From Bud Light to Target, Build-A-Bear to Disney, Starbucks to Kohl’s. The list of brands being attacked and “boycotted”, by a vocal minority for promoting inclusivity and acceptance is growing — quickly. Even Chick-fil-a, of all brands, is somehow facing backlash.
Between social media and now AI-generated images and content, we’ve entered an era where it’s easy for anyone to be loud. Very loud. And in most of these cases, the hostility begins with a very small, but vocal minority, seeking to undermine every inch of progress we’ve made. While their anger used to take place in echo chambers, today their voices and actions are unfortunately spreading. They are happy, no thrilled, to boycott their favorite beers and trash displays in businesses like Target, threatening employees and shoppers.
Today, 71% of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be recognized — that number is a complete reversal over the past 30 years. So the question is, with the majority supporting equality, how can we — as friends, colleagues and a community — drown out the negativity of the minority and create a society where love, acceptance, and inclusivity prevail?
Let’s start by acknowledging the reality of today.
The last few years have been rough. To date in 2023 alone, more than 540 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures, setting a record. Even more troubling is the fact that over 220 bills specifically target transgender and non-binary individuals, further exacerbating the discrimination faced by this vulnerable community. Sadly, 45 anti-LGBTQIA+ laws have already been enacted this year alone, perpetuating inequality and infringing upon basic human rights.
Among the laws enacted, several particularly egregious measures deserve attention. These include the banning of gender-affirming care for transgender youth, laws that require or allow misgendering of transgender students, and even laws targeting drag performances. Additionally, laws enabling discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom” and censoring LGBTQIA+-inclusive school curricula are deeply troubling.
Note, two of the authors of this blog live in Texas. We know and love many members of the community and have colleagues raising children who identify as part of the community. Michael Wayne Chapel, Staff Engineer at Mediafly based in Texas told us:
“As a parent of a teen in the LBGTQIA+ community and living in Texas, we find it extra challenging not just to raise and support our son, but to ensure there’s an environment and legal system in place to support him as he grows into a valued citizen. So, we have to fight harder getting the word out, contacting our legislators to see the value in our cause. It’s not a viable option to have to “run away” from the state we call home to” kinder pastures” when we live in a country where we shouldn’t have to. Luckily for my son, his friends and compatriots have been nothing but supportive. This is the first generation that for them, have found normalization about who they are, and I am nothing but optimistic of the next generation. It’s sad that our children are more self aware than the generations that precede them. My heart is warmed that my son has felt nothing but a normal life for who he is, and really my goal is for him to be able to blaze a trail forward so he always does.”
Even for those of us living in progressive states like Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage was first legalized and we now have the first openly lesbian governor in the United States, the trend towards hateful rhetoric, attacks on school curriculum, and threats of violence toward healthcare institutions that serve the transgender community have been skyrocketing.
Creating a culture where everyone can be their authentic self:
In the face of such discriminatory measures, it’s more important than ever for employers to create an inclusive and welcoming environment where all employees, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can bring their whole selves to work. When individuals feel comfortable and supported, they are more engaged, productive, and motivated. The benefits extend not only to the LGBTQIA+ community but also to the entire organization as a whole. It makes us stronger to see each other as people with full and meaningful lives outside of work.
Just as we noted above, it’s important to consider family members of your colleagues as well.
Where can you start?
- Active Listening and Open-Mindedness: Actively listen to your colleagues and be open-minded about their experiences. Create space for them to share their stories, thoughts, and feelings without judgment.
- Respect and Use Correct Pronouns: Respect each individual’s gender identity by using their preferred pronouns. Educate yourself about pronoun usage and encourage others to do the same. Include your pronouns in your email signature, videoconferencing and internal communications tools to show your respect for preferred pronouns.
- Encourage Inclusivity in Conversations: Make it comfortable for LGBTQIA+ colleagues to talk about their personal lives — to discuss their weekend, their partner’s jobs and hobbies, their engagements, their vacations, you name it. The same goes for those cis-colleagues with children who identify as LGBTQIA+. Normalize these discussions by showing genuine interest and support.
- Challenge Stereotypes and Biases: Be vigilant about challenging stereotypes and biases. Advocate for inclusive language, challenge discriminatory remarks, and create a safe space for everyone to express themselves authentically.
- Educate Yourself and Others: Take the initiative to educate yourself about LGBTQIA+ issues, history, and the challenges faced by the community. Share your knowledge with others to foster understanding and empathy.
- Support LGBTQIA+-Friendly Policies: Advocate for policies and practices within your organization that promote inclusivity, such as comprehensive anti-discrimination policies, gender-neutral facilities, and support networks for LGBTQIA+ employees.
Countering the Vocal Minority:
The LGBTQIA+ community are facing policies, rhetoric and violence that endanger them. While many of us feel scared and pained by these stories, those in the LGBTQIA+ community are feeling exhausted from the incessant negativity and from the expectation that they, alone, should lead the pushback against the current climate of hate.
This Pride Month, let’s remember that Pride started as a protest and that. allyship is not a passive role but an active commitment to support and uplift the LGBTQIA+ community, and to fight for their safety. As colleagues, we firmly believe that equality is not a privilege but a fundamental right. By standing together, we can counter discrimination, challenge harmful legislation, and create a future where diversity is celebrated and embraced in every aspect of society. Together, we can make a difference and build a world where everyone can thrive, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We can’t sit on the sidelines, this is a moment for action. While it’s great and true to proclaim that “love is love”, and to encourage your colleagues to be their whole selves at work, our LGBTQIA+ colleagues and their families deserve for us to fight for their right to feel safe and respected everywhere. We must use our voices to challenge and counter the vocal minority. As colleagues, we owe it to our LGBTQ coworkers and their families. As parents, we owe it to our children. We owe it to our friends, neighbors, and strangers.