This June marks the 52nd anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots – a moment that sparked a national turning point for gay rights. This was a time when homosexual acts were illegal in 49 out of 50 states and restaurants and bars were routinely shut down for having gay employees or serving gay patrons.
Today, Pride Month coincides with the remembrance of that historic moment to lift up the voices and promote the equality and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual people (LGBTQIA+) in the United States.
As we continue to navigate a virtual world and hope to return to “normal” soon, it is vital to remain committed to allyship to the LGBTQIA+ community. Although allyship is important everywhere, its importance in the workplace is vital so everyone feels like they have a seat at the table to bring their best selves. Practicing inclusive language, honoring preferred pronouns, and leading by example are just a few ways in which companies can show their support for the LGBTQIA+ community every month of the year.
One way to be an ally is to be aware of and avoid anti-queer microagressions, like assuming sexuality based on gender performance or demanding “proof” of sexual orientation. In addition to avoiding these microagressions, you and your company can also practice allyship by proactively using “microrecognitions” – instead of simply avoiding certain topics or language, you can actively use inclusive language and symbols. Here are a few examples of what that can look like at your company:
- Use the word “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife” to invite your employees’ significant others when sending invites for a company event
- Address the audience with gender neutral terms like “folks”, “everybody”, and “you all” instead of “you guys” or “ladies and gentlemen” in the context of a training session or a larger meeting
- Use a person’s first name instead of addressing them as “Ms., Mr., etc.,” unless specifically asked to do otherwise
Using inclusive language like this creates an environment that allows your coworkers and clients in the room to be seen as they want to be seen. This language ensures that everyone is included in the conversation instead of being inadvertently left out.
Language is powerful and your words matter – use them to create a workplace that’s welcoming to all.