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June is Pride Month, a month celebrated with pride and unity, welcoming everyone no matter who they are or who they identify as.
While Pride Month is a time to celebrate and embrace one’s sexuality, it is also a time for those not a part of the LGBTQ+ community to learn about how they could be an ally to their friends, family, and colleagues. Being an ally is about being encouraging and supportive of one another. It is important to show support to your co-workers and make them feel comfortable expressing themselves in the workplace.
Here is a brief look into Pride Month in the workplace and how you can become an ally to your co-workers, friends, and family.
A brief history of Pride Month
Throughout the 20th century, members of the LGBTQ+ community were faced with discrimination and violence, however, originations in support of the movement started as early as the 1920s. In 1924 Henry Gerber, who came to the United States as a German immigrant, founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago, the first documented gay rights organization in the country. More organizations supporting gay rights continued to form, including the Mattachine Foundation in Los Angeles, founded by Henry Hay in 1950.
The political victories didn’t begin until the 1970s with the Supreme Court ruling that Renee Richards, a transgender woman, could play in the U.S. Open as a woman. Other LGBTQ+ figures began to campaign for public office, including Harvey Milk, a pro-gay-rights activist who became the first gay man to be allected to a political office in California when he served as the San Francisco city supervisor in 1978.
Moving closer to the 21st century, the LGBTQ+ community claimed many victories, including marriage rights in various states in the 1990s to the full legalization of gay marriage in the U.S. in 2015.
Pride Month is celebrated in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which spearheaded the LGBTQ+ Movement in the 20th century. Members of the LGBTQ+ community, along with supporters staged an uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York City to fight police harassment and persecution they were subjected to.
Over 50 years after the Stonewall Riots, Pride Month has been a month of celebration filled with pride parades, parties, concerts, and many other events that attract millions of attendees each year.
To learn more about the history of the LGBTQ+ Movement in the U.S., check out History.com’s series of articles on a variety of subtopics.
Educating ourselves and avoiding stereotypes
The first step to making the workplace more inclusive to members of the LGBTQ+ community is by educating ourselves. Many companies have begun working with their LGBTQ+ employees to help incorporate diversity training for all employees.
However, everyone must take some time to learn more about the movement and how to make the workplace a more comfortable environment and avoid stereotyping. Read up on a few articles or watch some YouTube videos about the LGBTQ+ movement as it relates to your career.
Educating ourselves is the foundation of becoming an ally to someone and gives you a background of what it means to be a member of the community. You don’t need to know every specific detail about the history, but it is important to have a basic knowledge to understand your colleagues and make them feel comfortable in the workplace.
Be curious while also being respectful and understanding
It is common for people to have questions for their co-workers, friends, and family about their personal stories and connections to the LGBTQ+ community, still, it is essential to ask your questions respectfully. One way to create a comfortable space for conversation is to listen to your colleagues.
It is also important to be empathetic toward their struggles and not sympathetic. There is a major difference between empathy and sympathy. Being sympathetic can come across as being ignorant and make the person you’re talking to feel more like a victim than a person. Empathy is a powerful connection and shows the person you’re talking to that you care about them and are genuinely interested in learning more about their story.
Normalize the use of pronouns
For many people, it may seem awkward to mention your preferred pronouns in your introductions, LinkedIn profiles, and email signatures, but to those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, it helps others get a better picture of who they are and how they want to be perceived. With COVID-19 and the remote workplace, some people have not met their colleagues in person. By adding your pronouns to your online professional profiles, it prevents people from making assumptions. It can be compared to adding a preferred name or nickname to your profile.
Being an LGBTQ+ ally is about being understanding. It is a supportive and encouraging relationship many people need to make the workplace a little less scary. Knowing that there are people looking out for you in the office can make a huge difference in the way people work and interact with each other.
All of us at ICONMA take pride and support all our employees no matter their race, gender, religion, culture, or sexual orientation and we believe in the importance of creating a workplace environment that makes everyone feel safe and comfortable to be their best professional selves.
June 3, 2021