Around the world, June signifies a time to celebrate LGBTQ+ people, honour the fight they had (and still have) for rights and recognition, and reaffirm those rights in celebration. In 2020, things are a little bit different. COVID has cancelled nearly all Pride celebrations and marches, which are large in-person events. And then police brutality towards the Black community reopened the painful conversation around racism in the world, which spills over into the LGBTQ+ community (which deals with its own intersectional issues between race and sexuality).
While celebrating pride is critical every year because the rights of LGBTQ+ people are not enshrined in law in many places (including many places in the United States and other developed nations), 2020 is not your average year. That’s why we’ve put together this practical guide on ways to celebrate pride that acknowledges the anti-racist work going on in and outside of the LGBTQ+ community and take into account the reality that we won’t be able to get together this year, whether in celebration or solidarity.
Year-round ways to support LGBTQ+ people you can start during pride month
1 — Donate
Money allows important organizations to continue doing their work. It’s also a tax write off for your business. Ideally, you develop an ongoing partnership with a couple nonprofit or charitable organizations, donating and engaging consistently. But even a one-time or annual donation is appreciated and helpful.
Some local organizations that Bloom donated to:
- Rainbow Railroad: Helping LGBTQ+ people escape persecution from countries where their identity is illegal.
- Domino Project: A program helping Black queer youth in Toronto facilitated by the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. Donation link → Select “Domino Project” from the drop-down list
Note: almost every major city in North America has programs for Black queer youth or similar organizations — a quick Google search for “Black queer youth organization in [your city]” will help you find one to support locally if you’re not in Toronto.
2 — Buy from LGBTQ+ owned businesses
Your business is likely buying things from vendors all the time. Take stock of who you work with — whenever you need a new supplier, actively look for an LGBTQ+ owned business to support. We are not advocating dumping all your vendors and getting new ones. Instead, this note is about being conscious of who you work with and creating more balance in the future.
If you’re not sure where to start, organizations like the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in the United States) are certifying bodies that can help you connect with certified LGBTQ-owned businesses.
And here are some LGBTQ+ owned businesses to look into directly for things like clothing / company swag and more:
3 — Include LGBTQ+ identities in engagement surveys
One of the best things you can do for LGBTQ+ people is get a picture of what it looks like in your organization.
In your engagement surveys, look at:
- Adding LGBTQ+ self-identification questions in your demographics section (note: not everyone will be comfortable identifying themselves, but this can give you some initial data).
- Adding explicit questions about inclusion. Here’s a guide from Crescendo on the metrics you can track (and questions to ask).
4 — Hire LGBTQ+ people
Having a diverse company will make you better, period. So when you look for talent, go where diverse talent exists. There are a few key organizations that help LGBTQ+ people find work — you can connect with those organizations (and sponsor, if feasible!) to hire from the LGBTQ+ community.
- Out on Bay Street: Helping Canadian LGBTQ+ students get into banking, consulting, and law (Similar organization in the United States: Out 4 Undergrad Business)
- Venture Out: Helping Canadian LGBTQ+ people get into tech and entrepreneurship (Similar organizations in the United States: Out in Tech, Out 4 Undergrad Tech, Lesbians Who Tech, and TransTech).
5 — Virtually proud
In a remote environment, it’s impossible to have parties, celebrations, solidarity events, or other in-person get-togethers. Instead, take what those events are intended to give — solidarity, fun, connection — and make it virtual.
- Include Pride remarks in town halls and virtual team summits, including sharing the brief history of Pride and how the push for a better world fits into your organization’s mission and vision..
- Follow official Pride accounts for your city on social media to see what virtual events you can attend.
- Add gender pronouns to your email signature and name on Slack (Note: This helps across the board with names that people aren’t used to seeing).
6 — Read up on intersectionality
If you’re not familiar with the term intersectionality, pride month is a great time to start learning. The basic premise is that people don’t isolate certain parts of identity when they look at you. Just as you may look at someone and see them as a professional, a parent, and an athlete, on the negative side people face discrimination for their sexuality, gender, and race in different ways.
Here’s a great primer from Georgetown Law School that shares the general concepts and puts them in a historical context.
Intersectionality is particularly explicit right now in the context of LGBTQ+ pride month with a backdrop of racist violence in the world, which the Equality Network touches on in its guide on intersectionality.
7 — Ask the community what they need
This list is nowhere near exhaustive. Each workplace is unique — as is each person. If you want to truly support, ask LGBTQ+ folks in your network, on your payroll, and in your community what they’d like to see from you as a business leader.
A big part of this step, though, is not to expect LGBTQ+ people to do all of the work related to the changes or ideas you have. You may see members of the community step up, but you should also step up to shoulder some (or most) of the work associated with this. Pride is a time to get engaged and to learn for everyone, not just a time to push side-of-the-desk work onto LGBTQ+ people for your company’s brand benefit.
This mentality should also continue with any year-round partnerships you have. Much of the work in partnerships is administrative, so the partner being an LGBTQ+ organization doesn’t necessarily mean that an LGBTQ+ person has to run point on it (though if they step up, that’s great).
If you’re worried about appearing ignorant or saying the wrong thing, the best thing you can do is come prepared with a plan already and ask for feedback. So instead of going to your LGBTQ+ employees or friends with nothing, come with a few ideas you have already (like the ones in this article!) and ask for feedback, ideas, or if they think something is missing. That way you’re engaging with them on an intellectual level, not reducing them to one facet of their identity.