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Performative or progress? Get LGBTQ+ support right year-round

Performative or progress? Get LGBTQ+ support right year-round

June was pride month when individuals and organizations celebrate the LGBTQ+ people around them. It’s an excellent opportunity to show our staff, colleagues, and customers that they have our support. And who doesn’t love the excuse to cover everything in rainbow colors?

We don’t want to rain on anyone’s (pride) parade, but there’s a lot more to LGBTQ+ issues than meets the eye. The rainbows might be beautiful, but we’re talking about a marginalized group who often still feel that they can’t be their authentic selves, especially in the workplace.

Let’s look at why it’s important to get LGBTQ+ support right. And how to approach pride collaboratively and progressively.

The importance of getting LGBTQ+ support right

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community is one of those rare things in business, a genuine win-win situation. Making space for important conversations, supporting LGBTQ+ employees, and protecting LGBTQ+ rights benefit your business and the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ employees expect to be able to be themselves in the workplace, and they are looking for employers who make that easy for them. Getting your LGBTQ+ support right can help you attract talented candidates and helps them achieve their potential once they arrive.

This isn’t just about the “pink dollar,” AKA the spending power of the LGBTQ+ community, though that is important too.  A recent study found that better LGBTQ+ policies could save $9 billion in the US economy alone through a combination of consumer habits, reduced staff turnover, lower legal costs, better staff health, and more.

LGBTQ+ support can be a massive benefit to your organization… if you get it right.

Performative or progress? What and what not to do when supporting the LGBTQ+ community

LGBTQ+ rights have (thankfully) moved beyond the basics. We’re not satisfied with a simple acknowledgment that we exist. LGBTQ+ candidates and consumers are increasingly sophisticated regarding the support they expect from businesses and brands.

Candidates and consumers are looking to see that organizations are committed to making real progress and are quick to dismiss performative efforts. Here are some things to do and avoid to show that your efforts are sincere.

❌ Performative – Flying the rainbow flag without doing the hard work

Pride can be important to many LGBTQ+ people, but your actions year-round can make a real difference in people’s lives. The LGBTQ+ community has become justifiably frustrated with companies who create a rainbow logo during pride month without providing real support.

This type of performative support is known as rainbow-washing, and it’s profoundly frustrating. Pride is not a product, and companies attempting to exploit it for profit increasingly feel the backlash.

💬 Pride is not a product.

👍 Progress – Donating to causes that benefit the LGBTQ+ community

When supporting the LGBTQ+ community, it’s often time to put your money where your mouth is. Organizations that donate money, skills, and time to support LGBTQ+ causes demonstrate that they value the community.

This can also be an incredible opportunity to open a conversation with your staff (LGBTQ+ and allies) about the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community and where your organization can do the most good.

Consider encouraging your staff to nominate LGBTQ+ causes or suggest how your organization can help directly. Make time to discuss how each suggestion might help LGBTQ+ people and why the assistance is needed.

Donations to LGBTQ+ causes can change lives, but the conversations around them can also change your corporate culture and allow your LGBTQ+ employees to feel heard… possibly for the first time in their working lives.

❌ Performative – Buying in to narrow LGBTQ+ stereotypes

The LGBTQ+ community is the very definition of a broad church, which is incredibly important to most of its members. 

Focusing your inclusion efforts on just a small subsection of that community (such as cis-gendered gay men and white femme lesbians, for example) shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be LGBTQ+. Not a good look.

Ensure that your LGBTQ+ efforts include the whole community, not just those parts you are most familiar with. Remember that members of the LGBTQ+ community also have other identities that are equally (and sometimes more) important to them, which can intersect.

LGBTQ+ people are individuals, first and foremost. Just as straight individuals would be uncomfortable being characterized solely by their sexuality, LGBTQ+ people deserve better than stereotypes.

❌ Performative – Expecting your LGBTQ+ employees to do the hard work

You know you’re probably not off to a good start when your efforts to support and celebrate a marginalized group result in more work for members of that very group.

LGBTQ+ employees shouldn’t have to plan your pride celebrations, come up with ideas, and do all the emotional labor around celebrating their community. Your job as an organization is to be an effective ally, which means taking on the burden yourself.

This means making space for LGBTQ+ voices but not expecting individual LGBTQ+ members of staff to become spokespeople for their entire community. 

👍 Progress – Normalizing asking about pronouns

Many cis-gendered people find the idea of asking about pronouns strange and uncomfortable. It’s often an uncomfortable conversation for LGBTQ+ people as well. Creating clear expectations around pronoun use can help this feel like the normal interaction it is and should be.

Ask every candidate their preferred pronouns during interviews. Require all employees to include their pronouns in their email signature. This tiny change costs nothing and makes a real difference to trans and non-binary people.

💬 Creating clear expectations around pronoun use can help this feel like the normal interaction it is and should be.

👍 Progress – trying your best

One of the most important things you can do to get LGBTQ+ support right is to keep trying. We all need to keep talking about these issues and listening to the people they impact most. Sure, you might make mistakes along the way, but as long as you learn from those mistakes, you’re still headed in the right direction.

🏳️‍🌈 Help everyone feel included with Headstart 🏳️‍🌈

At Headstart, we’re committed to having difficult conversations and helping you understand the important DEI issues within your organization. Keep reading our blog for more insights into how you can help your employees thrive, whoever they are.

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