An LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) ally is more than just accepting the idea that love is love.
An effective LGBTQ ally is someone who actively listens and provides a safe space for the LGBTQ community. They use their own voice to speak up against those offending the LGBTQ community and educate others on what is offensive.
An ally is an unconditional source of support and respect even though they do not personally identify as part of the group.
An ally can be a single person, a group of people or even an entire business entity. The amount of support you can provide can make a difference one step at a time.
Here is how you can be an effective LGBTQ ally in business.
Did you know over 40% of people in the LGBTQ community have experienced different forms of discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace? Also, 90% of transgender employees specifically have reported experiencing any form of discrimination, harassment and bullying in their workplace.
Learning statistics like the ones mentioned above are not only eye-opening, they are mind-shifting. They open your eyes to a new perspective that helps you better understand the world of the LGBTQ community.
Educating yourself about the LGBTQ community is an essential step to being an effective LGBTQ ally.
It is important to learn about their everyday issues and struggles in the workplace to see where you stand in contributing to or not helping resolve those issues. Is there anything you could be doing differently? Reflect on yourself and your position or privilege and see how you can be a better source of support in the workplace for the LGBTQ community.
It is also important to learn the correct terminology used within the LGBTQ community. Learning the acronyms or correct phrases to describe a person is important to avoid unintendedly offending people.
For example, instead of saying “homosexual,” use the term “gay” or say “a person who is transgender” instead of referring to them as “a transgender.”
You can learn more about the LGBTQ community by reading books, magazines, articles or watching shows and documentaries.
Use Gender-Neutral Greetings
When you greet a group or speak in general in a staff meeting, you must use gender-neutral greetings. For example, instead of saying “Hello, ladies and gentlemen” or “Hey guys,” use greetings like:
- “Hey, team.”
- “Hello everyone”
- “Good morning, pals.”
- “Hello, crew.”
- “Hello, all.”
- “Good evening, friends.”
These are gender-neutral greetings that are inclusive and nondiscriminatory. These phrases also demonstrate respect and awareness of the people in the LGBTQ community.
Using gender-neutral greetings, especially in business, reflects company values and commitment to being an LGBTQ ally. This will help LGBTQ employees feel welcome in their workplace. It will also spread the message to customers that they too are welcome regardless of their personal identities.
Respect LGBTQ Pronouns
In the workplace, it is important to establish firm guidelines that reflect the company’s beliefs and goals as a business. As an LGBTQ ally, you must allow all people in your team to feel welcome and safe in the workplace, even if it means adapting to different pronouns.
Referring to someone by their incorrect pronoun is disrespectful and hurtful. It can also be very offensive and embarrassing for the person being misgendered. To avoid such mistakes, create a space or make it part of your company culture to ask or list preferred pronouns to allow people to feel welcome and accepted.
One way in which you can do this is by encouraging pronouns on employee email signatures. Also, when introducing a new member to the team, allow them to state their preferred pronouns or preferred name.
Being an effective LGBTQ ally comes with the great responsibility of standing up for the LGBTQ community. As mentioned before, more than 40% of LGBTQ community members experience harassment bully or discrimination of some sort. This includes the misuse of words like “gay” or homophobic jokes or comments.
As an ally, if you hear something, say something. This does not give you the right to fight the other person or be aggressive. Instead, there are better ways, you as an ally, can effectively defuse the situation.
Here are ways in which you can help the situation:
Revisit Your Hiring Process
As an effective ally, you must keep up with the numerous changes in the world. Staying up to date may require you to revisit your business processes, most importantly the hiring process and applications. First impressions can definitely set your tone as a business to a potential employee.
It is best to avoid offending people or have them think they are not welcomed by an “outdated” question that remains on your application. For example, does your application ask for gender as strictly female or male? If so, it can imply that there’s a lack of inclusivity or awareness of the changes in the world in your business.
Instead, use inclusive language and questions which allows a person to express their identity as they please. In the hiring and interviewing process, remember not to assume gender or pronouns.
Create A Safe Space
Creating a safe space at work allows people in the LGBTQ community to feel welcome to bring their authentic selves to work. This safe space lets them know that they are also welcome to share any concerns or give recommendations on how to be more inclusive.
As an ally, you can offer to be an active listener and a shoulder to lean on when in need. You can also promote the idea of creating LGBTQ employee resources or support groups (which also lets them know that they matter and are cared for at their workplace).
Being an effective LGBTQ ally also implies maintaining that safe space for the LGBTQ community, even if it means losing a customer.
As an employee in a business, you reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. This especially applies to those customers who are against what your business stands for. No money is worth making your employees, particularly the LGBTQ employees (or customers), uncomfortable. From a business perspective, affiliation with a company against your values can affect your appearance to the public.
As an effective ally, it is important that you stay committed to the endless amount of support needed year-round. Showing your respect and support for the LGBTQ community is not just for the month of June (Pride month). It is something that should be represented and acknowledged every day.
So when pride month comes around, do your pride-y thang!
Show your colors, paste the pride flag around your workplace, allow employees to wear rainbow colors if they’d like; but remember this isn’t something that should be compressed into 30 days.
As LGBTQ allies, we are always prideful, so don’t forget to show your support and pride all year long.🌈
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