As you may know, I host a weekly LinkedIn Audio event called “The DEI ER,'' where the DEI community of LinkedIn can gather to discuss the topics impacting both the work and the people doing the work. Each week, our community of DEI enthusiasts, advocates, and practitioners, along with subject matter experts alike, help me create the largest, most consistent collaborative community gathering of DEI advocates on LinkedIn!
As Pride Month is here, I’ve been thinking - how can we show real allyship to the LGBTQIA+ community beyond just putting up a rainbow flag? How can we serve as effective and responsible allies and advocates to the LGBTQIA+ people in our lives while also advocating for equity for all? These thoughts, and others, have been on my mind as I’ve seen dozens of organizations and brands unveil their rainbow filter logo, and it has prompted me to share with our Inclusive Individual™ community some helpful and actionable ways we can be effective LGBTQIA+ allies inspired by one of the conversations we recently had in The DEI ER.
In May, I had the pleasure of speaking with James Barnes and Rebecca Kling, two folks leading some truly amazing equity and inclusion work for the LGBTQIA+ community in the workforce and our larger society. Barnes is an independent corporate trainer with a focus on DEI and Transgender allyship and inclusion, and Kling is co-founder of Better World Collaborative, a diversity and inclusion consulting and coaching group rooted in social justice & the creative arts.
Our topic of discussion– how to make sure your allyship is not performative in Pride Month. Much of our discussion intentionally centered around Trans allyship, covering both how to support trans colleagues in the workplace, as well as how to lead for trans-inclusive organizations. Among many highlights of the hour, a few things really stuck out to me.
Being an LGBTQIA+ Ally
Understand the Terminology but Know It Is Consistently Evolving
For those unfamiliar with the term, Transgender is an umbrella term that refers to somebody who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth; someone might identify as the “opposite” gender or they might identify with no gender, perhaps referring to themselves as Non-Binary or Gender Fluid. People who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth are considered to be cisgender. Transgender identity breaks down much further than the ‘T’ in LGBTQIA+ and there are plenty of opportunities for us to learn how. As you do, Barnes urges us to consider language’s evolutional state.
Name Instances That Force People into Gender Binaries
While committing to trying your best when using language that is inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community is important, we all run the risk of using language that isn’t quite inclusive of identity-groups we are not in. The important thing is to call out and name the spaces where we’re forcing people into binary boxes of gender. For example, do some of your options for policies and procedures at work require people to select only between “man” and “woman”?
Avoid Using Trans People as Your Personal Google
It is normal to have questions about things that are not familiar to you. When talking to Trans people, or anyone in general, here is a good rule of thumb: If you couldn’t google the question on a work computer about a stranger, you don’t need to be asking that question of a person, as it is far too personal and invasive. If you can google the question, that might be the best place to start!
Acknowledge and Act on your Strengths in Allyship
For example, are you good at public speaking or bringing up new ideas in team meetings? Maybe you use your voice to ally. When someone says something not inclusive or offensive to the LGBTQIA+ community, perhaps you’re the one to say, “that joke/comment actually didn’t land right with me - I’m uncomfortable.” Or maybe you’re better at organizing or working with numbers? Offer to help work with the logistic aspects of introducing new DEI efforts into the office or ask how you can supply your skills to projects that advance equity and inclusion in team settings.
Listen to Trans Voices + Stories
Kling said it best in that “it's hard…to be a jerk to someone whose story you know.” Centering and uplifting Trans voices allows for space to listen to the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ folks in a way that develops empathy and other tools for effective allyship.
Look Out for “Rainbow-Washing”
Barnes shared that “real change is not a rainbow logo” - but rather it is the small things in an organization that can make employees feel validated and seen. Something as simple as using someone’s chosen name and preferred pronouns or having gender neutral bathrooms in the workspace can be incredibly important first steps towards being inclusive to the Trans community.
Not familiar with rainbow washing? Let’s go a step further.
“Rainbow capitalism” is the idea that some corporations and organizations will show support for the LGBTQIA+ community only when and in ways that financially benefit them. For example, we’ll see rainbow logos flood the shelves in June for Pride Month, but how many of those organizations have trans-inclusive policies in place at work, or have made true efforts to support the LGBTQIA+ community? Many prominent organizations, although they wave rainbow flags in June and perhaps even sell Pride merchandise, have donated millions of dollars to various members of Congress with a zero rating on the latest Congressional scorecard produced by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a prominent LGBTQIA+ rights organization.
While many organizations might be backing politicians who support policies that best support their bottom dollar, their donating to work that fuels anti-trans legislation ultimately negatively impacts their Trans employees. Recently, the HRC released a list of 200+ U.S. companies that oppose Anti-LGBTQIA+ laws.
This Pride Month, challenge yourself to go beyond purchasing Pride-themed merchandise, check out the lists above, and perhaps reconsider where you spend your money.
Spend Time Learning More About or Supporting LGBTQIA+ Organizations and Communities in Your Area
Some of the organizations we discussed in The DEI ER would be a wonderful place to begin learning about some of the history behind and current fights for LGBTQIA+ rights and equity.
- PFLAG, an organization for LGBTQIA+ people, their parents, families, and allies
- GLAAD, a media organization celebrating LGBTQIA+ voices
- GLSEN, an LGBTQIA+ youth and student support organization
- “Out and Equal” - a group measuring and advocating for LGBTQIA+ inclusion at work
- and the Americans Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Be sure to take a look at some of these national organizations to see some of the work being done in your community. Who knows, you might even identify a volunteer opportunity!
Recognize the LGBTQIA+ Community Outside of June
Barnes & Kling also highlighted the importance of recognizing the LGBTQIA+ community outside of Pride Month, because tokenization is not representation. We must move beyond accepting limited recognition as inclusion in our personal lives, the workplace, and the larger world around us.
Ask for Intersectional Perspective
As you recognize and highlight Trans voices and other LGBTQIA+ voices, ask yourself who is represented? Is racial diversity present? Is diversity in ability present? How about age? We must ensure that as we center LGBTQIA+ voices, that we center ALL LGBTQIA+ voices.
It wasn’t too many years ago that folks were celebrating Pride Month and still were not able to legally marry whomever they’d choose. While we’ve made progress with LGBTQIA+ rights and inclusion, we still have a ways to go. This Pride Month, take time to think about the LGBTQIA+ frontiers who came before our generations, and take a moment to center and listen to the LGBTQIA+ community in such a way that makes you an effective ally this Pride season.. And beyond.
Marsha P. Johnson (and the “P” stands for “Pay it no mind!”) was an icon and leader in the fight for what was referred to in the 60s a s gay liberation. The first to throw a brick at the Stonewall Riots, we quite literally would not have Pride Month were it not for the visionary leadership and iconic cultural contributions of Marsh P. Johnson, and other activists of Color like Sylvia Rivera. Black and Trans People of Color paved the way for our understandings of Pride and LGBTQIA+ liberation today.
“The DEI ER” is a weekly LinkedIn Audio Event series hosted by Raven Solomon Enterprises where, every week, we gather the DEI enthusiasts, advocates, professionals and practitioners of LinkedIn to learn, commune and be supported. Join us every Friday at 11am EST on LinkedIn!