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Reflecting on Pride Month, and how businesses can be allies

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Support Pride all year long

This is a guest column that Nashville LGBT Chamber CEO Joe Woolley wrote for the Nashville Business Journal. The only article can be found here.

June was Pride Month, and what a Pride it was. I am sure you saw rainbows and heard the familiar “Happy Pride!” As we wrap up the month, I want to share some thoughts about Pride and how the “business of Pride” cannot just be in June — it has to be a year-long commitment. 

With the world awash in rainbows, what does Pride really mean? Pride is about teaching acceptance, educating pride history and above all, love. Pride is about community and events that showcase inclusive places and partners. It’s about the rainbow and Pride flag. It’s about coming together and being kind to one another, something the LGBTQ+ community should work harder on; we are stronger together than we are divided.

I keep thinking back to last year’s Pride, in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown. With the nation focused on systemic racism and social injustice, we paused to focus on how to celebrate Pride at that moment, what Pride started as and is all about. I am still so proud of the statement we made in regards to Standing Against Racism and then offering guidance on the conversation we were and needed to be having and on how to be a good ally. That work of representing the LGBTQ+ community in those larger conversations has been central to our work at the Nashville LGBT Chamber during the last year, and will remain so. We represent and advocate for the marginalized of the marginalized, and BIPOC LGBTQ+ should know we are still committed to this work and stand together with them. 

It was made very clear this year by the Tennessee Legislature and governor that LGBTQ+ people are still under attack. A record number of discriminatory anti-LGBT laws were passed, and more will be coming next year. The Nashville LGBT Chamber worked tirelessly during session to stop this discrimination, and while it is not the outcome we hoped for, we should be proud of our work. Our trans siblings are the ones being targeted the most by this hatred and we must stand united against this discrimination. It is not OK to target one part of the LGBT community and expect the rest to remain silent. It is not OK to be for gay and lesbian rights, but not trans rights. It’s only a matter of time before they come for the others. Pride is about standing united and educating our own community and the ally community on trans issues and working together to stop all forms of discrimination, and saying Trans Lives Matter. 

Pride is also about support. We work with the business community in regard to LGBT support, but real support should be recognized and appreciated. I am going to get really real, and what I am saying is said with love and to make you think. With Pride month you saw brands flipping their logos to rainbow and marketing everything they have. We now need to ask ourselves and those brands, "What do they do the rest of the year for the LGBT community? Are they being genuine and intentional or just pandering?"

Here are some great things to look for: 

  • What are they doing around advocacy? Are they on the front lines, or just signing letters, putting out statements or the worst — staying silent?
  • Do they say one thing in public and then support the opposition?
  • Do they source LGBT-certified small businesses for their procurement?
  • Do they have an active Employee Resource Group (ERG) program for their employees that allows them to bring their whole authentic self to work?
  • Do they actively seek out diverse applicants?
  • Do they realize that inclusion fosters diversity and if you don't get inclusion right then you will never grow diversity? 
  • What do they financially support, both for LGBT issues and against?
  • When they sell you the rainbow version of their product, do any of the proceeds go to support the LGBT community?
  • Are they concerned about LGBT issues all year long or just during Pride Month? 

Being a member the Nashville LGBT Chamber is a sustained investment in LGBTQ+ equality in the workplace and society. We thank our many members, the majority of them ally businesses, for their commitment and ask them and all businesses to do more. We are going to need all push harder and show more real commitment to Pride if we are going to continue to sustain the changes we made.

So after six months of non-stop work, from the legislative session to Pride month celebrations, I am looking forward to taking a quick vacation and then back to continue this work. I hope you will join us and let's talk Pride all year long.

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