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PRIDE: Wearing a rainbow on your front door

Two Hamilton business owners who have achieved Rainbow Registered accreditation, an inclusivity initiative of a national chamber of commerce, say it's been good for business and others should be doing the same.

Two Hamilton business owners who have achieved accreditation with Rainbow Registered, a program of the Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC), say it’s both good for business and the right thing to do.

And they think many more of their counterparts should be doing the same.

The accreditation program, a collaboration with Tourism HR Canada, launched in June 2021.

“When you see a Rainbow Registered symbol, you know the business or organization meets a stringent set of standards to ensure 2SLGBTQI+ customers feel safe, welcomed, and accepted,” reads the program’s website.

(HAMILTON CITY Magazine requested an interview with the CGLCC about the program, but did not get a response.)

“The accreditation will help consumers and prospective employees to more easily identify LGBT+ friendly businesses across Canada,” the chamber said in a press release at the program’s launch. “It will also help businesses of all industries and sizes, demonstrate their commitment and consistent efforts to provide a welcome and accepting experience through progressive policies and practices.”

Darrell Schuurman, CEO of CGLCC, said at the time: “The Rainbow Registered program is a way for companies to affirm their position on LGBT+ rights and make it clear what their stance is. It’s no longer enough to talk about inclusivity. Canadian consumers and employees are now demanding clear actionable steps that show a business’s values align with their own.”

According to a national directory, there are 342 businesses and organizations registered across the country. That includes 65 accommodations, 68 attractions and activities, 11 entertainment and leisure venues, 19 museums and galleries, 19 retailers, 20 restaurants a bars and 19 wineries, breweries and distilleries.

There are six Rainbow Registered organizations in Hamilton: Radiance Laser and Medical Aesthetics, Socially Infused Media, the City of Hamilton’s Tourism and Culture division, Hamilton Halton Brant Regional Tourism Organization, Dr. Bob Kemp Hospice and Sandra Lucas Transportation Consulting.

Burlington has just one: the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.

According to the CGLCC, accreditation standards focus on four areas: policies and practices, training, commitment to inclusive leadership and a culture of inclusivity. An application process is followed by an assessment, which includes examining documentation and customer reviews and interviews with a company’s ownership. Applicants that do not meet the standard for accreditation are given recommendations for improvement and will have a year to get reassessed.

The cost for becoming Rainbow Registered begin at $250 for three years plus a $49 signup fee for businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Providing a safe space

Lystra Dawson’s Radiance Laser and Medical Aesthetics clinic in Stoney Creek is among 16 businesses in the health and beauty category. Radiance achieved its Rainbow Registered designation in 2022.

“It’s more than just putting a Pride sticker on your business establishment just to say we are a gender inclusive space. There are a lot of rules that you have to go through for an accreditation.”

Laser skin treatments are the most common service at Radiance and it simply doesn’t matter what a person’s gender identity might be, she says.

“Because essentially, when we're doing laser services, genitalia changes nothing in terms of how we do our treatment.”

Another service offered at Radiance is electrolysis for sex reconstruction surgery.

“It's really difficult to find places from what my clients are telling me, for them to find a place that they can go into to get those services, especially in Hamilton. It’s easy to find it in Toronto, but in Hamilton it's not easy to find.”

Lystra Dawson, owner of Radiance Laser and Medical Aesthetics.

Radiance’s website is explicit about being inclusive: “We treat SKIN, not Gender. A safe space for the LGBTQ2S and Trans community.”

There is also a page of resources for the trans community, including the Hamilton Trans Health Coalition and the Queer Justice Project.

“I wish there were more spaces in Hamilton that went through the process because it's one thing to say, we're LGBTQ friendly and you stick a sticker on your door and call it a day. But unless you're actually doing the work to be methodical about how you say your words, how you identify individuals, how you connect and relate to them… It changes that person's experience from being that feeling of being ashamed to that feeling of confidence where they can come into place and be like, ‘Yes, I'm not going to be looked at differently.’”

Even the design of her clinic on Centennial Parkway had gender inclusivity in mind, says Dawson.

“We made sure that it didn't feel super feminine or super masculine, that it just felt clean and comfortable, and just open. Even in our branding colours and the things that we did, we wanted to make sure that we showed a lot of diversity.”

Her assessment process included an interview, showing proof that the business has undertaken diversity and inclusion training, and documenting ways it contributes to the queer community.

Forcing change

As the name implies, Socially Infused Media is choosy about the kinds of clients it works with, preferring to engage with those making change, expressing opinions and sharing the same core values.

The creative agency’s founder Vince Bucciachio has close family who are in the 2SLGBTQI community and was inspired by a client who is deeply involved in advocating for the community.

“Their passion and commitment was super infectious. And it got me thinking, what are we doing here to advocate and to celebrate diversity?”

His research led him to Rainbow Registered. He talked to his team and they were fully on board. That process allowed people to feel comfortable talking about their gender identity or their same-sex partners.

“Even just bringing up the fact that we were going to apply and how did everyone feel about it changed us. It just did.”

The accreditation process was a learning curve, requiring the agency to formally introduce policies and procedures for employees and contractors.

“We just had to reconsider everything we had done. And I was always of the belief that, you know, I was steering the ship in the right direction, and I was very proud of what I was doing. But when I took a step back and looked at it, I realized I was missing a lot of key components. And I think that's part of growth.”

Vince Bucciachio and members of his team at Socially Infused Media.

Bucciachio says he appreciates the rigour of the Rainbow Registered program because it should challenge the way organizers and their leaders operate.

“Who's ready for this before they apply? I don't think many organizations are, I think the application process forces change. And by saying, I want to be part of this, you're opening yourself up to that change, and that's the start of it.”

Being explicit about inclusivity has brought more clients and prospective employees to his door.

“We get applications every day, we get calls from students. But one of the biggest things is: ‘I saw that you’re Rainbow Registered and I'd love to work for you guys.’ That comes out of people's mouths probably half the time now.”

That’s important in an economy where it’s hard to land talent, says Bucciachio.

“Seeing the Rainbow Registered logo on our site is so refreshing, I think, to people who want to apply. And so I would say if you're if you're having trouble finding talent, maybe it's you. Right?”

Bucciachio recommends his clients get accredited and a local electrician is now going through the process.  

The Socially Infused Media offices at 1 West Ave. S. in Hamilton.