In a world striving for inclusivity and acceptance, becoming an ally to the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and more) community is an essential step toward fostering equality and creating a more inclusive society. Allies play a crucial role in promoting acceptance, advocating for equal rights and challenging discriminatory attitudes and behaviors during Pride Month and beyond.
Yet recent actions from Bud Light and Target brands have created more polarization and fear in engaging in this important conversation. Now more than ever we need our allies to support the LGBTQ+ community. True allyship is not “rainbow washing” with support only in June — it is consistent, intentional actions year-round.
For individuals, effective allyship requires supporting the LGBTQ+ community with empathy, educating yourself and taking meaningful action. For organizations, allyship means standing with the LGBTQ+ community on issues affecting them, having an inclusive environment where people can share their identities freely and measuring progress on their DEI initiatives.
Related: 4 Commitments All Truly Inclusive Leaders Must Follow
Individual action #1: Empathy
Approach conversations with an open mind and be ready to listen and learn from the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals. Be respectful, ask questions when appropriate and strive to understand the perspectives of others different from yourself. Avoid making assumptions or relying on stereotypes. Recognize that each person’s experiences are unique, and their individual stories and identities deserve to be heard and respected.
Individual action #2: Education
One of the first steps to becoming an effective ally is educating yourself about LGBTQ+ issues, terminology and history. Read books, articles and research to gain a better understanding of different sexual orientations, gender identities and the challenges faced by the community. Educate yourself on the struggles and victories of LGBTQ+ activists throughout history, as well as current social and legal issues affecting the community.
Individual action #3: Sustained action
One of the most impactful actions we can take is with our words. Language has a powerful impact on how we perceive and treat others. Familiarize yourself with inclusive language and pronouns, including using “they/them” when referring to someone whose gender identity you are unsure of. Respect the chosen names and pronouns of individuals, and avoid using slurs or derogatory language. By using inclusive language, you create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.
As an ally, it is essential to actively challenge discrimination and prejudice whenever you encounter it. This includes addressing offensive jokes or derogatory comments, whether they are made in person or online. Speak up in support of LGBTQ+ rights and equality, and use your voice to amplify their voices. Engage in constructive conversations to help educate others and debunk common misconceptions.
Supporting LGBTQ+ organizations is a tangible way to make a difference. Volunteer your time, donate funds or participate in events that promote equality and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. This support can help provide resources, counseling and safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals who may be facing challenges or discrimination. There are a number of organizations to support year-round:
- GLAAD: A media monitoring organization that works to amplify LGBTQ+ voices and representations in the media while combating defamation and discrimination.
- Trevor Project: A leading organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth through a 24/7 helpline, online chat and text messaging.
- National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE): Dedicated to advancing transgender equality and advocating for policy change at local, state, and federal levels.
- PFLAG: An organization that provides support, education and advocacy for LGBTQ+ individuals, their families and allies.
- GLSEN: Focused on creating safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ students, GLSEN works to combat bullying, discrimination and harassment.
Related: Brands Want to Tell Stories of Inclusion. Marketing Leaders Should Listen Instead.
Organization action #1: Community building
Leaders need to use their privilege and influence to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and equality. Leaders go first and provide resources and education to their teams throughout the year so that they can facilitate an inclusive environment. The LGBTQ+ community is a substantial part of your workforce, especially for younger generations, and 40% of employees hide their LGBTQ+ identity at work.
Organization action #2: Inclusive environment
People are looking to business leaders to drive social change. Leaders that create an inclusive environment where people can bring their best selves benefit from higher rates of productivity, innovation and business results. Inclusive leadership is about psychological safety and ensuring people feel comfortable confronting microaggressions or non-inclusive behaviors. Organizations need to hold their leaders accountable for inclusion through representation and inclusion perception data.
Organization action #3: Measure progress
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has a Corporate Equality Index (CEI): The HRC annually publishes the CEI, which rates major companies and law firms on their LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and practices. The index examines non-discrimination policies, benefits and protections for LGBTQ+ employees, diversity and inclusion initiatives and public engagement on LGBTQ+ issues. Organizations that want to be inclusive year-round participate in the index and strive to improve their scores year over year.
Standing with the LGBTQ+ community is an ongoing journey of growth and self-reflection. Organizations will make mistakes along the way and need to be open to learning from them. Be receptive to feedback from the LGBTQ+ community and adjust your actions accordingly. Understand that allyship is not about receiving recognition but about supporting and uplifting marginalized voices.
Becoming an ally to the LGBTQ+ community requires supporting the LGBTQ+ community with empathy, educating yourself and taking meaningful action. For organizations, allyship means standing with the LGBTQ+ community on issues affecting them, having an inclusive environment where people can share their identities freely and measuring progress on their DEI initiatives.
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