I have a childhood memory that might sound familiar to many of you. Back then in high school, in the hallway between classes or during lunch, kids would prank passersby by calling out quickly, “Homo-say-huh?!”
The gag was meant to get one of the uninitiated or forgetful to say “Huh?” — thereby proving they were gay. Followed, naturally, by laughter and pointing.
Of course there was no merit to the prank but it underscored the larger community’s feelings about homosexuals, premised on the idea of tricking them into coming out and then mocking them when they did. “Let’s see if we can get you to spill your secret?”
Of course, it was yet one more effective way to keep anyone who might actually be gay or transgender from expressing themselves outwardly. Few in my school were willing to endure that stigma. High school was already a social battleground, who would intentionally open themselves up to even more challenges?
Today, June — Pride Month — turns that memory on its head by providing a safe place and encouragement for self-expression.
The beautiful and delicate truth is that your brand and organization aren’t being tricked into or prevented from supporting the LGBTQIA community...
Consequently, consumer brands promote themselves to the LGBTQIA with rainbow packaging and special products. LinkedIn and other professional channels are suddenly bursting with color as brands and people adopt pride-themed banners and logos. And my personal favorite: some cities and districts, like Market Street in San Francisco, adorn the streetlights with the flags stretching support from the Bay Bridge to the Castro.
The beautiful and delicate truth is that your brand and organization aren’t being tricked into or prevented from supporting the LGBTQIA community: brands and people are doing this openly with the intention, yes, of selling products and recruiting talented workers — but largely also in a genuine act of support.
Why does it matter?
Many battles against the LGBTQIA community aren’t waged against those letters, or against the "qualities" of being LGBTQIA. Such battles cannot be won.
Instead, our detractors target openness. The essential preface to LGBTQIA: openly. To be openly lesbian, openly gay, openly transgender.
...our detractors target openness.
This is what my classmates implicitly targeted in high school, perhaps without even recognizing the profound impact it had on others. Our openness is a hard-earned freedom perpetually in the crosshairs, even now.
Which is why San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk’s words from the 1970s about coming out (“do it for the sake of others”) take on even more importance now, in 2022, in the words and actions of a Florida high school class president reported recently by CNN. In short, Zander Moricz wasn’t allowed to openly discuss being gay in his graduation, so he adopted a workaround.
Supervisor Milk spoke at a time when the LGBTQIA community was fighting hard for openness it did not yet have. Zander Moricz speaks in 2022, from an entirely new, legislatively imposed closet. While society has changed and Pride Month has gained a foothold in the public conscience, clearly openness is still under threat.
And so, again, why does this matter? Well, consider that as your organization — a law firm, or perhaps a professional service company — celebrates diversity amongst your ranks, with programs and press releases and the like in recognition of Pride Month, it is of course a signal to clients and prospects. But: it also speaks to everyone within the larger world, and especially the next generation, about the safety of openness.
Your support is about creating a safe and open workplace. It’s proof of a community that not only supports LGBTQIA members but encourages outward, open expressions of self.
And so in this way, it is everything. Grateful and happy Pride Month to you all! Stay open — not just for the sake of business.
Paul Ryplewski is the VP of Client Services at JD Supra. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
*image courtesy of CNET