I wrote this post over a month ago and realize that our world looks different right now. It should be a priority in every organization to elevate and communicate about the very real injustice people of color are experiencing – both in the LGBTQIA community and outside it simply because of the color of their skin. We have to go past simple recommendations like these and be uncomfortable to shatter this broken mold. While this post is focused on my community, I can’t publish this without saying that Three Ears Media stands with Black Lives Matter and is committed to fighting injustice in every way.
It was June 26th, 2015. Pride month. I lived in Nashville, TN. I swear I can still tell you about the weather that day; how the sun felt on my face. I remember crying. I was overjoyed.
June 26th, 2015 was the day the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5–4 decision that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. All. Not some liberal states. All.
A few hours after the Supreme Court decision, my phone rang. It was the CEO of my company. He offered to fly my girlfriend and me to San Francisco. “This is history,” he said. “You can’t miss it.”
I hurried to book last-minute flights and hotels to attend one of the country’s largest Pride events. After midnight the next day, I checked into the hotel to celebrate this historic moment.
Cool boss, right? I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t work at some big company with a large budget. It was a four-person company; I didn’t expect anyone even to acknowledge the day. I definitely didn’t expect my straight, white, male manager to celebrate with me. I’ve attended Pride all over the world, but that one was different (not just because I was drinking with my boss.)
It’s hard to explain what Pride means to me or why it’s important to be proud in the first place. I can’t put into words the feeling of hiding who you are for acceptance. I don’t know the words to share the dread that washes over me as I see protestors shouting bible verses meant for love in a hateful spirit.
I can tell you that when my manager said, “this is history,” it was the first time I ever felt seen at work. It wasn’t about the flight or the partying. He recognized the significance of my rights—the difference between acknowledging diversity and genuine inclusion.
The Difference: Instilling Inclusion During Pride Month
I’ve spoken with other people in the LGBTQIA community who have had similar experiences. They’re rare. One shared how it felt when everyone in the company added pronouns to their email signatures after sharing my blog post on bathroom signage with the HR team.
Another of my favorites was a guy who walked in during Pride month to see a giant rainbow flag at the entrance of an interview. I don’t even have to go back to the transcript to remember what he said.
“It’s more than words on the wall. It’s a feeling.”
Pride month is about so much more than the parties – although this community does throw one hell of a party. It’s about looking into our history, propelling stories, and investing in change. But this year, Pride won’t happen – at least not in the more fun, traditional ways. Pride is just one of many important social movements happening in the world.
As a company and as managers, we can support actions that recognize where this community has come from and how far we still have to go. We can do things to celebrate Pride month like:
- Making sure that everyone has pronouns in their email signatures
- Reviewing HR systems and using pronouns in dropdown fields
- Videos and podcasts that celebrate the stories of LGBTQIA employees
- Encouraging interviewers to have inclusive messages and objects in view during video interviews
- Virtual book clubs to read books like Tinderbox or Stonewall. Learn about the founder of Pride, Marsha P. Johnson.
- Send a pride party pack. Have fun with it.
That’s just a start toward creating the feeling versus more rainbow colored propaganda to support your dismal diversity and inclusion efforts. The difference happens when we distance ourselves from generalizations and stop implying everyone’s equal at your company. Only then can we acknowledge and celebrate our differences. Even virtually.