Good Businesses Say Gay And Protect Trans Kids

Good Businesses Say Gay And Protect Trans Kids

Originally posted on Forbes EQ.

There’s something about glitter that sparkles, shines, and springs joy. It attracts curious minds and is celebratory. As kids, we’d apply it with glue so it would stick on our construction paper art that would make our moms’ hearts melt. It’s over the top and magical! Now imagine a prejudiced law takes the glue away that holds the glitter together – you’re left with a giant mess.

Attacks on LGBTQ+ rights are becoming more commonplace in state legislatures from Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill to Idaho’s laws targeting bathroom access for trans people. Over 20 million Americans identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, which means 8% of the nation’s population have their civil liberties at risk. These bills are targeting everyone from drag performers to trans children trying to get the healthcare they need to exist authentically. These decisions aren’t being made by the people affected, but rather by special interest groups rooted in radical ideology. So, how can businesses be allies to the LGBTQ+ community when they are being shunned by the law? Here are three perspectives.

Elevate Marginalized Voices

In Tennessee, a law was passed this year to regulate drag performances — an art form of self-expression popular in the LGBTQ+ community — criminalizing them if done in public or in front of children. (I did an exhaustive search for records or reports of children put in danger involving a drag performer and netted zero results.) In the absence of similar regulations against scantily clad cheerleaders and dancers at sporting events, the newly-passed Tennessee law signals an attack on LGBTQ+ identity. I spoke with drag queen Lil Miss Hot Mess, author of If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It and storyteller with Drag Story Hour, about how businesses can be better allies to drag performers and the LGBTQ+ community. Here is what she had to say.

LMHM: We need businesses to take some risks, to let the public know that hatred is not one of their values. There are so many corporations that love to wave a rainbow flag or book a queen during Pride — but have been silent of late. We need them to put their money where their mouth is, by ensuring they have strong anti-discrimination policies and LGBTQ-inclusive benefits, are pro-union, and are willing to stop doing business with and in states that are attacking us. Most importantly, we need people to let their elected representatives know that they won't stand for discrimination — whether it’s targeting drag queens, or especially trans kids.

Endorse Lawmakers Who Will Protect

A showdown is currently going on in Nebraska to contest one of over 450 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced across 45 states, per the ACLU. State senator Machaela Cavanaugh has spent eight straight weeks filibustering LB 574, the anti-Trans bill that would prevent gender-affirming care to all persons under the age of 19 in Nebraska. Cavanaugh has said that bills such as LB 574 seek to eradicate the existence of the Trans community and equate to legislating hate. As such, Cavanaugh is staying true to her promise: to make the legislative session painful for as long as the transphobic bill remains in play. The proliferation of anti-LGBTQ+ bills around the country warrants a need to have allied lawmakers preventing the passage of them. So how can businesses and private citizens support these efforts?

Cavanaugh, along with senators Megan Hunt and John Fredrickson, have set up a political action committee (PAC) called Don’t Legislate Hate to elect state-level lawmakers nationwide who commit to protect the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people. “The PAC is, of course, a great way to support, but the reality (and purpose of the PAC) is that we need better elected officials. So, even if you can’t donate money, I would encourage everyone to volunteer for candidates they believe in,” states Cavanaugh. The business endorsement of and backing of pro-LGBTQ+ candidates is essential to prevent hate becoming the law.

Back Up Your Commitments

You can follow the money in politics. Thanks to Open Secrets, there is a list of corporations that have signed the Human Rights Campaign petition to call on state lawmakers to abandon or oppose anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, yet they have funded politicians who back these discriminatory bills. By contradicting their written pledges to their LGBTQ+ community and employees, keeping these bills out of the legislature falls on businesses and the general public to hurt them with their dollar.

Businesses have a duty to put their principles before profits. It’s not enough to sign a petition and tout LGBTQ+ pride in the month of June. Businesses need to invest in the communities that patronize them. Having LGBTQ-friendly policies attracts and retains talented employees. Publicly held companies with such policies saw higher profitability and higher stock prices compared to industry peers. Could you imagine the downturn in the American economy without the support of 20 million people?

In the face of discriminatory laws, the protection of civil rights for LGBTQ+ people becomes the responsibility of the general public — from individuals to corporations. Cultivating acceptance and inclusion can start from a young age by reading stories with LGBTQ+ characters, or teaching curriculum in schools on LGBTQ+ history. Adults can use their voting rights to elect leaders who vow to protect the community. Furthermore, businesses have a responsibility to put inclusion ahead of profits driven by political collusion because it doesn’t just build goodwill, it’s good for the bottom line.

Allyship is the glue that holds communities together, and a business without glitter just won’t shine.

Words by Rajiv Fernandez

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