June is Pride Month, four weeks of parades, parties and festivals for the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer or Questioning and Two-spirit community, and their straight friends. Each year, the voice for LGBTQ2S+ rights roars louder as support grows. During this time organisations wave the Pride flag proudly. This year, Uber is celebrating by tracking all cars in the colour of the pride flag, and Converse launched their ‘Found Family’ campaign to accompany their annual pride collection and celebrate the people who met on the journey to Pride.
Beneath the festive atmosphere, however, a more profound message easily gets lost. Despite the progress there is still much work to be done, particularly regarding diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. To achieve these goals, one way is to become an ally, and not just one month a year but all year round. So, what does it mean to be an ally?
Here are some practical ways to be a better LGBTQ2S+ ally in the workplace during pride month and beyond:
There’s no guidebook on solving discrimination in the workplace or how to be a model ally, but it’s not the LGBTQ2S+ community’s responsibility to teach you. Take the initiative and follow up on topics you don’t understand. Read an LGBTQ2S+ publication, watch a movie or listen to a podcast. There is a wealth of creators, and show your support by sharing their stories and knowledge. Learning the language other people use to describe their identities is important. Learn about pronouns and how best to use them. As an ally, adding your pronouns to your email signature, zoom/team name and sharing them when introducing yourself is a great place to start.
Make an effort to understand the workplace experience for the LGBTQ2S+ community. Listening is a general life skill we should practice all the time, so put away your phone and laptop, make eye contact and make a concerted effort to understand, support and learn from the other person. Ask them how they’re doing, be aware they may have gone through things you don’t understand. You’re not expected to be a counsellor, but you can give support.
Be a change agent.
Align your words to action and, put simply, follow through. What taking action looks like will change over time as you learn and grow, and will look different to each ally. A great starting point is practising fundamental advocacy in the workplace. Correct people if you hear someone misgender, call out slurs or derogatory language, promote diversity in your workplace and, for senior employees, practice inclusive leadership. Walk your talk by adjusting your behaviour and practices to create a supportive and inclusive environment.
Recognise assumptions can hurt.
We all make assumptions. Without realising it, our brains draw on past experiences to find patterns of how the world works and applies these patterns. For instance, a woman with a wedding ring doesn’t always have a husband, but our brain makes false connections before we can realise them. Be respectful, keep your assumptions in check, and use positive word choices to acknowledge the differences and diversity of people in the workplace.
Focus on progress.
We all make mistakes. Undoubtedly, part of being an ally is creating or contributing to safer, more accessible spaces and services for all people. Despite our best intentions, however, we might get things wrong from time to time. If this happens, be aware of the needs and feelings of the person. Acknowledge the mistake and move on.