible hands-free driver while also collaborating with her teams.

Watch Heather Simpson’s quick introduction to using Zoom for video conferencing and instant messaging, Knowing your options: An introduction to zoom (4.35 mins).

Try these tools out and let us know what you think.

Elevating conversations about intercultural topics: Improving intercultural competency in our daily lives

Culture is not just language

To meet demand in the Fall 2019 term, our department ran two hybrid sections of CMNS 180, Introduction to Intercultural Communication. In practical terms this meant stepping up the amount of out of class and online activities while still meeting learning outcomes around improving intercultural competence in the daily lives of our students. Intercultural competency is something that really needs to be accomplished through interpersonal interactions and that is hard to do online.

Working from an idea found in the course textbook “Introducing intercultural communication: Global cultures and contexts” by Shuang Liu, Zala Volčič and Cindy Gallois, students were asked to “Get together with several friends, family, coworkers, or students (from classes other than this one) and get people talking about (insert topic here)… Make a journal entry about content and communication dynamics of the conversation.” There were five topics spread across the semester of which the class members needed to initiate four out of five. Topics were: intercultural issues in politics The Canadian federal election happened in October), identity, cultural appropriation (always a good discussion prompted by Halloween), cultural adaptation, and conflict.

NO ONE was excited about the prospect of completing this assignment but some took it on right away while others lagged to the very last minute, and everywhere in-between.

Culture is not just languageHowever journaling was not the whole assignment. The culmination of all those Blackboard journal entries was our One Day (research) Project in the final class session. Drawing from what they had written, each student was asked to answer six questions based on the Who, What, Where, When, How and Why framework (concentrating not on the content of the discussions but on the dynamics). The answers were then crowdsourced onto six posters and the class divided up to look for patterns in the answers, relate those patterns to things they had been learning about intercultural communication, and to ultimately come up with a list of “best practices” for engaging in tough conversations around intercultural issues.

Some of the things that surprised many of the students were that:
* family, friends, coworkers and even strangers were interested in elevating casual conversation beyond surface topics (i.e. the weather 🙂 )
* they learned a lot about the people they thought they already knew really well
* they started to look forward to having the conversations
* the people in their lives were interested in the details of what they were learning in class

In the end our list became “best practices for getting more comfortable with having tough conversations.”

First, choose:
* people you already know or are in a context where they might already expect such a conversation (i.e. university)
* places where you are comfortable and where a conversation is most likely to happen naturally
* places where you already know people
* places where you go frequently

Then:
* Work towards going out of your comfort zone (engaging with new people in public places)
* Find new comfortable places
* Pay attention to surroundings for what might impact participants willingness to engage
* Watch for right time/place; Make sure conversations are in a safe environment
* Consider age/maturity of those in conversation
* Approach topics casually
* Make conversations one-on-one personal
* Do during normal routines of the day; During free time, preplanned w no surprises

Think about:
* Using an indirect approach (don’t be blunt and demanding about having a conversation)
* Looking for common ground
* Demonstrating attention/active listening
* Taking responsibility to lead/guide the conversation
* Using current issues
* Always having an eye to building relationships
* Having conversations regularly
* Possibilities for having a facilitator (third-party)

Prepare yourself to:
* Be willing to ask questions
* Show curiosity
* Validate others
* Be present in the conversation
* Give prompts
* Value others opinions
* Use examples
* Be open-minded and show others that you want to listen
* Be willing to challenge your own beliefs and ways of thinking
* Be intentional

Improve your own comfort level by:
* Personally engaging in and learning about topic so you feel comfortable and can engage others
* Start with video/article/info to create interest, knowledge and participation
* Developing relationships and meaningful connections to learn about others interests and to create an environment where one feels safe addressing culturally sensitive topics
* Setting aside intentional time or incorporating into everyday conversations

Hannah Celinski dances her way to becoming a communications professor

Hannah Celinski is one of three newest faculty members to join our Department this Fall. She shared with us some interesting facts, and one boring one, about her life and her teaching in a conversation with Mai Anh Doan earlier this month.

Mai Anh Doan: Congratulations again on your new position. It’s great to see you again with your usual contagious energy and smile. I know that you’ve been teaching as a sessional for a couple of semesters here, but we didn’t get to chat much. Shall we start with your telling us a little bit about your professional background?

Hannah Celinski: I grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo, and after graduating from Sheridan College’s Music Theatre Performance Program, I worked as a professional dancer and choreographer across Canada and abroad on industrials, musicals, music videos, cruise ships, commercials, and notably on the workshop of the Broadway show Fosse with dance legend Gwen Verdon. I eventually moved to Abbotsford and became the owner of Aerial Dance & Acro Academy. I had the pleasure of teaching students from all over the Lower Mainland, and mentoring interested students through the process of becoming professional actors, singers, and dancers.

Hannah being caught at the West Coast Flying Trapeze Circus School, 2018

Mai Anh: That’s very impressive! I used to want to be able to dance professionally but soon realized that not everyone can pursue it as a career (there goes my dream ). How much of it do you bring it to your new position? Can you give us some examples?

Hannah: At UFV, I teach business writing, public speaking, and first-year courses for students learning to thrive in the post-secondary environment. My experience as a business owner allows me to draw from real-world examples to bring the material to life, and my work coaching students to successfully navigate a variety of intense interview settings is the bedrock of my public speaking course. I also relate the theory, textbook readings, and assignments to stories that capture incredible things that happened to myself, my friends, and my previous students. Storytelling has always been a feature of my teaching style.

Mai Anh: We also know that you are pursuing your PhD at the same time. What is your PhD about? How do you think your PhD study helps with you with your teaching?

Hannah: My PhD research is currently focused on what I call Legacy Learning and Legacy Instruction, which capture the role of exponential growth in the physical and cognitive processes of learning. I became interested in the topic while examining Virtual Reality (VR) as a vehicle for archiving movement. The current project has evolved to include the evolution of Learning Outcomes, and the importance of mindfulness in the classroom.

My research is deeply connected to my position, as it informs my teaching practice, assignments, and assessment strategies. For example, my previous experience with technology has resulted in an assignment that incorporates Virtual Reality, reflection, and team development strategies to serve specific Learning Outcomes for CSM 104.

Mai Anh: Given your creative background and your PhD project, what would you say is your most outstanding character(s) as a professor?

Hannah: I believe in student success. Each student approaches the material in their own way, for their own reasons. I am there to offer each student the tools they need to be successful in their own right. I cannot do the work for them, but I can certainly offer them my knowledge, support, experiences, and positivity so they can develop their own academic toolkit. My hope is that their kit serves them long after they have graduated.

Mai Anh: As we are entering a new semester, what would you advise students for them to do well in university?

Hannah: Go to class. Just be in the room. Attendance allows you to connect to UFV’s community, your instructors, and classmates. I encourage my students to attend everything they can because you never know where the conversation will go, what tidbit of wisdom will resonate with you, or who you will meet. My best assignments grew out of unexpected connections I made simply by being in the room, even when the topic did not seem to relate to my interests. Go to class.

Mai Anh: Excellent advice! Let move from students to the Department. What do you like the most about working at UFV’s CMNS department?

Hannah: Our department is full of like-minded instructors who support one another and see the potential for Communications at UFV. I am delighted to contribute to a department that encourages its instructors to expand their teaching practice and subscribe to Universal Design for Learning, while supporting contemporary assignments that stimulate student engagement and development.

Mai Anh: Finally, what’s the most boring thing about you? 😊

Hannah Celinski: I floss.

😊 😊 😊 Hannah, thank you so much for your sharing and for your time. All the best with the new semester and the new role!

Puzzling over a Career in Communications?

Are you interesting in taking communications courses but not sure what you could do with them? At UFV, we offer both a Minor in Communications and a Professional Communication Essentials certificate. Completing a program in communications will teach you how to make and move messages within or between individuals, organizations, companies, NGOs, charities, societies, cultures, and media.

Professionals in communications learn to deliver ideas to public or private audiences.

What industries are looking for communications professionals?

Any organization that communicates with the public, clients, or businesses (such as corporate management, governmental management, policy producers, political and charitable interests) all connect with, influence, or inform individuals, clients, and strategic partners (often through the media).

Most large industries or corporate entities communicate internally, between departments, offices, or branches. Corporate communications and organizational communications professionals shape and move this kind of messaging.

What does a communications career involve?

Communications careers typically involve shaping the public or private/internal voice and identity of an organization through writing, webpage design, Audio/Visual, social media, and public/media engagement. If you’ve ever interacted with a company, a charity, a government, or an NGO, a professional communicator created the pathways, messages, materials, and the themes for that communication.

Communication professionals develop a “voice” for brands, products and companies. This voice is specifically developed to be appealing to the particular demographic that these brands, products and companies want to engage.

In what career field or industries do communications professionals work?

Here are some examples of various roles communication professionals find themselves in:

Business

Public Relations        

Advertising    

International Relations and Negotiations

Broadcasting 

Journalism (Print or Electronic)          

Theatre/Performing Arts       

Government/Politics

High Technology Industries  

  • Television / Film Producer / Director
  • Systems Analyst
  • Technical Copywriter

Communication and Health Care / Social Services

Think you like what you just read? Check out our communications course offerings by viewing the UFV timetable. For more information about the Department of Communications, visit the Communications website.

Natasha Knight selected for the 2019 Communications, Undergraduate Research Excellence Award

On Wednesday May 23rd, Communications student Natasha Knight was honoured along with a host of amazing student researchers at the 2019 Undergraduate Research Excellence Awards at the University of the Fraser Valley. Here is what Natasha had to say about the research she completed for her W19 CMNS 351 course [Professional Research Report Writing for the Workplace] with instructor Dr. Marcella LaFever.

My project topic stemmed from an underlying passion for health and fitness. Since health and fitness has become a popular trend in today’s society, I decided to compare five health and fitness apps to see which apps best motivated its users and kept them actively engaged. I searched for the highest rated health and fitness apps through Google and the Apple Store. The final list included MyFitnessPal, Fooducate, Fitness point, Nike Training Club and 8fit Workouts & Meal Planner.

The report reinforced that not all fitness apps are operated the same and some do not motivate consumers as well as others. I was able to differentiate each app and determine which apps provided easy navigation techniques, provided useful information to the consumer, and used motivational features to keep the consumer engaged.

While none of the five apps were difficult to navigate and provided a variety of useful information, two were superior in providing motivational strategies. Both of these apps had social networking techniques. MyFitnessPal allowed you to add friends to motivate you along your journey and share your logs with them. Fooducate had a platform similar to Facebook in which users could post anything motivational such as progress photos, healthy recipes, and inspirational quotes, to name a few. Having these kinds of features in an app is something that will keep the consumer engaged and wanting to use it more and more. Not only do they get to learn about health and fitness, they get to connect with others who are going through similar journeys.

Dean of Arts Jacqueline Nolte introducing UFV student Natasha Knight: Photo by Dr. Mai Anh Doán

Engaging in this research project has allowed me to enhance my education in terms of gathering information in a variety of forms and taking a hands-on approach to research. This allowed me to gain more insight on the kinds of reports written in a business setting and has advanced my skills.

I am a third-year student in the Bachelor of General Studies Program minoring in Business and Communications. I have previously completed a Social Services Diploma and a Professional Communication Essentials associate certificate. I plan to apply this degree towards a project management or a human resources related position in my future career.

LGBTQ People in the Workplace: The University of the Fraser Valley Giving Students Hope

UFV
Guest Blog By Amanda Rathore

LGBTQ people may hide their private lives from their colleagues and even clients for fear of homophobia or exclusion in activities. It is all too common for them to be overlooked for promotions – especially if the role is public facing. Just like me, they often avoid questions about their family life or their relationships so that they don’t cause a scene at work or give people a reason to view them differently.

Most of us know someone, consider themselves, or have a family member who identifies as being a part of the LGBTQ community. We live in a heteronormative community that usually does not consider how it might be difficult for people who do not identify as heterosexual to live and work in society.  Over the years there has been a gradual change in how LGBTQ people are viewed in the workplace. The workplace is a professional environment where your sexuality should not have a negative effect on you, yet in often it does. It’s time for companies to start accepting and creating an inclusive atmosphere for all generations where they feel welcomed in their workplace of choice no matter their background.

The Rise of LGBTQ People 

A Gallup poll study (Newport 2018) found that the percentage of [American] millennials who identify as LGBT expanded from 7.3% to 8.1% from 2016 to 2017, and is up from 5.8% in 2012. By contrast, the LGBT percentage in Generation X (those born from 1965 to 1979) was up only .2% from 2016 to 2017. There was no change last year in the LGBT percentage among Baby Boomers (born 1946 through 1964) and Traditionalists (born prior to 1946).

This data suggests that there could be more Millennials in the workplace that are willing to identify as compared to older generations. The Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers were more focused on the nuclear family model which consisted of two heterosexual parents and their children. Back then, if you were gay you kept it a secret and hidden from the public. Gen X who were more focused on activism and gender equality, moved away from the nuclear family, but still being gay was not something easily shared. Millennials and Gen Z are described as being big on experimenting with gender and sexual spectrums. As a result, there are more people from these generations, even though they don’t identify as LGBTQ, who are supportive and demonstrate a more open mind.

This suggests that older people may have been less open or less exposed to same-sex relationships. The end result of this may be that of isolation, which is harmful to the physical and mental health of all older adults.  Older generations might be afraid to tell others in their life that they are gay for fear of discrimination, harassment or being rejected by friends and family. This is still also common for many LGBTQ youth even though today people are more accepting then in the past.  From the Gallup poll stats, we can see throughout the years, there has been a change on how we view sexuality and what constitutes a family.

Sexuality at Work

While there has been progress made, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people still worry that revealing their sexuality at work will have negative consequences.

Likewise, older generations who were previously not allowed to express themselves are now coming out today with the same fears as those from the younger generations. Workplaces are becoming more aware that people of all ages and different sexualities make up their workforce.

Consider informal lunch room discussions. Have you even thought that having a simple conversation about family life, what you did on the weekend, or who you might be dating can be a very stressful and awkward discussion for an LGBTQ colleague? I have personally had this experience many times and it makes me feel uncomfortable. The risk for me is that I may want to be social and tell you about my life, but fear of rejection from my colleagues is too great. LGBTQ people, like myself, are very aware of the fact that we live in a heteronormative society.

Companies Working Towards Inclusivity  

LGBTQ bathroom

*Image published via Geneseo

Companies can use bold statements and subtle signals to create an inclusive atmosphere throughout the entire organization. The solutions need not be complex. Leadership with an open mind and positive approach to change is essential.

A new survey from the Human Rights Campaign states “Fostering a culture of inclusion has direct effects on workers’ output and productivity” Carpenter (2018). In the same survey, 31% of LGBTQ respondents said they felt unhappy or depressed at work. Another 20% had stayed home from work because their workplace “wasn’t always accepting of LGBTQ people.” Others said their inability to feel comfortable at work had even pushed them to search for other jobs. Nearly half of all LGBTQ employees aren’t out at work” (para 2).

Some bold statements that organizations can make to create a welcoming workplace would be to create gender neutral bathrooms, not tolerate bullying or harassment, and to respect everyone regardless of their identities. The University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), which I attend, has done a great job of being inclusive by installing gender neutral bathrooms throughout their campus buildings. I personally use them and have friends who use them because it makes them feel more comfortable and valued as a member of the UFV community. Having to use a gendered washroom causes problems with people who look like a “male” but identify as a “female” and vice versa. These individuals feel fear, discomfort and judgment for just using the bathroom that they would use if they were dressed or looked “normal” in society’s eyes.

Organizations can also let qualified people in the LGBTQ community become leaders. For example, UFV’s new president Dr. MacLean is the first woman to hold the title of president in a non-interim role. She and her partner have taken up residency in the Friesen house on campus and accompany each other to student, faculty and community events. To me this is amazing because, first, UFV has welcomed a woman to be in power, which on its own is a huge step forward. Second, having a woman who is with someone of the same sex be the face of UFV makes me happy and proud of myself because it shows that UFV is very inclusive and that anyone, if they work with integrity, no matter their sexuality, can do anything!

UFV is giving me hope for a better future.

UFV President

*Image published via Skookum magazine
*Main header image published via Dreamstime