Pride Parades, Rainbow Flags and (Still) Microaggressions

While significant progress has been made to establish more equality for sexual minorities, rainbow flags and corporate-sponsored PRIDE events can sometimes distract from ongoing microaggressions people in the LGBTQ+ community often experience professionally and personally.    
While subtle and often even unintended, microaggressions can make everyday life more stressful, confound the effects of past trauma and be a risk factor for higher rates of mental health challenges. At work, they can lead to decreased job satisfaction and lack of advancement. Providing support for LGBTQ+ members is crucial to ensuring they can thrive professionally, and to creating genuinely inclusive workplaces.
50 years later
The first Pride parades took place in the U.S. in 1970 as small, neighborhood-centric events organized by activists. They took place a year after the uprising at the Stonewall Inn that is often seen as the catalyst that launched the LGBTQ+ rights movement.
Pride events have since spread around the world with a focus that has changed with the times. “Where in the 1980s, groups organized around the AIDS crisis, the 1990s saw greater media visibility for LGBTQ people in public life, leading to more businesses starting to come on board for Pride participation,” according to a 2020 feature in TIME magazine.
In 2021, PrideFest in New York City attracted more than 100,000 festival goers and the 2022 Pride March June 26 this year will air on ABC News Live and stream on numerous platforms. Parade sponsors have included such traditional corporate firms as Ernst & Young, New York Life, Hilton and TD Bank. Contributors to LA Pride for 2022 include The Coca-Cola Company, Delta, Amazon, Microsoft and UPS.
Progress and plenty of room for improvement
Huge and hard-fought victories have been gained through the years including the right for openly gay and transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military, the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states and the option, beginning in 2021, to select an X gender marker on U.S. passports.
Still, more than one in three LGBTQ+ Americans reported in a 2020 national public opinion study by the Center for American Progress that they had faced discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in the past year. Transgender individuals reported discrimination at even higher rates at 62%.
Frequent microaggressions
According to New York-Presbyterian psychiatrist Jess Zonnana, and psychologist Aaron Malark, members of the LGBTQ+ community often experience microaggressions related to heterosexist assumptions, denying the ongoing presence of prejudice, homophobia and transphobia, and misuse of gender pronouns. Comments that assume identifying as LBGTQ+ no longer poses any risks can cause people to feel that their personal experience is being negated or dismissed, Malark says.
Being told you cannot use a certain bathroom, getting undue attention for how you’re dressed or even shopping in stores divided into men’s and women’s sections can make daily life more stressful. A lack of representation in media and among organization leaders can also be a form of microaggression. “A lack of representation is often as harmful as misrepresentation,” Dr. Zonnana says.
Learn to be an upstander, not bystander
There are multiple ways to help reduce and eliminate microaggressions in your workplace; some individual and personal and some more direct and public.
  • A great place to start is by educating yourself. Build your understanding through websites and books endorsed by organizations such as the National LGBTQ Task Force; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); Amnesty International; GLAAD; Modern Military Association of America (MMAA); and Lambda Legal.
  • When you unintentionally misstep or offend, consider that a learning moment and, rather than feeling defensive or embarrassed, be grateful for the feedback and commit to changing your language and behavior.
  • As you build your understanding, build your willingness to speak up when you witness harmful assumptions, behaviors and policies at work.
  • You can also lead by example with simple but powerful actions that help break through heterosexist views. You might share your pronouns with new people when you meet and ask for theirs. Instead of assuming a male colleague has a wife or female colleague is married to a man, you might instead ask about someone’s partner.
  • On an organization level, practice and encourage casting a wider net in recruiting for new positions, tapping resources that will reach a more diverse audience. And strive to create an inclusive environment where people feel they belong regardless of sexual identity, gender, race or culture. As a leader, you can also urge your organization to not only sponsor Pride events, but to ensure the values of Pride month are practiced throughout the year.
There is a lot to celebrate during Pride month 2022, and with a joint effort, there will be even more in 2023 and beyond.

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