Promoting Inclusivity Beyond Pride Month: Why We Should Support the LGBTQ+ Community Year-Round
It may be 2018, yet people still ask: Why does Pride matter?
To understand why Pride celebrations exist and why they still matter, we need to remember history. At the time that most Pride parades started (during the 1970s and 1980s), the LGBTQ+ community lived in fear. Being arrested, attacked, ridiculed and fired from their job just for being who they were in public was a real threat. This caused the LGBTQ+ community to live secret lives that some knew little about.
But Pride was the one time that, en masse, LGBTQ+ individuals could break away from that fear and celebrate who they were, out in the open, for just one day. It was like a small release valve in a scary time, when there was little support from the world around them.
Over the past few decades, as the LGBTQ+ community has gained more recognition (and even more importantly, rights) those small celebrations became larger, and were often led by the private sector and allies. Since then, the number of allies that have joined hands with the LGTBQ+ community to support the push for equal rights and recognition has grown by leaps and bounds. And today, June is now recognized by many as Pride Month.
But, while we finally have quantity when it comes to allies showing up, that can’t compromise quality. Pride Month needs to be more than just a celebration; it needs to be a catalyst for continued support of the LGBTQ+ movement. For allies of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that we live in a time when rights are still being questioned, and even taken away. The battle for equality is still far from over.
Use Pride as an opportunity to leverage the groundswell of support and awareness on LGBTQ+ issues across your workforce and encourage employees to keep their eyes open to experiences and conversations that may have previously been out of their scope of vision.
Educate over lunch.
At Zendesk we believe creating empathy through education is key. Throughout Pride Month, we host weekly “Lunch & Learns” with LGBTQ+ organizations in an effort to educate employees on a broad spectrum of issues. We hear from organizations working to bring inclusive textbooks into public schools and organizations who paid witness to the darker chapters of the LGBTQ+ movement, such as the AIDS crisis. This helps us understand just what various LGBTQ+ generations endured. This year, we had speakers from the Tenderloin Museum, the SF AIDS Foundation, Our Family Coalition (a nonprofit working tirelessly to remove barriers and advance equity for LGBTQ families through support, education and advocacy) and Maven (a nonprofit that empowers LGBTQ+ youth through tech).
The conversation can also be opened up externally. The W Hotel rang in Pride with a speaker series open to the public called “Queer Me Out,” which brought together voices from the queer community spanning music, philanthropy, politics and more. With the goal of blending different outlooks within the vibrant LGBTQ+ community, the hope is to encourage discussions about important topics and inspire communication.
Create an inclusive parade contingent.
Business leaders should use the Pride parade as a way to partner with LGBTQ+ nonprofits and use resources to further their efforts.
Every year, we choose a theme for our contingent so that it feels meaningful and connected to our LGBTQ+ employees. The theme for this year’s contingent was “Dream In Color,” meant to evoke a look into a future where everyone belongs. Then, we invite our non-profit partners and community members to walk with us in the parade so the cost associated with participating is not one they have to incur. This year, we had a huge turnout from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Code Tenderloin and Compass Family Services as well as folks from Meals on Wheels, and the aforementioned Maven. We invite our community members to walk, celebrate with us and share their stories. We see our float as more than just a float, but rather a space for those who we wish to support and celebrate.
Scale your values globally.
When it comes to a global company, it is critical that employees everywhere feel that Pride is a priority, not just in headquarters and not just where it’s easiest. In addition to San Francisco, we also recognize Pride in London; Dublin; Copenhagen, Denmark; Montpellier, France; Melbourne, Australia; Manila, Philippines; Singapore and Madison, Wis. In London, for example (but broadcasted to all EMEA offices), we hosted a talk by Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian LGBTQ+ activist, on the importance of the Pride Parade, illuminating that this fight is far from over in some areas.
We also try to scale out involvement with nonprofits and causes we love in other cities, which is great for creating a connective thread across your company’s global initiatives. Since we are big supporters of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (our CEO sits on its Honorary Committee and chose to tour the South of the U.S. with the chorus last year), we’ve been happy to start similar partnerships with both the London Gay Men’s Chorus and the Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus.
Another way to maintain a united front across all global offices is to utilize monitors in each office to highlight LGBTQ+ activists and changemakers. WeWork, an incredible company that has great efforts around Pride Month, does this and it’s a fantastic way to showcase the community to companies who work out of WeWork spaces while also showing folks worldwide what WeWork stands for.
There is so much power in understanding the experiences of people who are not like us and have therefore encountered and endured struggles that we can barely begin to understand. Microsoft introduced sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policies back in 1989, and has been making a concerted effort since then to operate with empathy. This month, utilizing storytelling as a powerful tool, the company celebrated the unique perspectives of their LGBTQ+ community members with different employee spotlights that underscore how different everyone’s journeys really are. Creating space to appreciate those stories has a lasting effect on how employees see and show up for each other long after the month is over.
Finally, as we seek to build inclusive environments, it’s crucial to lift up nonprofit orgs that do the hard, boundary-pushing work that will change the course of history. A good one to keep our eye on is the Transgender Law Center, the largest national trans-led organization with a strong legal arm advocating self-determination for all people. Their efforts are robust and span policy and programming.
We’re going into July stronger and more inclusive than ever. We’re building bridges across communities and teams that will last long after the Pride Month. But it’s important that we continue to champion programming sponsored by our Pride employee resource group, support events standing up for LGBTQ+ rights and make our support of this movement a meaningful part of our DNA year round.