Inclusion & Diversity People

Rainbow lanyard signals inclusion and acceptance

photo of people wearing rainbow lanyards
Speech-language pathologist Jess MacKimm (left) and Senior Director of Clinical Services Stacy Jansen show their support by wearing the rainbow lanyard.

Members of the Department of Otolaryngology wear symbolic lanyards to visually communicate a message of welcome to those around them, including patients and their families.

The lanyard features the progress pride flag, designed by non-binary artist Daniel Quasar (xe/they) in 2018, which builds upon the earlier design of the rainbow flag representative of the LGBTQ+ community.

“The progress pride flag includes black and brown stripes to represent Black and Latinx communities and white, pink, and blue stripes to represent gender diverse communities,” says Washington University Speech-Language Pathologist Jess MacKimm. “Here at Washington University, our lanyard signifies an acknowledgement of intersectional identities and that this intersection is welcome and celebrated.”

Long-time nurse and Senior Director of Clinical Operations for Otolaryngology, Stacy Jansen wears the lanyard to signal to patients and coworkers alike that she supports members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I want members of the community and allies of these communities to know that I offer my personal support, and I, too, am an ally,” says Jansen.

A glimpse of the rainbow lanyard can transform a frightening patient experience into an opportunity to connect and build trust. MacKimm, whose work involves assisting patients in transition, recalls an interaction with a young transgender patient who noticed her lanyard.

“She was excited and asked if I was part of the community,” says MacKimm. “I told her that I am gay and that my partner is trans. She told me how much it meant to her to have a provider with a shared identity, especially as she navigated medical transition. She told me that it can be scary to navigate the medical system due to fear of discrimination. However, seeing medical providers wearing the rainbow lanyard helps her feel safe and shows her that she’s not alone.”

photo of audiologist
Pediatric audiologist Bernadette Rakszawski shows her support.

Some members of the department add pins to their lanyard to communicate additional messages such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Asian Hate.”

“I wear the pins to signify respect and appreciation along with a commitment from me to do more against racism in my community and its impact in healthcare,” says Pediatric Audiologist Bernadette Rakszawski.

“I began wearing the rainbow lanyard and pins a few months ago,” says Rakszawski. “It is rare for a week to go by without a family, patient, or peer initiating a positive comment to me about these accessories. Oftentimes it’s a quick compliment, such as, ‘I like your pronoun badge.’ Other times it opens up a broader discussion with a child and parent about their truths. These physical and visual accessories act as a segue that creates a space to have a genuine conversation that otherwise wouldn’t have come about so naturally.”

“It is such a small contribution to wear the lanyard, but for those who know what the rainbow flag signifies I hope it makes them smile or even talk to me,” says Jansen. “My family and friend circle include those who identify as gay, non-cisgender, queer, and other. Their struggles are many and they have shared with me how they appreciate anyone showing outward support of LGBTQ+.” Members of the department can order a lanyard and other DEI swag by submitting this form.