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LGBTI certification – more than a rainbow flag outside the building

LGBTI certification – more than a rainbow flag outside the building

| Text: Fayme Alm, photo: Britt-Mari Olsson

Insecurity can stifle conversations about LGBTI – better to say nothing than risk choosing the wrong word. At Dunker Culture House in Helsingborg, knowledge gained from certification has had a positive effect on both visitors and the work environment. It has also increased self-confidence among staff.

“Of course the flag should be there and the certification should be something to tick off in your books. But it can also be so much more,” says Gunilla Lewerentz, operations manager at the Dunkers Culture House in Helsingborg. It is one of the city’s six LGBTI certified companies 

“It is easy to think you are a relatively open-minded person, but then you come across deeper layers and it is no longer so easy to be who you believe you are.”

Renewed once every three years

The Dunkers Culture House renewed its certification last year. The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights (RFSL) and its education arm led the work to get companies to renew their certificate every three years. At that stage, measures that have been put in place will be evaluated and new targets for the coming three years will be set. The re-certification also allows for the training of new staff.

“We don’t have a large staff turnover, but we must keep these issues alive. It is problematic to claim that the entire house is certified if most staff have not had training,” says Lewerentz.  

Dunker Culture Hosue

This is how nice Norra Hamnen in Helsingborg can be, where Dunker Culture House lies. The picture was taken before the Corona pandemic. Photo: Mickael Tannus.

Always on the agenda

To prevent what has been achieved with the certification from being forgotten, the Culture House has its own norm-creative group. It takes a norm-critically approach by analysing and trying to find solutions to problems that apply to LGBTI as well as human rights and children’s rights issues. 

The group uses the seven grounds of discrimination which are covered by the Swedish law prohibiting discrimination: sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation and age. 

Tora Schlyter is an exhibition pedagogue at Dunkers Culture House and responsible for the group. It has an intersectional perspective, which she believes is crucial to how things develop.  

“It is absolutely essential when working with rights issues that we consider how things are linked, to avoid pitting groups against each other or developing perspective fatigue. This way of working is very clearly described in our mandate,” says Tora Schlyter.

 Tora Schlyter

Tora Schlyter, responsible for the norm-creative group at Dunker Culture House in Helsingborg. Photo: private

The norm-creative group has a permanent point of order during each workplace meeting, a so-called APT, where bosses and staff meet regularly.  

The management group’s agenda also includes norm creativity. This, says Gunilla Lewerentz, is about “practising what you preach” and not just settle at nice projects and keeping the Culture House open for all.

“We are good with pretty words and sometimes even with action, but I am not employed to do a job that looks good in the media and in the brochures – we should be here for our citizens, they are our first priority.” 

Should mirror society

That is why one of the management group's goals is to broaden recruitment. Gunilla Lewerentz has worked in the culture sector for a long time, and says it is an exciting trade but that it lacks diversity.

“We have to take a closer look at all the grounds of discrimination when we hire people. This approach is not a quick fix but extremely long-term work,” she says, adding that this awareness of diversity exists already.

“Anyone we hire must support our values and must want to include all of the citizens in the city."

Synergy effects with added value

Parallel to the long-term measures, the Dunkers Culture House maintains the gains of having invested in an LGBTI certificate, on a daily basis. The operations manager believes the certification has helped improve awareness among staff of how they meet visitors, shape the environment (the so-called lady and gentlemen toilet signs have been removed) and that they become more mindful of their own behaviour, thinking and actions.  

“This is what constitutes our norm-creative way of thinking. Our competence has improved when it comes to respecting all human beings, and it has also helped us focus on how we use language. The certification has also opened our eyes to structural discrimination. For instance, funcophobia, how we treat people with functional variations,” says Gunilla Lewerentz. 

Tora Schlyter points to the importance of the education which resulted from the certification, how knowledge strengthens staff’s self-confidence, and quotes from the overall positive feedback: “I did not know this” and “I did not think about this”.

Tolerance between staff themselves has also improved. If someone says or does something wrong, a colleague can correct them without anyone feeling guilty, says Tora Schlyter.

“Nobody should be afraid of being verbally reprimanded, it is possible to apologise when a mistake has been made.

“It is obvious that this is how things should be at our place. Even if not everyone knows the right words, we do try.”

Dunker Culture House
Gunilla Lewerentz on the stairs of Dunker Culture House, a museum and art centre at Norra Hamnen in Helsingborg. The businessman Henry Dunker paid for the entire museum which houses large exhibitions, stage art and educational activities for children and young people in the fields of art, music, dance and theatre.
Sweden uses the abbreviation HBTQI to denote homosexual, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex people. In English and in other Nordic countries it is more common to use the term LBGTI.

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