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Jun 14, 2021

The Importance Of Allyship This Pride Month

Sponsored Content provided by Michealle Gady - Founder and President , Atromitos

It’s June which means Pride Month has started. Across the country, LGBTQ+ communities are coming together to celebrate the strides that have been made in the fight for equality and justice. While most will only see the drag performances and the parades, it is important to remember that LGBTQ+ communities are still actively facing threats and we all have the opportunity to act as Allies.

What do we mean by LGBTQ+ communities and why is Pride celebrated?

LGBTQ+ communities are inclusive of many individuals who may or may not identify as heterosexual or cisgender. For those outside of the LGBTQ+ communities, the individuals most familiar may be those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and/or Questioning.
 
Over the years, other identities have been added to the acronym including (but definitely not limited to) Pansexual, Polysexual, Intersex, Two-Spirited, and Asexual. Additionally, ‘Ally’ was added to represent those who do not identify as part of these communities but demonstrate a commitment to advocating for justice for LGBTQ+ communities.
 
You may, in fact, have come across variations of the LGBTQ+ acronym itself but for the purposes of this article, I will use the acronym “LGBTQ+” in recognition that there are a myriad of ways individuals do, and should be allowed to, identify and express who they are. It is imperative to remember that LGBTQ+ communities are not a single voice but are instead the collective voices of communities who are fighting to have their identities represented and universally accepted in our society, laws, and culture.
 
That fight—the struggle for acceptance, equality, and basic human rights—lays half of the foundation for what Pride is about.
 
A quick history lesson: During the 1950s and 60s, LGBTQ+ communities faced uphill battles at most every turn. It was a widely accepted belief that those who identified as members of LGBTQ+ communities could be “rehabilitated” into a heterosexual and cisgender lifestyle. President Eisenhower’s Executive Order 10450, signed in 1953, barred homosexuals from being employed by the federal government, thus beginning what became known as “The Lavender Scare.”
 
The tides of these trends began to turn at the dawn of the 1970s. In June 1969, The Stonewall Inn in Manhattan was raided by the New York City Police Department in order to identify, by name, those who were patronizing the gay bar, as well as arrest those individuals presenting as female but who were biologically male (which, in case you were curious, was verified by police in the bathrooms of the bar).
 
The protests spawned by this raid and ignited by Trans Women of Color are widely accepted as sparking the modern-day Gay Rights Movement. With this turning point came a significant change in how members of LGBTQ+ communities demanded to be seen, heard, and treated.
 
Since the raid at The Stonewall Inn, we have seen the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the passage of marriage equality, among many other significant accomplishments. We, as a society and government, have made great strides. And while those strides have been great, we have many more strides to take together. What is left to be accomplished is the second foundation of Pride: a reminder that there is much work yet to be done and that there are people in power who are hell-bent on preventing that work from happening.

Current Threats

To understand the threats currently facing LGBTQ+ communities, unfortunately you need not look further than earlier this year. What I share here is not, by any means, a comprehensive list. Instead, it is but a flavor of the work we, as potential Allies to LGBTQ+ communities, must decide to engage in.
 
We are currently seeing bills in states (and let’s call a spade a spade, these are states with majority GOP leaderships) that are eliminating access for transgender youth to receive life-saving and affirming healthcare services (Arkansas), barring transgender athletes from team participation unless on a team matching their assigned sex at birth (West Virginia), and prohibiting transgender individuals from using bathrooms aligned with their gender identity (Tennessee). (For our own reckoning, let’s go back to 2016 when we, in North Carolina, passed HB2 and then repealed it in exchange for denying further protections for LGBT+ communities).
 
The fight for LGBTQ+ rights and equality is also playing out at the federal level. As of the writing of this article, we are waiting to hear the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case in which a Catholic-run foster care agency is hoping for allowance to not place children with same-sex couples (as it is goes against the agency’s religious grounds) and retain their contracts with the City of Philadelphia.
 
I could keep growing this list, but here’s the point: these decisions hinge on someone’s belief or ideology that members of LGBTQ+ communities are less deserving of the same rights, protections, and access than those of us who identify as heterosexual or cisgender. I firmly believe that legal decisions and regulations should be based in fact, reality, or science; alas, here we are.
 

Our Opportunity to Act as Allies
 

However, this is not where we have to be. In order to make change, we, as Allies, have to decide to act. We help remind those in authority that public opinion is pro-equality and pro-access. (And those are true: public opinion polls find society to be those things).
 
As Allies in business, our sway is even stronger. The business community has long remained a powerful force in how politicians behave, if we choose to use our voices to make positive change. We grow the economic vitality of districts. Our skills and talents become lightning rods for investments. Our businesses keep people employed.
 
So how do we do it? How do we be the best Allies we can be?
 
Lots of ways, but I’ll leave you with three:
 
1. Understand that being an Ally is more than plastering your business with rainbows in June (also known as “rainbow-washing”). Pride Month is both is a celebration and rallying cry. One rainbow for one month out of the year is not an indication that you are in the fight—it’s an attempt to get LGBTQ+ communities to recognize your business as being affirming of them. And they need and deserve more from us. 

2. Seriously consider reflecting the communities in your marketing. If you truly want to support LGBTQ+ Communities, then show them. When women, people of color, refugees, members of LGBTQ+ communities, or any other marginalized individual talks about media, one of the most frequent comments is that they don’t see “anyone like them.” Inclusion of LGBTQ+ communities in your marketing—the stories you tell, the staff you hire, and the extent to which you engage with the communities—honors how you benefit from LGBTQ+ communities and how they can benefit from you.

3. Vote. Really, it should stop there: Just vote. But I also want you to vote for equality. Right now, LGBTQ+ communities need people in power who will not put up barriers to their equality. They need representation at all levels who will help identify discrimination and enact solutions that will end it. And yes, you will always know where your candidates stand on issues related to LGBTQ+ communities, you just have to decide to look for the information. 


Celebrate
 

Finally, let’s not forget that Pride is indeed a time of celebration. Chances are we all know someone who is part of a LGBTQ+ community, and I hope we have all decided not to purposely distance ourselves from them simply because of their identity. So during the month of June, I hope you do get a chance to engage in the festivities and celebrate the milestones that we, as a country, have achieved thus far. Attend the parades. Tip your drag performer. Remember to celebrate someone for who they are. And then, let’s get to work.


Michealle Gady, JD, is Founder and President of Atromitos, LLC, a boutique consulting firm headquartered in Wilmington, North Carolina. Atromitos works with a variety of organizations from health payers and technology companies, to community-based organizations and nonprofits but their work reflects a singular mission: creating healthier, more resilient, and more equitable communities. Michealle takes nearly 20 years’ experience in health law and policy, program design and implementation, value-based care, and change management and puts it to work for Atromitos’ partners who are trying to succeed during this time of dramatic transformation within the U.S. healthcare system. Outside of leading the Atromitos team, Michealle serves as a Board Member for both the Cape Fear Literacy Council and A Safe Place and is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and American Health Law Association.

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