We’ve come to the end of Pride Month, and a big one at that. But that doesn’t mean you should stop celebrating Pride at work, or that its message stops. Before you take down your rainbow profile pictures and flags in the office, read this.
Where did Pride originate?
Black and Latinx trans women, who were integral to the Stonewall riots (why we celebrate Pride Month today), have been discriminated against by both the black and gay community. Their life expectancy is a sobering 35-37 years. This important community faces erasure – as do the trans women behind Stonewall (see History.com article that makes no mention of their involvement).
As recent development of Black Lives Matter coincides with Pride Month, black trans women are starting to get the recognition they deserve for propelling gay liberation forward throughout history.
The recently released documentary Disclosure outlines the representation of trans people in media, and thus in society. As pointed out in the film, 80% of Americans don’t know a trans person: raising the importance of accurate representation in media, and the workplace.
While the month of June may be ending, the opportunity to celebrate Pride and raise the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community is not. We’ve collected some tips to continue the sentiment of Pride throughout the year and create an environment of intersectional allyship at your workplace.
However, we first need to point out what isn’t working and two common mistakes companies make while attempting to support this community.
- Blanket or vague statements such as “We support the LGBTQIA+ community”
Of course you do! But that’s not enough – pretty words don’t protect any community from oppression. Following statements such as those with “and here’s how we’re going to do that” will bridge the gap from what’s perceived as capitalizing on experience to authenticity.
- Falling into the ‘Pink Capitalism’ rhetoric
Pink Capitalism (synonym: Rainbow Capitalism, Pink Money, Pink Economy) is “the incorporation of the LGBT movement and sexual diversity to capitalism and the market economy, viewed especially in a critical lens as this incorporation pertains to the gay, cisgender, Western, white, and upper-middle-class communities and market.” There is a divide in attitudes towards Pink Capitalism: for one, it suggests greater acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community, however some view it as exploitation. It often targets rich and white gay men, while ignoring the rest of the community. It is not as much a mistake as something to be wary of.
How can we support Pride year-round?
Let’s dive into what you can do to be authentic in your celebration and support of year-round Pride.
- Make learning materials available – and use them!
A major threat to people of marginalized communities is ignorance. Understanding and education is the first step to replacing fear (even subconscious) with empathy. A collection of resources and dictionary terms are all available from GLAAD here. They’ve also published several studies relating to the community. A key to understanding is to listen or read the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ people. During the past few months, Dear Queerantine, a GLAAD campaign has collected letters from the community around the world sharing their experiences.
- Don’t expect LGBTQIA+ people to take the lead
A person’s sexuality or gender identity is their business; and although they’re part of this community does not necessarily mean they want to be put on the spot. Give everyone the opportunity to get involved in planning of pride initiatives. Similarly, asking the LGBTQIA+ people in the office to speak up on these issues or “consult” on any initiatives is inappropriate. There are plenty of resources and people who work in diversity consulting – hire them.
- Weave LGBTQIA+ allyship into your organization
Don’t let your diversity and inclusion committee operate in a vacuum. Integrate their recommendations and initiatives into your business practice, as it pertains to any function of the business. As industry leader and author Josh Bersin put it, diversity and inclusion are “not an HR program, but a business strategy.”
You can weave allyship into your organization in infinite ways – it really depends on your business. If you’ve got a staff book club, incorporate LGBTQIA+ literature. Offer professional development workshops to educate staff on the history and language of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Make support available
The LGBTQIA+ community is disproportionately affected by mental illnesses. Incorporating mental health resources and treatment in benefit plans is important to supporting members of the community.
- Give out the Pride swag
It sounds inauthentic, but giving a pride flag a permanent home in your pencil jar or a rainbow stress ball signals all employees, visitors, clients, etc. that LGBTQIA+ rights are important and have a place in your organization. It’s a fine line, as the placement of such merchandise can fall into pink capitalism. Furthermore, this strategy is futile if not followed up with other actions.
- Volunteer and/or donate!
Consider volunteering with an LGBTQIA+ rights organization in your community. Otherwise, consider making a corporate donation to one of these organizations, as chosen by your team. We’ve found a database of Canadian LGBTQIA+ rights organizations here.
Whatever you decide to do, be informed. The road to missteps is paved with good intentions. We recommend this article from the Harvard Gazette to start your learning.