Today’s episode drops just 5 days before the launch of Pride Month. That special time of year that rejuvenates us with hope, confidence, and glitter. One of the best parts about Pride today is that so many companies and organizations show their open support online, in their media, and through rainbows plastered on the front of their merchandise. While we certainly enjoy the stand of solidarity, often these gestures come across as hollow. Specifically when one examines the LGBTQ+ diversity, or lack of queer diversity and inclusivity, adopted within these companies. So today we want to discuss how to keep the Pride going long after the last sparkler fades.
While this episode is meant for businesses during Pride Month, parents, loved ones, teachers, and community workers can learn a lot as well. The most important thing to remember is to LISTEN to your LGBTQ+ loved one. Do your own research, read some memoirs, set aside times to ask questions, and reach out to a support group of others in your shoes. Don’t put the brunt of your education on your queer loved one. They have enough to deal with. Google is a wonderful tool, and while you can’t trust everything on the internet, you can learn a hell of a lot. So utilize it. As for those of you who run a business, a group, or an organization, the following tips are for helping make your workplace a more effective Ally.
First – Create LGBTQ+ Specific Policies – As great as it is to see a rainbow outside one’s workplace, it doesn’t mean much if that individual isn’t protected once they’re inside those walls. Most companies have a non-discrimination policy as it is federally required, but that doesn’t allow for public accommodations or many medical needs that are specific to the queer population. More importantly, by not specifically addressing LGBTQ+ employees, companies are not recognizing the fact that queer populations face additional barriers and needs. By instituting policies that specifically address LGBTQ issues, a company shows they are committed to queer employees, customers, and clients, every day and not just during Pride Month. By the way, the overwhelming majority of Fortune 500 companies have policies in place. If you want your business to thrive, queer specific policies are essential.
Second – Institute Regular Trainings and Make Sure They Are Queer Lead – Like many minority groups, we continue to evolve in our language, our goals, and our understanding of ourselves. So a standard curriculum developed 20 years ago and repeated once a year isn’t going to cut it. In fact, curriculums created 10 or even 5 years ago will definitely need to be updated or thrown out altogether. In order to be an effective Ally it’s important to develop with the times the same way your business or organization continues to evolve if it wishes to grow. So training should regularly be reviewed before it’s presented and training around minority issues should be administered often. Especially if the company is growing or has high turnover.
Additionally, these training sessions should be led by an LGBTQ+ individual. An Ally with good intentions just isn’t going to cut it. A queer person will have insights and be able to address questions that others cannot. The same way a person of color can speak to the effects of racism far better than a white person ever could. Furthermore, you don’t want the training to become ‘other’ focused, meaning ‘those people’. Rather, by having a peer representative, the subject becomes more personal and tangible. If you don’t have a person within your organization that is qualified to host this training, then you can always outsource and pay a local organization to send a qualified representative. Or maybe ask how you don’t have a single LGBTQ+ employee that could lead a training.
Third – Small Signs Go A Long Way – There’s a lot of small ways to make LGBTQ+ people feel valid and safe in their workplace.
Some Small Ways to Show Support:
- Use pronouns on your email sign-offs
- Add pronouns to name tags.
- Add a rainbow or trans sticker in your window
- Use gender-neutral bathroom signs if you have single-stall bathrooms
- Make a habit of not assuming a persons gender or sexual orientation
- Don’t ask personal questions that you wouldn’t want someone to ask you.
- Offer readily available resources about LGBTQ+ issues
- Understand terminology and various identities.
Some Large Ways to Show Support
- Implement procedures for easy name and pronoun changes within the organization
- Ensure you offer same-sex partner benefits for married or common-law couples.
- Offer medical insemination coverage for queer employees (or all employees).
- Offer Transgender medical services
- Offer paid time off for trans and non-binary surgeries
- Donate to a local LGBTQ+ organization
- Partner with a local LGBTQ+ organization
- Create a department or office specifically for LGBTQ+ employees, clients, or customers
Next – Examine Your Team and Hiring Strategy – Queer people are everywhere. If you’ve listened to our podcast, we have spent 100 episodes stating that simple fact over and over again. So unless your organization is less than 10 people and family-run, it’s statistically unlikely you would have zero LGBTQ+ people on staff. If you don’t believe you do, ask yourself why? Most likely there is someone who is in the closet. Why don’t they feel safe coming out at work? And if NO LGBTQ+ people are working for you, again, ask yourself why? Also, examine how many queer people are at the top of your organization. The 2018 GLADD Survey found that 55% of employees experience discrimination at work. This means that most companies are not protecting or valuing their queer workers as much as they say they are during Pride Month.
Fifth – Listen and Evolve – As we stated when discussing training, make sure you grow WITH the LGBTQ community. Don’t become the business playing catch up and don’t decide that you know enough. Often in their eagerness, Ally’s can try to take charge of the conversation. Queer people should always be leading the discussion. If they say something you don’t like or agree with, rather than shrugging it off, ask yourself WHY you don’t agree. Ask yourself how your refusal to evolve will look to LGBTQ employees and clientele.
Finally – The Term ALLY is GIVEN, Not Self-Adopted – During Pride Month it is not uncommon to see organizations that have directly supported bills denying our rights, suddenly declaring themselves an Ally. Which is insulting to say the least. The most common example, however, is companies that have provided zero protections or provisions for queer employees and customers and now want to profit off of Pride. This is one reason people are now stating that Pride has become too corporate. If a person heads out of a discriminating workplace on Friday and then sees that workplace represented in their Pride Parade on Saturday, they certainly are going to be insulted.
So again, a person cannot, or should not, simply call themselves an Ally. Only the group they are claiming to support should be able to bestow that honor. Allyship means openly standing with us even where there is no parade or floats. It means choosing us because you believe it is ethically right and not because it is economically sound. Allyship means supporting people in private and not just in public. It’s not about perpetuating your social image, it’s about protecting the social standing of others even if it sacrifices your image. Allyship is not about popularity, it is about the possibilities of the future.
As we go into our 51st season of Pride here in America, we hope our Ally’s all around the world will consider what it truly means to be an Ally. We hope that people will consider learning more and providing more education around queer issues. And most of all, we hope that if you plan to profit off of Pride (in any form, from money to social stance) we hope you put more into the LGBTQ community than what you take.
Your recommended resource is the Safe Zone Project which is a queer created online resource for businesses. Safe Zone offers a free 2-hour curriculum about LGBTQ+ issues as well as a host of other free and paid materials and services. Which can help make your business or organization more queer educated and accessible. You can go to our posted script or the blog form of this particular episode to find the link. Or simply look up thesafezoneproject.com and get started on queering up your office!