Are You an ALLY? Ensuring an Equitable Workplace.


Issues that transgender, intersex and two-spirit persons face.

On Tuesday June 10th, an engaging and eye-opening presentation on Mount Sinai Hospital’s “Are You An ALLY?” campaign was given by Irit Kelman and Moya Teklu of the hospital’s Human Rights & Health Equity Office as part of the CIDI UnConference.

Irit and Moya started off the break-out session by focusing on transgender* concerns and how to be an ally to transgender, intersex* and two-spirit people*. Group discussion revealed the many ways in which transgender people are discriminated against including: the use of derogatory language, questioning the authenticity of one’s gender, systemic discrimination around the use of public washrooms, irrational fear of transgender people, inappropriate jokes, using incorrect pronouns to describe the transgender person, harassment, and violence.

Alarming statistics from Trans Pulse Ontario were presented:

  • While 71% of transgender Ontarians have a college or university education, about 50% of them make $15,000 per year or less (below Ontario’s poverty line of $23,000 per year).
  • 57% of transgender Ontarians face workplace discrimination.
  • 65% of transgender Ontarians have suicidal ideations.
  • 57% of transgender Ontarians avoid public washrooms due to fear of harassment.

The “Are You An ALLY?” Campaign.

Mount Sinai Hospital’s “Are You An ALLY?”  campaign serves to raise awareness about the experiences of the hospital’s employees and patients who face discrimination. It also aims to empower employees on how to combat discrimination. Mount Sinai Hospital has developed various workshops, posters, e-learning modules and other publically available tools to implement this campaign.

The “Are You An ALLY?” campaign focuses on:

  • People with mental health issues.
  • Racialized persons.
  • Persons with disabilities.
  • LGB* persons.
  • Transgender/intersex/two-spirited persons.

Identifying privilege.

Mount Sinai Hospital’s campaign also emphasizes the need to educate people about social identities and the fact that certain identities are privileged in society. For example, white, able-bodied, cisgender* identities are privileged over identities that do not fit within these dominant social categories. Mount Sinai Hospital’s campaign includes the use of privilege checklists called ‘Social Identity Statements’ which help people understand their own privileges in comparison to those who do not share those same privileges.

What is an ALLY?

An ally could be any member of the Mount Sinai Hospital community that wants to help in creating a healthy and safe working environment. An ally supports the rights of marginalized people and acts when those people face discrimination.

Examples of actions that an ally would take when confronted with discrimination versus being a bystander:

  • Speaking up.
  • Trying to remove systemic barriers.
  • Acknowledging and affirming people’s experiences.
  • Not being afraid to make mistakes and learn from them.

How to become an ALLY.

  1. Learn (Thinking about the issues, developing self-awareness).
  2. Reflect (Unlearning stereotypes, identifying privilege).
  3. Practice (Practicing how to respond to exercises of privilege, speaking up and taking action).

Examples of applying the ALLY framework to interactions with transgender, intersex and two-spirited persons.

  • Learn:  Ask what name and gender a patient/colleague would like to be addressed by.
  • Reflect:  Become familiar with the language related to gender identity.
  • Practice: Speak out when you hear transphobic jokes or comments.

Taking an open approach to confronting discrimination.

Mount Sinai Hospital staff are encouraged to take an open approach to confronting discrimination. Rather than immediately judging someone’s discriminatory actions as being based on bad intentions, Mount Sinai encourages openness and tact when dealing with the situation. For example, staff can address the use of objectionable language by firmly stating that the language would not be considered to be “an ALLY word”. Staff are also shown how to accept feedback about offending someone in a manner that helps them become better healthcare professionals. Irit and Moya invited participants to watch the following TED Talk video on racism by hip hop commentator Jay Smooth, as it ties into the message articulated by the “Are You An Ally?” campaign:

To turn the closed captioning feature on or off, or to have YouTube translate the captions, once you have started the video click the “CC” at the bottom of the video window. Please note that the CIDI is not responsible for the CC of this video. 

For more information regarding Mount Sinai Hospitals “Are You An Ally?” campaign – click here.

For Mount Sinai’s Glossary of Terms related to gender identity – click here.

Originally Published: June 26th, 2014.
CIDI Blog Type: Friends of the CIDI
Edited by: Kayla Altman


About the Author:
Thamina Jaferi
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