5 Ways to Be an Ally with Your LGBTQIA+ Colleagues at Work

June is pride month, a time to reflect and uplift our peers in the LGBTQIA+ community. Learn five ways you can foster a safe and inclusive work environment and be an ally to your queer colleagues.
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Pride Month is a time to reflect and uplift our LGBTQIA+ peers and honor queer folx who have blazed a trail for freedom. We’re all pretty cool people and it’s time we all get more acquainted. 

As a person who identifies as the T in LGBTQIA+, I’ve found that allyship is incredibly valuable to myself and my queer peers. Coming out and living our truth is a process that seems to be eternal. I continue to have to come out to new colleagues as we become comfortable with each other. That authenticity is important. I’ve often felt scared and inauthentic before coming out. Visibility is so important in the challenges we face, and ally help is necessary for us to move forward together. 

Below are five ways you can be a better ally with your queer coworkers. These have been very important in my work in Datto’s Pride Employee Resource Group.

Respect our Privacy and Help Foster a Secure Environment

This might seem obvious, but privacy is an important resource. For many queer folx, privacy is top priority. There are many reasons why one needs privacy, and our allies should respect that there is information about individuals that you aren't entitled to, like details about their bodies or intimate relationships, in order to treat us properly.

Fostering an environment of psychological safety is important to helping us reach our true potential. Being able to have someone we can be ourselves in front of gives us that feeling of security.

One way to do this is to ask, “Are you safe to talk right now?” when starting a possibly sensitive conversation. The open-ended nature of the questions covers both physical and psychological safety and helps ease fears without asking a direct question.

Work with Us, Not Around Us

Working with us makes us feel empowered and when we feel empowered, we work smarter and we will likely want to collaborate with you more. This is pivotal for us all to be successful in our endeavors. It makes us better colleagues and possibly even friends.

Working around someone implies that this person may not be worthy of actually performing work and this can cause problems in teams. This person may feel othered and their team will likely resent them over time.

One way to foster collaboration and empower others is to ask questions instead of taking over for us. This can help foster a collaborative relationship and it helps engage us. This tends to bring out our potential. We want to bring out our potential. Please help us do that.

Do not Tokenize Us

Tokenism has been defined as “the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.” 

An example of this in the workplace would be if an organization uses an employee's photo and words in marketing material to make the organization seem diverse but doesn't listen to that same employee's concerns around LGBTQIA+ issues in the organization.

Tokenism may seem positive but can end up causing more harm than good. The “token” person often feels isolated from peers, which can lead to higher levels of stress, increased attention on a person's performance and more discrimination in the future. This leads to negative outcomes for us and those we work with.

We’re all people. Celebrate our triumphs but please remember we have very specific struggles that will need your real attention for us to thrive. We are more than tokens. We are people and we need your real care.

Listen to Our Stories, Voices

It’s often hard for us to tell our deepest stories. As an ally, please listen when we tell our stories, so that you may repeat them to others who have not identified as an ally. Others should hear these stories and understand us as you have. 

A good place to start is listening to understand, instead of listening to respond. Deeper work would involve making room for quieter voices and asking questions. An opinion is okay but know that we are all individuals, and we need to choose approaches that work best for us. Working with this and listening will go a long way.

Also, bring a friend to listen too. 

Bear Witness to Our Challenges

Our struggle is still being fought. There are a number of anti-LGBTQIA+ bills in U.S. state legislatures right now. We have made gains, but more work is to be done. Please bear witness to our struggle as we continue our fight and make yourself helpful as much as you can.

Keep an eye out for harassment or other forms of workplace aggression against us. If you notice a situation in which one of your teammates was made uncomfortable or unsafe, stand up for them in the moment and report it. Problems can only be fixed and things will only happen if we use the channels provided to report non-inclusive behaviors. Check in with the person and report what happened. Also, validate their feelings, and offer to support them. This helps amplify our voices and helps those who are victimized get help. The hope is that by doing this, more people come to be allies like yourself and we’ll make the world a better place together.

At the end of the day, we’re all people and we have similar desires. To learn more, consider checking to see if your employer has a pride-focused employee resource group or visit pflag.org/allies. Thanks so much for reading this and being an ally. 

Leslie Devoe is a QA test engineer at Datto and is the Data Chairwoman for Datto’s Pride ERG.

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