Going into the process of writing about Pride together, we both assumed our perspectives would be very different. An Asian American womxn from New York City and a white man from rural Tennessee couldn’t have much in common. However, during our conversations, it became clear that despite these obvious differences—much of our experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community were similar.
It took both of us a lengthy amount of time to fully understand and accept our own identities without prominent examples of what out and “proud” LGBTQ+ life could look like. We both grew up amid a massive shift toward widespread acceptance, and we’re excited to see that it seems so much easier for members of Gen Z to be unapologetically themselves earlier in their lives.
But there is still so much more to do. There are gaps in this progress and people in our community who are continually and most severely marginalized. So, as we end Pride month this year, we wanted to remind everyone that there are ways to show up for the LGBTQ+ community all year long, as a member of the community and as an ally.
Here’s how you can use your voice and take actions to advocate for our community professionally, personally and politically:
- Identify your pronouns. Add your pronouns to your email signature, corporate bio and instant messaging (e.g., Slack, Teams) profile. This simple step makes it easier for non-binary people to share theirs without feeling stigmatized.
- Participate in, or listen to, employee affinity groups. Employee affinity groups or employee resource groups are company-recognized groups that can promote a company’s diversity and inclusion efforts and allow for networking, mentorships and other opportunities for professional and personal development. These groups can be an important way for LGBTQ+ people in your workplace to voice opinions.
- Support inclusive parental policies. HR policies that treat gender differently in the context of parental leave or focus on natural birth versus adoption or surrogacy disadvantage LGBTQ+ families. Initiate conversations with your human resources department and/or company leadership to discuss your organization’s family policies and solutions to make sure they are inclusive of all families.
- Create supportive and inclusive spaces. Coming out is a lifelong process that everyone moves through at a different pace. Make sure that you’re open and receptive to hearing from the people you care about as much as possible. There are some easy steps you can take that make others feel more included and more inclined to be themselves. Like using inclusive, non-gendered language as often as possible and supporting gender-neutral forms of expression. We shouldn’t be too quick to assume other people’s gender and sexual identities.
- Lift up LGBTQ+ stories, artists, and creators—especially BIPOC creators. Making sure that LGBTQ+ youth have examples and stories that feature people like them leading happy and fulfilled lives is the key to pushing back on heteronormative narratives and an important step in helping everyone find self-acceptance. Giving our money to LGBQ+ creators and supporting pop culture that features members of the community can signal to decision-makers that there is a demand for these stories and voices in film, music, and literature. Here are some to start with.
- Invest in mental health resources for the LGBTQ+ community, but especially for youth. Not everyone feels safe to freely express themselves and/or be themselves at “home” and in spaces at large. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, which details that LGBTQ+ students are disproportionately bullied compared to their straight, cisgender peers. Even more harrowing, 29% of transgender youth, 21% of gay and lesbian youth, and 22% of bisexual youth have attempted suicide. And 40% of LGBTQ+ youth have contemplated suicide over the past year. More than half of LGBTQ+ adults in America have experienced some form of violent threats in their lifetime according to a study from The Williams Institute and the UCLA School of Law. Unfortunately, in addition to these statistics, there’s a significant lack of mental health and support resources for the LGBTQ+ community and youth. Donating to organizations such as The Trevor Project, The Okra Project, GLAAD, and GLSEN is a great way to support LGBTQ+ youth and increase access to critical resources.
- Advocate with intersectionality. Gender and sexual identity are only one aspect of a person’s experience. It’s important to understand and respect that LGBTQ+ individuals are often also exposed to racism, sexism, xenophobia and other injustices. When we advocate for LGBTQ+ equality, we need to make sure that we’re advocating for equality that reaches the most vulnerable among us.
- Support candidates and elected officials who champion LGBTQ+ issues. While LGBTQ+ people have made huge progress in recent years, many of our legal rights and protections are still political discussions. This year alone, 250 anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in states across the country. On the federal level, the Equality Act is stalled in Congress. Take time to research how your representatives at the local, state, and federal levels feel about these issues, and vote accordingly. This Human Rights Campaign scorecard is a great place to start.
- Spend your money in places that support equality. During Pride month, it’s hard not to notice the constant corporate rainbow washing. However, many corporations that are happy to promote Pride are actively donating to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians and causes. Instead, research and support LGBTQ-owned businesses. Here is a list of examples. Take time to understand where your money is going, and identify places that use their profits for the greater good.
We are not asking for preferential treatment or for the streets to flood with rainbows every June. Rather, we are asking for recognition of our basic human rights—to feel safe in our own bodies and to freely navigate this world without a threat to our humanity. As Pride month comes to a close, we ask for solidarity because, while we’ve made great strides over the years, we still have a long way to go—but we can get there together. These recommendations are a great way to get started.