Pride 2021 – Meaningful Allyship
You’ve probably seen a lot of rainbows this month in honour of Pride 2021. But what happens now that the month is over? Are we truly satisfied that our homes, workplaces, and social spaces are safe and enjoyable for all of us? In this blog, I’m going to use the word ‘queer’ as an inclusive term encompassing those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual and pansexual.
A crucial part of Pride is allyship – our colleagues, friends and family who themselves don’t identify as queer but have been there to support us and celebrate the creation of a more inclusive and accepting environment. During Pride month, we need to ask ourselves what this allyship means. What does meaningful allyship look like, as opposed to a bit of hot air that expires on June 30?
Here are some principles that, to me, guide meaningful allyship in the workplace:
Avoiding the “hive mind” mentality
Pride is about celebrating the diversity of the queer community, however, everyone in the community is different and has different relationships with their sexual identity. We are going to want different things from our workplaces. Some might be eager to head up Pride initiatives and others might not be. That’s okay! We don’t share a “hive-mind”. Be consultative; listen to the individuals in your organisation if they feel comfortable enough to shed light on how they feel about these issues, or any issues. Be welcoming and approachable so that if a queer colleague needs to share or confide in you, that they can do so in their own time and in their own comfort zone. Avoiding the “hive mind” mentality is about understanding that queer folk are not all the same and that we all see things differently.
Playing it by ear
From that point, it is important to treat everyone as an individual. We need to play it by ear and let each person come to the table with what they are and are not comfortable with talking about. The crucial element here is an attitude of genuine support – if someone is open and comfortable enough to have a discussion with you about their personal life, their relationships and their family, we need to respect that openness and listen with an attitude of non-judgment, just like you would any colleague or friend. We all feel love and pain; we all go through the same human problems – whether queer or not. Yes, Pride is a chance to celebrate our diversity, but it is also a time to acknowledge that we all love and want to be loved and there is nothing more unifying than that fundamental truth.
Strength in diversity
If an organisation’s approach to Pride is to tick a box to appear PC “woke”, that’s not an attitude that is going to get them very far. The above principles can only work when your approach comes from a genuine understanding that strength lies in diversity. You can only successfully celebrate Pride when you understand that queer employees have value – we’re real people with real relationships and real families. Like any employee, can provide enormous amounts of value to an organisation when we feel safe and supported by our colleagues. When we can share, be vulnerable and be consoled. Meaningful allyship is the best way to create a safe and accepting workplace and invest in queer colleagues so they feel supported to be themselves while growing as professionals.
I know this one is pretty obvious, but it’s still worth noting. Stereotypes don’t mean squat. This links back to the fact that everyone is different. You can be queer and strong. You can be queer and work in the tech industry. You can be queer and command the admiration of your colleagues. Your sexuality, in and of itself, is not an obstacle to your ability, your performance and your potential. Workplaces that understand this, acknowledge this and believe this are the companies enabling their queer employees to be themselves and achieve great things.
That’s what meaningful allyship can do.
About the author
Michael Kerridge is a Project Administrator at Engage Squared. New to his profession, Michael has a background working in the administration of both public and private law, and has an interest in the intersection of technology and law, compliance, and contracts management. He works in our Brisbane office and studies law at the Queensland University of Technology.