I’m a proud ally of the LGBTQIA+ community. I donate to charities that support queer rights, I march in Pride parades when I’m able, I stand up to demoralizing comments when I hear them, and I believe — and share — that all people should be able to be who they are. Hard stop. I also know there’s still plenty I have to learn to continue to make a difference for my queer friends and family who face obstacles every day based merely on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This Pride Month (and beyond), it’s vital to continue to be a beacon of support. Here is how to make a meaningful and lasting impact from industry leaders and fellow allies to the community.
Be proud of being an ally.
“I would encourage you to not only be an ally during June, but if June is all you can commit to, I’ll take it. I encourage you to be an ally 24/7. Don’t let people slander the LGBTQIA+ community in your presence. Vote for government officials and politicians who support and defend equal rights for all. If nothing else, please support the LGBTQIA+ youth centers and senior centers in your city. Aging LGBTQIA+ seniors are often forced back ‘into the closet’ when they enter nursing homes as their peers are of a different generation and don’t have the same degree of acceptance as the younger generations. And some families still do not accept their children as LGBTQIA+, and those kids need a safe space to seek refuge and community. All of this is to say, please be an ally in any way you can. Donate money, time, or just your ear to the LGBTQIA+ community and help drive and defend equal rights for all human beings here and around the world.” —Ian Hackett, president of Napa Valley Fumé.
Challenge your assumptions about mental health, sexuality, and bodies.
“In a heteronormative society, straight folks have less need to think about and understand the nuances of their sexuality and gender identity, but I think everyone can gain a lot from this. So often, our opinions and behaviors are informed by socialized norms or assumptions we are unaware of. In my mind, seeing and acknowledging the heteronormative lens that the world sees through is the first step toward making space for diversity. More pro-active self-reflection, even from a non-queer experience, can help move folks towards empathy, insight, and understanding in a way that would benefit our community. I encourage everyone to engage in open, honest, and raw conversations about how beautifully diverse our bodies, sex lives, and genders are.” —Chloe Freeman, the founder of ForThem.
Buy products and services from queer brands and businesses.
“Post the products on social media and show pride in your loved one’s work. This builds social and economic value, not only in the business but also in the community. Donations are nice, but this is better and more personal. Money flowing into our businesses and organizations allows us to do more activism, build more equity, and be visible. Successful businesses and entrepreneurs are indicators of positive change and innovation.” —Leon Elias Wu, the founder and CEO of Sharpe Suiting and SharpeHaus.
Be politically engaged.
“Probably the most impactful way allies can support the LGBTQIA+ community is to be politically engaged and support candidates who support our causes. There is a lot of hateful rhetoric out there propagated by politicians. The best way to keep that rhetoric on the fringes where it belongs is to ensure those candidates don’t make it to office. And the only way to do that is to vote. It’s a simple action that can go a long, long way.” —Ross Perkins, the co-owner and chief operating officer of Mason Dixie Foods.
Wear the rainbow.
“Rainbows are cute and match with literally anything! Beyond that, it sends a not-so-silent message of support and solidarity to LGBTQIA+ groups. The LGBTQIA+ journey can sometimes be lonely, so knowing that you’re welcome and unjudged is welcome. It makes feeling alone feel less so.” —Jeremy Foreshew, the chief marketing officer of Ambassador.
Advocate in your workplace.
“No matter where you fall rank-wise on your team at work, you can be a voice to promote the advancement of LGBTQIA+ representation in the workplace. LGBTQIA+ leadership in most companies is non-existent. As long as that remains the status quo, there will be no progress towards equality in the workplace. This means fewer opportunities overall for LGBTQIA+ people and a lack of opinion when important discussions are being made for the company like group health insurance, parental leave, or reproductive health care benefits. Try asking leadership what their diversity goals are. Tell them that you want leadership to reflect the population to attract more talent. When hiring your team, make sure to be aware of the hurdles LGBTQIA+ people face when applying and don’t assume that you or your team is not biased.” —Taylor Fields, the founder of Nostalgia Coffee Roasters.
Own your discomfort.
“Allyship asks you to own your discomfort, actively listen and learn from those in the community, and then embrace it asking yourself, if the shoes of prejudice and discrimination were on your feet, would you march for your rights? It’s not about who’s sleeping with who or what pronoun someone uses; it’s about how we have comfortably accepted the dissemination of equality and equity based on a dominant group’s perceived value structure. Allies play a pivotal role in dismantling that value structure. Engaging the LGBTQIA+ community in your personal, professional, and social networks and creating opportunities to share collective perspectives and experiences can go a long way to dismantling discomfort and extending community.” —Daryl Sneed, the co-founder, CEO, and creative director of Sound Off Design.