Go Beyond Pride Month: Sustaining LGBTQ+ Allyship as a Year-Round Commitment For the Well-Being of All Employees

It feels good to work for an organization where everyone feels included. Leaders can become allies to LGBTQ+ employees by cultivating a workplace environment where everyone feels like they belong.

Written by
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Logan Chapman
Onboarding & Enablement Coordinator
Clinically reviewed by
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    There’s a misconception that allyship is primarily about supporting a specific subset of individuals, such as LGBTQ+ people. Here’s what’s true: inclusion is for everyone. 

    Research shows inclusivity in the workplace underpins employee well-being and drives organizational performance. This is also the right thing to do.

    Allyship is a challenging concept to define. If you google the word, you’ll get a myriad of different answers. 

    In broad terms, inclusivity means creating a physically and psychologically safe environment for people to be their authentic selves. Belonging is a deeply important human need, and inclusivity creates space for more people to belong.

    An important note about allyship

    When I think about allyship and inclusion in the workplace, one of the most important things that comes to mind is for allies to avoid offloading the work onto LGBTQ+ coworkers.

    I’ve encountered this dynamic in multiple work environments. As soon as a coworker realizes I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community and gets to know me, I become their go-to for education. I enjoy being an educator, but it can be emotionally burdensome to constantly be the representative of an entire community.

    Most LGBTQ+ employees aren’t given dedicated time and compensation to do that work when it’s not in their job description. So they have an additional, often heavy job on top of their actual job.

    The role of allyship in employee well-being

    At the most basic level, individuals need physical and psychological safety and a sense of belonging to flourish.

    To me, belonging means being heard and listened to. This doesn’t just mean being heard as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but as an individual whose worth is acknowledged. Essentially, feeling like I belong in my workplace community.

    It feels good to work somewhere where everyone is safe. My team checks in with each other at the beginning of each meeting and feels safe talking about our lives and partners, knowing there is no judgment. 

    Knowing I’m safe at work motivates me to improve my work and support my coworkers.

    Workplace allyship strategies 

    I want to start by saying it’s important for allies to understand how to mess up with grace. My coworkers are doing their best, and mistakes happen—none of us are perfect.

    For example, when accidentally using the wrong pronouns for someone, making a big deal out of the mistake places the burden on the person being misgendered to comfort the person who made the mistake.

    Hard conversations are healthy

    If someone makes a mistake, correct it and move on without making a big production about it. 

    At a former workplace, a coworker emailed me that getting my pronouns right was like navigating a jungle. Their intentions weren’t bad, but they still treated me like my existence was a burden to them. I just want to live authentically at work, be part of a team, and do my job.

    It is okay to have these sometimes uncomfortable conversations when all parties operate respectfully and empathically.

    Lucas Barrino, a fellow member of Spring Health’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group, points out that “allyship in the workplace means not shying away from the hard, uncomfortable questions and discussions…It's genuinely engaging with people from different backgrounds, finding ways to connect organically, and speaking up when you see or hear something that is not okay. True allyship is often uncomfortable.”

    Allyship at the organizational level

    When I found Spring Health’s posting for my current job, I was so happy to see it included a short paragraph noting marginalized communities often don’t apply for jobs unless they have 100% of the required job skills—please apply anyway. 

    This told me Spring Health would rather train the right person than have the wrong fit for the listed skill set.

    This automatically opened my eyes to the idea that Spring Health might be a place where I fit. It gave me an excellent example of how inclusion starts before hiring, signaling I could start on equitable ground with other applicants.

    That was especially important for me because I’ve transitioned and have a dead name. Every time I apply for a job, there’s a question about whether the applicant has used another alias, and I’d always wonder if that was why I didn’t get a callback.

    Training and education lay the foundation

    One of the biggest things I’d like to convey to HR and benefit leaders is the importance of integrating education and awareness by hiring DEI presenters and educators, instead of solely relying on LGBTQ+ employees to do this work.

    Another useful concept for people beginning their educational journey is reorienting their thinking. To paraphrase the writer and poet Alok Vaid-Menon, inclusion is not a courtesy for the marginalized. 

    Inclusion is beneficial for every individual and for organizations as a whole. The more individuals broaden their minds to better understand other people’s experiences, the more flexible, creative, and resilient the organization.

    So, when considering education, ask yourself why you want to educate yourself about LGBTQ+ issues or other marginalized groups. Where is that desire coming from? Coming from the right place allows people to make better decisions about how they go about educating themselves.

    Training done mindfully

    Training must include a safe, dedicated space for questions and learning, with boundaries set ahead of time for what’s appropriate and inappropriate to ask about or talk about. 

    Boundaries are so crucial for doing this kind of work. For example:

    • Don’t ask what someone’s dead name is
    • Don’t ask people about their bodies
    • Do ask about people’s experiences or what they mean to them
    • Do ask if people have something they want to share

    A relatively safe guideline is if you wouldn’t ask a straight or cisgender person something because it’s inappropriate, well—it’s still inappropriate.

    True DEI is culture, not a checklist

    Ritchelle Gilbert, another member of Spring Health’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group, notes that “true allyship involves walking the walk when it comes to supporting LGBTQ individuals. It means being aware of the psychological implications involved with being a member of a minority group. 

    Having measures to protect LGBTQ individuals through policies and procedures should be a regular part of company road mapping, whether that includes workplace training, awareness events, or inclusion with day-to-day operations.”

    Walking the walk can benefit companies by allocating resources, incorporating educators, and offering dedicated time and space to use those resources.

    This might include the following:

    • Clear, accessible, and centralized DEI pathways for training and education year-round, not just during Pride Month
    • More visible promotion of DEI training opportunities
    • Manager and leadership training that incorporates DEI, helping them better support their LGBTQ+ employees
    • Highlighting that DEI-specific training would be great to put on a resume when seeking advancement
    • Establishing a protocol, in concert with ERGs, about structuring DEI initiatives so the same people aren’t being leaned on to carry the emotional burden of these projects
    • Aligning DEI initiatives to be company-wide so that everyone gets the benefit of education 
    • Mentorship opportunities

    The little things matter

    People in marginalized communities generally seek signs of safety when interacting with others, so the small things matter in signaling a safe environment. For example:

    • At company events, include pronouns on name tags
    • Consider adding verbiage to job postings about welcoming LGBTQ+ candidates
    • Suggest that interviewers include their pronouns on Zoom, allowing LGBTQ+ applicants to feel safer and create a more equitable baseline
    • During onboarding, explain how to include pronouns on Zoom or offer suggested verbiage for an email signature with pronouns

    Allyship and representation are powerful

    I want to end this on a hopeful note, although it’s tinged with sadness. 

    While it's not true for everyone, many LGBTQ+ people do grow up. We get to hold regular jobs, form friendships, find community, and build joyful lives. Being exceptional is not required to be successful.

    I say this in part because there are so many LGBTQ+ youth struggling with their identities in a world that is often hostile and actively detrimental to their mental health. Many are worried about whether they’ll survive to adulthood.

    A friend of mine recently posted a call to action regarding trans youth in their area who were looking for trans adults as models of growth. You see, they needed proof that we do get to grow up. It hit me hard.

    So, for workplace leaders, representation that amplifies trans and queer voices matters—it shows we have the capacity for full, joyful lives, like everyone else.

    Discover how to ensure your LGBTQ+ employees feel safe coming out at work, and exactly how to support them when they do.    

    About the Author
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    Logan Chapman
    Onboarding & Enablement Coordinator

    My name is Logan, and I've been a coordinator for Spring Health's onboarding and enablement team for one year this month. I came out as transgender and nonbinary in 2017. I'm also queer and asexual. Transitioning has been a physically, financially, and emotionally difficult road, but it’s worth everything to have autonomy over my true self and to be able to live authentically. It’s hard to be yourself when you grow up without the language or exposure you need to know that it’s okay to exist. I want to grow awareness of the issues we’re still facing and normalize our existence so that future generations can live better lives.

    About the clinical reviewer
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