I’ll preface this by saying I’m no expert when it comes to LGBTQIA+ history or rights. I do consider myself an ally though, in the sense that an ally stands up for her friends and for what she believes in. I’m also grateful to collaborate on this post with members of our SPARKLE employee resource group, as well as others from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Over the course of my life, I’ve had many close friends who identify as LGBTQIA+. I attended senior prom with my gay best friend and wasn’t fazed when his white tux outshined my Cinderella-like ballgown.
In college, two of my closest friends were lesbians. I witnessed firsthand the heartache and courage they navigated while coming to terms with their identities. I saw the strength it took for them to reveal their truths to friends and family. And I felt the sense of relief and freedom when they were finally able to live authentically.
As I reflect on these friendships, there are three characteristics I’ve found in common: these friends were always fierce, full of love, and brave as all hell. Qualities that I admire in any human.
When the opportunity arose to help plan activities for Pride 2021 here at Workhuman®, I quickly raised my hand. It’s been amazing to collaborate with this cross-functional team on our internal events, social media campaign, and now this blog post. And to hear their stories of courage and love along the way.
What does it mean to be an ally?
Workhuman Product Designer and SPARKLE committee member, Paula Medeiros sums it up best: “Being an ally might seem daunting, but all you have to do is think a bit before your bias kicks in. Speak up, try to get informed, ask the right people, and support your peers where possible. Above all – be open to learn.”
Here are seven ways you can be an ally at work for Pride. Or really, all year long.
1. Educate yourself.
No matter who you talk to about allyship, education is always number one. When it comes to pride and gay rights, you can learn more about the Stonewall Riots and the origin of Pride in the United States here. Spoiler alert: The fight for equality started long before 1969.
Our friends at Shout Out, an LGBTQIA+ educational program provider based in Dublin, also recommend consuming as much educational media as possible. Their top recs? “Watching 'Disclosure' on Netflix, listening to Radiolab Presents: Gonads on intersex issues, or reading ‘Unicorn’ by Amrou Al-Kadhi,” says Bella FitzPatrick, ShoutOut’s executive director.
I also highly recommend following Alok Vaid-Menon on Instagram and reading their book, “Beyond the Gender Binary”.
2. Donate to LGBTQIA+ charities.
This is an action that individuals and organizations alike can take any time of the year. And it’s one that could have a lasting impact.
As Aaron Byrne, my colleague and co-founder of SPARKLE at Workhuman, states, “Charities like The Trevor Project help fight bills meant to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ youth, who represent as much as 40% of the homeless youth population.” We are proud to partner with The Trevor Project as the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQIA+ young people under 25.You can also click here to learn more and donate to one of these Black-led LGBTQIA+ organizations.
3. Update your profile.
For the month of June, show your pride wherever you go. That includes at work. Whether it’s adding a 🏳️🌈 to your Slack profile, swapping out your Zoom background, or updating your profile on any other communications app your company uses, show your support during the month of June.
4. Update your processes.
According to Katrina Kibben, CEO, Three Ears Media, “One thing you can do as an ally is to put some processes in place to help people change their name at work."
As Katrina explains, being an ally means more than just dressing up your desk with rainbows and glitter. As business leaders, we need to ensure transgender employees have access to the technologies and processes they need to be able to live their truths at work.
This includes ensuring employees are no longer being called by their deadname on company communications – internally or externally. In addition, DE&I advocates advise removing indications that pronouns are “preferred,” as this infers that pronouns other than the ones specified are acceptable.
5. Choose your words carefully.
According to Workhuman analysis of recognition messages, 20-30% of written communication contains implicit bias. Gendered language (ie. “guys,” “girls”) is an example of this. It’s exclusionary, and it perpetuates pre-defined gender roles in the workplace. Not to mention, it’s avoidable. Use gender neutral terms instead, such as “folks” or “everyone.”
All it takes is a little practice, observation, and consideration. So be intentional with the words you use at work. Not just in the month of June, but all year long.
6. Start a listening circle.
At Workhuman Live® Online, we learned about listening circles from Monica Jackson, VP of inclusion & diversity at Eaton Corporation. She noted, “I talk about psychological safety, that building of trust for certain employee groups that are looking for that. But it also allows our executive leaders to hear about the experience of employees. Not just read about it in an article.”
We’re hearing more about listening circles as an opportunity for smaller, more intimate groups to connect and learn on a deeper level. What does it mean to be an ally? What’s the role each of us plays? You can learn a lot just by listening.
Yes, Pride is about protesting. It’s about all the LGBTQIA+ community sought to overcome and everything that’s yet to be accomplished. At times, it can seem daunting; and the pull to celebrate may feel overwhelming to some. Still, I believe that now more than ever, people need connection. We need to come together to celebrate our wins, our differences, and most importantly, to be there for one another. We’re so close to getting back to the Pride parades we once knew and loved. For now, we’re celebrating virtually: Show off your rainbow desk set ups and flower crowns, and embrace the vibrancy Pride Month has to offer. Just make sure you’ve got the substance to back it up.