Every year, we use pride month to remember the history, struggles, and impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender family and community members have had on our collective lives. I use the word family and collective because, despite the increased fragmentation of our social bonds, those of us in the cooperative movement are betting on the continued importance of community to help foster both social and financial well-being for all. Our mission compels us to connect with and care for each other. We are a collective, and those identifying as LGBTQ+ are a significant part of who we are. As American soccer great Megan Rapinoe said, “You can’t win a championship without gays on your team—it’s never been done before, ever. That’s science, right there!”
Beyond being essential contributors to our communities, our work teams, and our families, LGBTQ+ folks can also help us imagine and bring about a better world. Pride month provides an opportunity to center LGBTQ+ experiences around gender and sexuality. We can learn from those experiences and create change. Norms and expectations about gender and sexuality are largely mediated by culture and history—we create norms and enforce them collectively. Because norms vary across communities and over time, it means we can change them if enough people come together and put in the work.
Consider the gender expectations that come with being a “real man,” for example. Speaking for myself, I wish being sensitive and showing compassion were included in dominant norms of masculinity—that would make life easier for me, and it would have benefited my community too! LGBTQ+ folks face far greater challenges than straight peope when they are perceived as flouting norms. Their presence and their experience can help us identify and develop more inclusive expectations around gender and sexuality. That work should be done to benefit our LGBTQ+ brethren first, but in the end, it is likely to end up benefiting all of us.
With that spirit in mind, use Pride month as an opportunity to take steps to raise LGBTQ+ awareness, build connections, and improve the circumstances of all who identify as LGBTQ+. Using Filene’s Road Map to Activating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as a guide, devote some time this month to advancing LGBTQ+ interests along the personal, operational, and organizational pathways.
Personal: Build your knowledge and awareness
- Knowledge. Notice more people listing personal pronouns alongside their screen names and email signatures? Using appropriate pronouns is an important marker of recognition and respect. If using personal pronouns seems odd or new to you, take some time to learn more and think about how you might feel if somebody used the wrong pronoun to describe you.
- Attitudes. Do you wonder what all those letters making up LGBTQ+ represent? The acronym continues to grow, and that’s why some put the “+” to indicate that there are more letters to describe the full spectrum of identities relating to gender and sexuality. If you are early in your pathway, consider beginning with resources provided by the Safe Zone Project.
Operational: Improve inclusivity across staff and in the member experience
- High-Performance Teams. How educated and capable are your teams at treating LGBTQ+ staff fairly and without microaggressions? If you do not have training in place to enhance collaboration across differences, now is a good time to begin.
- Member Experience. How would financial services friendly to LGBTQ+ members and potential members differ from your current offerings? A good first step is to offer LGBTQ+ friendly products and services, but the gold standard is providing products and services tailored for the specific needs of LGBTQ+ members. Filene published a report on the LGBT Opportunity in Financial Services in 2015, and we are working on an update—look this fall for a research brief to highlight new opportunities for your organization to build out an informed and effective suite of financial services for LGBTQ+ members.
Organizational: Inject equity into your structure and culture
- Structural. Review your HR policies and procedures for equity in relation to LGBTQ+ staff. Begin by paying attention to benefits. Do you treat domestic partners the same as married spouses? How does your family leave policy work—would a single gay employee be eligible? Begin with updates that would be most impactful for your LGBTQ+ staff, and don’t forget to ask them for their opinions.
- Cultural. How welcoming is your organization to LGBTQ+ staff? Research suggests that far more senior leaders are broadly out at work as LGBTQ+ than junior employees (80% vs. 32%). How are you creating a more inclusive culture so staff at all levels are comfortable enough to bring their full selves to work?
Together, we can celebrate Pride month and help advance the movement to expand opportunities for LGBTQ+ folks in our organizations and in our communities. Let us help LGBTQ+ people bring their true and complete selves to work and enjoy access to tailored financial services that meets them where they are.
Remember, we can all play a role. As Bayard Rustin said, “My activism did not spring from my being gay, or, for that matter, from my being black. Rather it is rooted fundamentally in my Quaker upbringing and the values that were instilled in me by my grandparents.” Our collective well-being depends on our awareness of the challenges faced by people identifying as LGBTQ+ and in our efforts to do better.
This Pride month, join Filene in taking steps along our collective pathway to center LGBTQ+ experiences and causes.