Keeping Pride Alive All Year in Veterinary Medicine

As June wraps up and Pride Month is coming to an end, it’s important to remember that supporting the LGBTQ+ community is a year-round commitment.

According to a PrideVMC survey, only 23% of LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals feel fully accepted in their workplace. Additionally, a 2019 report by the AVMA highlights that 39% of LGBTQ+ individuals have experienced discrimination in the veterinary field.

We’ve complied a list of ways that veterinary practices and we as individuals can keep the spirit of Pride alive throughout the year, fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for everyone.

7 Ways to Create Inclusive Veterinary Clinics

Show Visable Signs of Support 🏳️‍🌈

Symbols of support, such as rainbow flags or inclusive stickers, can be displayed all year round. These visual cues serve to remind clients and employees that your practice is a safe and welcoming space. Consistent visibility of these symbols can help LGBTQ+ individuals feel acknowledged and valued every time they visit the clinic, reinforcing a culture of inclusivity and acceptance.

Representation Matters

Do any of your promotional materials, office decor, website or social media content reflect diverse backgrounds and family structures? This representation helps clients from various backgrounds see themselves in the clinic’s environment. Whether it’s a poster depicting diverse families or a social media post celebrating LGBTQ+ holidays, such efforts show ongoing commitment to inclusivity, not just during Pride Month.

Pronoun Awareness

We’ve all been there, new client arrives for their appointment, and we exclaim with admiration, “oh my what a beautiful new pup! She’s just so adorable!” and sure enough, the pups parent glares, replying “HE is very adorable, thank you.” Oops. Lesson learned. The next time we are presented with a new furry friend we haven’t met yet, a simple “aren’t they cute!” is a much safer response. Shockingly, this works for people too (the “they” part, call people cute at your own risk).

A small but simple way to show support is to include personal pronouns in email signatures, name tags, and other identifiers. This simple act shows ongoing respect for everyone’s identity and fosters an inclusive environment. For instance, having name tags with pronouns can help avoid misgendering and create a more comfortable setting for everyone involved.

Don’t Forget the Client Paperwork

We know better than to assume Fluffy’s gender; should we be wrong and offend their pet parent. The same goes for clients. Including options beyond “spouse” and “partner” respects the diverse realities of clients’ lives and promotes a welcoming atmosphere. For example, having a section for pronouns on client forms is a simple thing that can make a significant difference.

DEI Training

  1. Provide ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training for all staff members. Regular training ensures everyone understands how to create and maintain a supportive environment and addresses issues related to underrepresented communities. Training sessions could include workshops on recognizing and addressing unconscious biases, which can help create a more empathetic and knowledgeable team.

Fortunately, our profession has developed several excellent resources to enhance DEI education in veterinary medicine.

The AVMA’s Brave Space Certificate is a valuable resource available for free to AVMA members, offering comprehensive training on creating inclusive environments. Additionally, Purdue University provides a Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine Certificate Program that is accessible to those seeking more in-depth knowledge. Implementing these training programs ensures that all staff members are well-informed about the challenges faced by underrepresented communities, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to foster a safe and welcoming workplace.

Have Clear Anti-Discrimination Policies

Keep anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies prominently displayed and consistently enforced. These policies should be a staple in your clinic’s commitment to equality and inclusivity. Having these policies visible in waiting areas and on your website ensures that both clients and employees know that discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated.

Gender-Neutral Restrooms

Individual non-gendered restrooms should be available and clearly labeled. This small change can significantly impact the inclusivity of the clinic environment. Simply changing the signage to be a toilet, or to say washroom vs the typical symbol of stick figures in pants or dresses can ensure that all clients and staff, regardless of their gender identity, feel comfortable using the bathroom, promoting a more inclusive and respectful atmosphere.

Additional Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Individuals all Year Long

Backing LGBTQ+ Initiatives

Support LGBTQ+ organizations and events year-round through donations of time, money, or services. Sustained contributions help address broader issues of inequality and support community-building efforts. Participating in or sponsoring local Pride events, even outside of June, shows ongoing commitment and solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

Addressing Discrimination

Consistently speak up against discriminatory behavior. Creating a safer environment requires continuous vigilance and a commitment to addressing harmful behavior whenever it occurs. This might include holding team meetings to discuss instances of discrimination and developing strategies to prevent future occurrences.

Stay Informed

Stay informed about LGBTQ+ terminology, history, and current events throughout the year. Ongoing education helps individuals empathize with the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ members and support them effectively. Consider subscribing to newsletters from LGBTQ+ organizations or attending webinars and conferences on LGBTQ+ issues.

Amplifying LGBTQ+ Voices

Use social media and other platforms to share LGBTQ+ stories and resources regularly. Promoting visibility and awareness is a year-round effort that contributes to a more inclusive society. Highlighting stories of LGBTQ+ individuals within the veterinary community can inspire others and foster a sense of belonging (DVM 360).

Wear Ally Symbols

Wear pins, stickers, or charms that signal support for the LGBTQ+ community all year. These symbols can help create an atmosphere of acceptance and open up opportunities for dialogue and education. For example, having an LGBTQ+ pride pin on your lab coat can signal to clients and colleagues alike that you are a supportive ally.

Signing Supportive Documents

Like DIgitail you can add your name or company to documents like the Gender Identity Bill of Rights to demonstrate ongoing commitment to equality and promote broader societal change. Signing such documents shows a public and enduring commitment to the principles of inclusivity and respect for all gender identities.

As Pride 2024 wraps up…

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community in veterinary medicine is a year-round commitment. By implementing these practices consistently, veterinary practices and individuals can ensure that the spirit of Pride lives on throughout the year. These efforts not only benefit LGBTQ+ clients and staff but also enhance the overall welcomging atmosphere of the veterinary field, making it a more compassionate and understanding place for all.

For further information, resources, and support, organizations like BlendVet and PrideVMC offer valuable guidance and tools to help veterinary practices and individuals foster inclusivity.