Women in Pride: Celebrating our history and opportunities for allyship

7 minute read

Happy Pride Month from all of us at RV! In recognition of Pride 2021, Venture OUT – our employee resource group (ERG) for the LGBTQ+ community – is collaborating with RV’s three other ERGs to help us all learn more about what it means to be an ally to our peers – regardless of how we identify. This week, we’re linking up with Empowered – RV’s ERG for women – to learn more about allyship.


Trigger warning: mentions and statistics of violence toward Black trans women

As Daniel shared two weeks ago, intersectionality is a core element of our ERGs at Red Ventures because many folks identify with multiple groups. Not only do we want to be great people to work with and consistent allies for Venture OUT — but we also want to ensure that the women in the Empowered ERG who also identify with the LGBTQ+ community feel included, supported, and celebrated in the work we do. 

With that in mind, today, we hope to share a snapshot of the amazing history of women in the Pride movement, recommend actionable ways to show allyship in the workplace, and connect you to additional organizations and resources to follow and support. 

Women in action

We could share so much about the representation of women in the LGBTQ+ community — the movements they led, the organizations they started, and their monumental impact. In this article, we’ll spotlight a few of the women who were pivotal to Pride and the ongoing legacy of their work. 

But, backing up a few steps, we want to start with the LGBTQ+ acronym. It hasn’t always started with the “L,” and that shift in representation matters! 

Gender discrimination was prominent for women within the queer community for decades, as the movement primarily focused on gay men. In the 80s and 90s, lesbian communities helped gay men navigate the AIDS crisis and led the way in the Pride movement: they donated blood when gay men couldn’t, organized rallies, and more. As the two groups worked closely together in advocacy, they decided to reorder the letters from “GLBT” to “LGBT” (and, later, “LGBTQ+”). This was an act of solidarity and recognition of lesbian community members’ work to support gay men and further the movement.

To learn more about the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, check out Lillian Federman’s “The Gay Revolution: The Story of Struggle” and other resources we’ll share at the end of this article.

We want to celebrate these contributions by highlighting some of the pioneers who helped create Pride celebrations and LGBTQ+ rights as we know them today:

Marsha P. Johnson was a prominent Black transgender activist in Greenwich Village and one of the first rioters at the Stonewall Riots of 1969.  The P in her name stood for “Pay it no mind” and served as a response to questions about her gender identity. She subsequently became a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), co-founding with fellow activist Sylvia Rivera. STAR was one of the first organizations dedicated to supporting homeless LGBTQ+ youth.

Sylvia Rivera was a Latina of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan descent, a transgender activist, andSTAR co-founder. Rivera was one of the first participants in the Stonewall Riots along with Johnson, her close friend. She also advocated for the inclusion of transgender people in the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act of New York. In 2015, she became the first transgender activist to have her portrait added to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Brenda Howard was a bisexual activist who organized the first Pride march in New York City in 1970 and conceived the idea of a week dedicated to Pride celebrations. She is among the activists credited with coining the term “Pride” to describe these events. Her contributions earned her the nickname “Mother of Pride.” She was active in bisexual organizations and helped lobby for bisexual individuals to be added to the title of the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.

There are many more women we could recognize as ongoing advocates and activists in the Pride movement, and we are grateful for their leadership and example. 

Allyship

Allyship with the LGBTQ+ community extends beyond rainbow logos, Zoom backgrounds, and June’s events. 

According to Healthline Editor Afton DeLucca, allyship is an “integral part of every role here at RV.” And, she says, it starts with her.

 “For me, it means the commitment to seek out and embrace the perspectives and experiences of those around me,” DeLucca says. “We have an incredible community of LGBTQ+ leaders who show up to the table each day and bring their whole selves.” 

So, in addition to intentionally seeking out and supporting LGBTQ+ members of our company, there are other ways you can be an active ally. Here are a few tips on how you can show up for your LGBTQ+ co-workers while working from home or in-person:

Tip 1: Start new meetings with, “Hi, I’m  _____ I use ____ pronouns…” 

This brief introduction opens the door for inclusive and respectful communication, and the proper use of all team member’s pronouns. 

What are pronouns? We use pronouns all the time! Pronouns are used as another identity marker to refer to someone. For example: 

Have you talked to Jess today? 

Yes, I chatted with her this morning. 

In this example, her is the pronoun. 

Why are pronouns important? Using a person’s pronouns is a way to show respect and contribute to creating an inclusive environment. We cannot assume pronouns based on a person’s appearance. 

Tip 2: Use inclusive, gender-neutral language. 

Swap out gendered language for more inclusive alternatives. The language we use matters and contributes to an environment well all people can feel welcome and respected. 

For example, here are a few swaps you can make:  

  • Ladies and gentlemen → Friends/ Y’all/ Esteemed guests
  • Wife/Husband → Partner/ Spouse 
  • Man Power → Human power
  • His/her → Person/ People/ Folks 
  • Freshman → First-year student 

Tip 3: Avoid assuming a person’s gender or misgendering someone

The same way you cannot look at a person and guess their name —you cannot guess a person’s gender. So, instead of assuming someone’s pronouns, ask in a private environment. You can always start by sharing your own pronouns: “My pronouns are…. What pronouns, if any, do you use?”

If you misgender someone

If you make a mistake and misgender someone, correct yourself and move on. It is not the responsibility of the person who was misgendered to make you feel comfortable about your mistake. Resist the urge to apologize profusely and let the person know how bad you feel. Instead, use the correct pronouns moving forward.

If you hear someone misgender a teammate 

Being an ally requires disrupting acts of bias. If you hear someone misgendering, give a gentle reminder of the correct pronouns. For example, “Jamie uses she/her pronouns” and moving on. 

Tip 4: Do the personal work to learn more and get involved

Updating your pronouns on digital platforms and using a colleague’s correct pronouns are great first steps in the work of allyship, but they’re just the beginning. We can’t expect our LGBTQ+ acquaintances to teach us everything we need to know; we need to put in the work. 

With that said, we can’t publish this without acknowledging the continued violence occurring against Black transgender women. Amber Hall, a colleague on our Media & Technology business, has brought this to the forefront of the conversation for us:  

“When we speak about the LGBTQ community, Black transgender women are often left out of the conversation. Last summer, within nine days, six Black transgender women were murdered, all under the age of 32. These horrific acts were not a sudden spike; crimes against Black transgender women have continued to rise over the last few years. 

To be specific, in 2019, 91% of the reported murders committed against those who identify as trans or non-gender conforming were Black trans women. They are not only fighting against the discrimination, prejudice, and inequities found in being Black in this country, but they are also women and transgender. 

Each of these identities joined together makes them the most unprotected members of the LGBTQ community. For Pride (which wouldn’t exist without trans people of color), we should educate ourselves, look into and donate to organizations that help Black trans women, and recognize our role in protecting and supporting this community.”

With Amber’s words and all we’ve shared here in mind, here are a few resources to get you started, along with organizations to get involved in or support: 

Resources

Organizations

  • The Trevor Project: “The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.”
  • Homeless Black Trans Women Fund: “Building safe homes & communities for Black Homeless Trans Women; while providing housing and 24/7 emergency financial assistance to those Trans folks in urgent need.”
  • The Marsha P. Johnson Institute: Started with the purpose to continue activist Marsha P. Johnson’s legacy, the institute “protects and defends the human rights of Black transgender people. [They] do this by organizing, advocating, creating an intentional community to heal, developing transformative leadership, and promoting our collective power.”
  • The Okra Project: “The Okra Project is a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home-cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources to Black Trans People wherever we can reach them.”
  • GLAAD: “GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.”

Special thanks to Empowered co-chair Tiarra Chambliss and communication committee members Jessa Hanley and Taira Perrault, along with Afton DeLucca, Amber Hall, and Graciela Zarate Rolon for contributing to this piece.

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About the Author:

Jess Hall

Jess is currently making moves as the Content Lead on the MYMOVE business and has been at Red Ventures since January 2018. She's on track to read over 100 books in 2019 and can often be found running to and from meetings with tangerine La Croix.

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