Pride month shines a light on the progression that has been experienced by the LGBTQ equality movement. In recent years, we’ve seen evolution in the media, in politics and in business. However, we are still a long way from achieving complete equality. There is still a great deal of work to do during Pride month and beyond.
LGBTQ Culture in the Media is on the Rise
The once-marginalized LGBTQ drag queen subculture has become mainstream primetime entertainment fare. The reality competition show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, consistently garners top ratings in key demographics like adults 18-49. Contestants have become pop culture icons, tugging on the heartstrings of Middle America while transcending age, race, gender and class barriers.
We’re now looking to the second incarnation of The Fab 5 – masters of design, culture, style, food and grooming – to enlighten us on how to become better versions of ourselves. No longer are LGBTQ characters relegated to supporting roles, leaning on superficial subplots and stereotypes. In fact, they have become front and center – not just during Pride month.
LGBTQ Leaders in Politics
On the political front, gays of yore had none other than the venerable Massachusetts congressman, Barney Frank to look up to. Today’s aspiring young politicians now have a cadre of openly gay and lesbian leaders at the federal, state and municipal levels. Across the pond, no fewer than five European nations have had LGBT prime ministers in their ranks.
Back here in the U.S., we have a groundbreaking openly gay presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg. Not only does the polyglot Harvard grad have an impressive military background, he also exudes a charmingly disarming boy-next-door quality that could deftly quell the reservations of any religious conservative. Apart from the (obvious) fact that his marriage is of the same gender variety, his domestic “lifestyle” more effectively evokes a Norman Rockwell painting than the actual president does.
LGBTQ Business Matters
Meanwhile, in corporate America, LGBTQ pride and equality campaigns have become standard operating procedure. Corporate sponsorships and branded merchandise abound. But more importantly, internal culture has become more supportive. While still rare, LGBTQ corporate leaders like Apple’s Tim Cook are more visible than ever.
However, much like Barack Obama’s presidency wasn’t the panacea that magically ended racism in the US, there is still much work to be done to get closer to LGBTQ equality.
LGBTQ Equality Still Lags
The unemployment rate of LGBTQ people is multitudes greater than that of the general population. And for trans and gender non-binary workers, the rate is even more dire. Once hired, LGBTQ employees can face additional hurdles. Many LGBTQ employees report hitting the glass ceiling.
LGBTQ characters in the media have evolved from mere supporting players to leading roles. In turn, audiences (and advertisers) have responded with relish and delight. Why then are LGBTQ employees still relegated to lower and middle management roles, with a scant few making it to the elusive higher levels of leadership?
Many suggest that gay and lesbian employees are held to a higher standard. On the other hand, it could just be that latent homophobia and misogyny still exist in the echelons of Corporate America. Change can be difficult – especially when it involves toppling the status quo. Whenever power is intentionally reallocated to involve a minority group, emotions including uncertainty and fear can run deep.
Five Tips for Allies
So, what can you do? Here are five simple tips you can use to be an ally to the LGBTQ community during Pride month and beyond.
- Learn – This seems simple, but it’s important to learn the basics of what it means to be LGBTQ in today’s society and workplace. Use a myriad of online media and resources to find out what challenges your coworkers face.
- Listen – Having someone at work to confide in can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Often times, LGBTQ people can feel guarded if they’re not sure if it’s safe to come out.
- Be visible – Visual cues such as pride buttons and flags can demonstrate that you’re supportive.
- Lead by example – Engage with the community by attending pride parades and events. Proactively offer your pronouns
- Practice – Try using inclusive language in your conversations. Listen for people’s preferred pronouns. If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun – apologize quickly and move forward using the correct pronoun.