4 Ways to be an LGBT Ally
Jennifer Lilly, US Registrations Manager, Crop Science
As the leader of the BLEND chapter in Bayer’s Research Triangle Park (RTP) location in North Carolina, I’d like to share with you how BLEND, our global initiative to raise awareness about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues, makes a difference for Bayer LGBT employees, and the agricultural community.
BLEND, an employee resource group open to all employees, started in the U.S. during the 1990s, in Berkeley and expanded after 2010. In May 2016, Bayer Crop Science employees in RTP created a chapter to reinforce their support of the North Carolinian LGBT community and work to cultivate strong relationships with an overlooked and underrepresented community within the agricultural field. BLEND supports a healthy and trustworthy environment, free of prejudice and fair for all. Like everyone else, LGBT employees want to feel accepted for who they are and appreciated for the work they contribute. Challenges exist for LGBT employees but many of these can be overcome through the expressed support of allies. My experience has been that strong allies can make a world of difference.
June is the official Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, coinciding with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which occurred in June 1969. So it’s an appropriate time to recognize that you don’t have to be LGBT to support LGBT Pride Month or your fellow LGBT employees. You can be an ally and here are some simple ideas that a good ally can keep in mind.
1. Everybody is an ally.
For the LGBT community, good allies are supporters who simply accept us without reservation, or those who advocate for equal rights and fair treatment. They often recognize that we’re all supporting each other, none of us are all-knowing, and we’re all still learning.
2. No one person is the voice for their community.
Just as it is within the straight community, each person in the LGBT community is different, having experiences unique to them. One exception is that most LGBT individuals have dealt with some form of homophobia — whether in their personal lives or at work. Remember that one LGBT person does not speak for the entire community, nor should they be expected to. Your best option is to listen to the stories of your friends and colleagues, and then do more research to get a broad idea of LGBT issues (see additional resources below).
3. If you say the wrong thing, own it, and apologize.
Hey, we all make mistakes! The world is changing fast, and it’s understandable that you might not know how to talk to a coworker about their spouse or partner. You might wonder if you’re using the right pronouns for your transgender family member or colleague. So it’s no surprise you could say the wrong thing. Acknowledging that you’ve misspoken, or misunderstood something, and apologizing is a great first step. Learn answers to some of your questions by viewing the resources below.
4. We need allies (specifically straight allies) to help change the culture.
You likely already know an LGBT person in your personal life or at work, even if you don’t realize it. We make up a significant part of the general population, which means there are thousands of LGBT employees worldwide who contribute to Bayer’s success. Keep in mind, too, that agriculture resides mainly within rural communities that often don’t have adequate LGBT resources. Rural youth with a passion for farming who happen to identify as LGBT benefit from organizations such as BLEND.
Allies help promote diversity and create a culture of inclusion. I like to think Bayer has a unique opportunity to lead the way by doing our part with promoting diversity in rural America.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on being an ally. Share your comments below.
PFLAG — Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization.
Straight for Equality is a national outreach and education project created in 2007 by PFLAG National to empower new straight allies who, unlike more traditional PFLAG members, don’t necessarily have a family connection to the gay community.
GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is a U.S. non-governmental media monitoring organization founded by LGBT people in the media.