Pride Month is a chance for members of the LGBTQ community to celebrate who we are. It’s also the perfect opportunity to educate individuals and businesses on what it means to be an LGBTQ ally. Supporting this community means more than just hanging a rainbow flag in your window during the month of June, it goes much deeper than that.
As business owners and leaders, it is our responsibility not to just talk the talk, but also walk the walk. The process of transforming the business community into an affirming one begins with you. Here are a few ways businesses can be better allies to the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace.
1. Give people the opportunity to self-identify. If your business or organization provides any sort of paperwork/questionnaires to employees or customers, it’s important to use inclusive language. For example, when asking one’s gender, acknowledge that gender can be fluid and Male and Female are not the only options. Here at Unleashed Counseling, our clients fill out an intake form. When asking about gender, the answer field is a blank space instead of a dropdown. This allows the person to self-identify in a way that is comfortable and less pressured.
2. Work hard to be pronoun-conscious. If someone shares their pronoun(s) with you, try your best to actively use that pronoun. If you make a mistake, simply apologize, move forward, and continue to try. It might feel awkward at first to share your own pronouns–and that’s okay! Practice asking people you are comfortable with what their pronouns are so that it comes naturally in conversation. Try saying, “My name is…my pronoun is…may I ask what your pronoun is?”
3. Identify support with deeper meaning. Supporting the LGBTQ community means more than just displaying colors or putting a filter on your profile picture. Unfortunately, some companies use the rainbow flag simply as a way to make money or boost their marketing. We encourage you to pair your statements with actions. For example, when creating a pride-themed dog toy or a rainbow flag t-shirt to sell in your business during Pride Month, consider donating a portion of the proceeds to a local LGBTQ organization.
4. Think about health insurance options. For businesses that are employing folks, it’s important to think about what health insurance options are being offered to your employees. Beginning to explore more inclusive options like trans-affirming healthcare and flexible mental healthcare is a great way to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
5. Start the conversation. Some of you are probably thinking – okay, I’m a business owner, where and how do I start this conversation? How do I bring this up? The simplest way is to ask your constituents, employees, clients, customers, etc…what they need from you. Is it an LGBTQ-affirming support group? Perhaps more inclusive insurance options? Listen, listen again, listen some more, and THEN create an action plan.
Mental Health is extremely important amongst the LGBTQ community, as people in this community often find that the social stigma of living as a minority is a source of stress or anxiety. However, having just one friend, just one ally, can change that perspective. Simply put…one person, one small interaction can facilitate positivity, healing, and courage to help someone get through the hardest and darkest times.