As we celebrate Pride Month 2022, our teams around the globe are recognizing Pride Month through local initiatives and activities championing LGBTQIA+ equality. For this special edition of Inside Edelman, we profiled colleagues from around the network who are focused on allyship, recognizing intersectionality and taking action towards a more inclusive and equitable world for the LGBTQIA+ community.
How are you working to champion LGBTQIA+ equality in your market/region?
There are always LGBTQIA+ businesses and causes to support—in today’s world, that is table stakes to me in terms of how we spend our time and money (or choose not to). In my view, being a champion for our community isn’t about showing up at a big game and “winning.” It’s about the work—every day and every facet of your life—to recognize and be recognized. In many cases, people in our community hide their orientation and fail to take exception to assumptions people may make about who we are. I think it is incredibly important for people to know that they have assumed wrong and to let them know who I am/we are. I had a client ask me how long my wife and I had been married, one said he wanted to set me up with his daughter and another tell me that my team needed to get to work on the “fa**ots” that were protesting their brand. In these and other instances, I thought it was important to unapologetically and directly reset the table.
What do you think it means to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community?
In today’s world of activism, I think there is an assumption if people have gone to a parade or a protest or hit “agree” on an online petition that the job is done. Being an ally is more intimate and personal. It is about seeing a colleague where they are and making sure they feel safe. It is to recognize yourself in someone else and treat them how you might want to be treated if you were facing similar challenges. It goes beyond a poster and into the actions someone is willing to take to show up for you.
What can leaders and managers be doing to help make tangible action to support the LGBTQIA+ community?
Clearly hopes and prayers have fallen short, but actions speak to real support. Equal benefits for gay parents around adoptions and time off was a great recognition point for the firm and thinking beyond awareness that peoples’ orientations could be more than just gay and straight was also important. I think sometimes we forget what a progressive and inclusive workplace Edelman can be and those aren’t universally adopted policies. Beyond that, knowing that micro-aggressions against the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace remain largely unchecked and rampant in many workplace situations continues to be a challenge for a lot of employees..
How do you ensure LGBTQIA+ issues remain top of mind within a company throughout the rest of the year?
On a personal level, it is about always being willing to show up and represent being a part of this community—no matter if it is on a Teams call or in the Board room. Also making sure others are seen and heard, both within our workforce and the broader community.
What recommendations do you have for people to become more involved in LGBTQIA+ issues?
For those who already consider themselves “activists,” go to a dance club, a drag show, or a LGBTQIA+ gathering spot. Sometimes we get so caught up in the division and anger that some would feel different than we do on certain issues that they are motivated by the fight. Don’t be. See the love, the fun the community as it is and why it is worth being recognized and celebrated. For those who don’t know, are interested in learning more and becoming more of an ally, talk to people who are in the community. Learn. Build empathy. And don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions—including the ever-pressing “Will I get hit on?” The answer being, only if you’re lucky.
What does love mean/look like to you?
It means and looks like a lot of things to me. There is my own special someone—and we call each other our “favorite humans” because boyfriends, partners and lovers all sounded kind of corny. His face, touch and smile give me a reason to be the best version of myself always. Love is an active verb—not passive. It can be a hug from a neighbor. A call from a persistent friend who knows you’re going through something and need to hear a familiar voice that will just listen. And it is a sign from one to another that they aren’t alone, are cared for and thought of as important.
Steven Behm is U.S. Crisis Chair.