As Pride Month begins, I’d like to describe how I came to an important decision I made as an ally of the LGBTQ community.
I do my best to be inclusive of all sorts of people. I have a lot of friends in the LGBTQ community. I like to think people know I’m a safe person, and I value different types of people.
But here’s the thing I really started thinking about: how do they know? And what am I actively doing to make people feel welcome and model good behavior when it comes to including all kinds of people? How am I going from just being a listener and someone who’s not excluding people to someone who is actively welcoming and finding a way to be an ally?
So, I decided to join the Pride Network Business Resource Group (BRG) at Tyson Foods. It started with me just adding a Pride sticker at my desk. That seemed like a big step. Then I joined the Group and started listening in on calls. This spring, we had a session called “Transgender Inclusion & Allyship 101 Lunch & Learn.” It happened to be on a day when I was off work, but I called in anyway.
The team shared a presentation with us that helped us understand more about the challenges people in the transgender community face and some of the things we as allies could do. One of the simplest things we can do as an ally is the daunting task of announcing our pronouns.
It took me a week to decide to do it. But I took what seemed like a very scary step and added my pronouns to my work email signature and my personal social network pages.
I felt silly at first, but I did it anyway. Two days later, someone said something to me about it. And that’s when I got the chance to become an active ally.
They asked, “do people confuse you as a he/him – maybe Michael?”
What that question allowed me to do is share the information we all received in that Lunch & Learn. I did my best to explain what it meant to me, share the information we received, and make it seem normal. Because that’s what it’s really about – making it normal for people to be themselves, even if that seems obvious.
Here are some key takeaways that helped me:
- We work alongside several trans people.
- One of the ways we can help eliminate any awkwardness they may feel is by being explicit about our preferred pronouns. It signals we are open for them to share what they prefer to be called.
- Last year, the Human Rights Campaign “tracked a record number of violent fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people.” And, according to a 2020 national survey, “nearly 15% of LGBTQ respondents attempted suicide in the past twelve months, including more than 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth.”
- What seemed like a really scary thing for me was actually a small thing I could do to make a big impact for someone who may be struggling.
Being an ally is more than just listening or being nice; it’s finding ways to learn, grow, and share with people who might not be as active as you are. We can all learn from each other and find ways to make more people at Tyson Foods and in the communities around us feel welcome to be who they are.