Embracing Diversity: The Intersection of the LGBTQIA+ and Disability Communities in the Workforce

Embracing Diversity: The Intersection of the LGBTQIA+ and Disability Communities in the Workforce


March 21, 2024


In employment, diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords; they are essential components of a thriving workplace. During a recent podcast with the Administration on Disabilities (AoD) Disability Employment Technical Assistance Center (DETAC), Andy Arias, a passionate advocate professional for the LGBTQIA+ and disability communities, shared his insights on the importance of recognizing and valuing the multifaceted identities of employees, and emphasized the need for inclusive practices to go beyond mere policy. This blog post builds upon the content of the podcast.


Note: LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and the + promotes inclusivity for a broad and evolving understanding of gender and sexual identities (Source: Princeton University Gender and Sexual Identity Resource Center).


Research shows that people who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community are also more likely to report having a disability as compared to the rest of the population (Source: Movement Advancement Project). The concept of the compounding effects and complex experience for people who are part of multiple historically marginalized groups is called intersectionality, and this term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw (Source: University of Chicago Legal Forum). For people who are part of the LGBTQIA+ and disability communities, as well as other historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups, these overlapping identities impact their experience in the workplace. Because of this, it’s critical for inclusive workplace practices to go beyond mere policy.


I am deeply committed to advocating for individuals who face challenges and discrimination in the workforce, especially those with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ identities. These individuals often have to prove their abilities, which is something I understand from personal experience. We need to work together to remove the barriers that prevent marginalized communities from advancing in their careers. I believe that everyone should have access to leadership opportunities, no matter their background. My goal is to create a world where people from diverse backgrounds can succeed without external assistance. I am dedicated to creating meaningful change and supporting others along the way. Let’s work together to build a more inclusive and fair society where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.


In today’s workplace, inclusivity is essential and it is everyone’s responsibility. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) Inclusive Language Guide is a comprehensive resource for understanding inclusive terms for the LGBTQIA+ and disability communities, as well as other historically marginalized groups. Understanding LGBTQIA+ terminology and using gender-inclusive language contributes to a workplace where everyone feels seen and respected.   Integrating pronouns in professional interactions is a simple but powerful practice that can affirm individuals’ identities and foster respect. It’s just as important to avoid outdated or offensive language that marginalizes or invalidates others’ experiences. Actively recruiting individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+, have disabilities, or come from historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups, is crucial. By prioritizing true inclusivity and equity, we can create workplaces where everyone thrives.


There are many ways that you can prioritize inclusivity and equity. One way is by adding your own pronouns to your signature, and by asking people first how they like to be addressed – either regarding their disability or their pronouns. Pronouns are a fundamental aspect of our identity. They affirm gender identity and foster an inclusive workplace. Employers and coworkers should prioritize pronoun usage and create spaces where individuals feel comfortable sharing their pronouns. If you are a professional in the workplace, you must be able engage with people who are different from you. And if you’re not sure what to do, Google it! Sometimes it is the little things that make people feel included and respected, especially in the workplace.


As I have delved deeper into the complex relationship between the LGBTQIA+ and disability communities, I have come to realize that fostering an inclusive environment goes beyond just having policies in place. It requires a genuine recognition and integration of the diverse identities of all employees. This is not just a matter of ticking boxes; it’s about creating a workplace where everyone feels appreciated and accepted for who they are. Reflecting on the best practices for using pronouns and the importance of using gender-inclusive language, I am reminded of how significant it is to respect someone’s pronouns, particularly in the workplace. It’s not just a matter of being polite; it’s about validating someone’s identity. Commit to using gender-inclusive language and appropriate terminology when referring to people from the LGBTQIA+ community. By doing so, together we can take a firm step towards creating a more inclusive and respectful workplace that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of all its members.


Interested in learning more about this topic? Check out the following resources:

About the Author: Andy Arias

Andy Arias has been an advocacy professional for over seven years. He has worked as a System Change Advocate and Program Manager for Orange County & Los Angeles. He is member of many boards and commissions related to creating greater visibility and advancement for diverse communities, especially the disability community. Andy is often hired for speaking and training events at universities, high schools and before Congressional leaders on ADA compliance and the inclusion of people disabilities and others from diverse backgrounds and communities.


Andy’s experience and leadership gave him skills to develop and implement a youth program that served over 150 young adults across southern California and among various county agencies, helping them reach their dreams for independence. Andy excels in teaching students that nothing can get in the way of their dreams, as long as they use their disabilities as an asset.


Andy advocates in the entertainment industry by creating visible pathways as an actor and stand-up comedian. As an actor, Andy has had the pleasure of working with Tom Hanks, Mark Ruffalo and Hilary Swank on projects. He is often asked to consult with producers and directors to create greater media visibility of people with disabilities. He has also produced several small projects that have brought attention to persons with disabilities and the LGBTQ to community.


Andy’s expertise extends to Federal government and corporate levels. His goal is to marry his policy work with his work in the entertainment industry to create a systemic lasting change.

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