Can you go too far supporting LGBTQ+?

This year, lots of companies have been debating whether to "rainbow" their logo for Pride month. It's part of their ongoing efforts towards diversity, equity, and inclusion.


They are eager to show support for their gay employees -- being an ally is a popular position, de rigueur, even. It's tricky, though, because in their rainbow exuberance these companies don't want to come off pandering or disingenuous.


Other companies are rainbow-reluctant for a different reason altogether. They don't want to be accused of going too far. After all, not everyone agrees on every issue. And when we build an inclusive workforce, we want to be sure to include everybody, right?


The logic goes like this: We can't have a rainbow logo to support LGBTQ+ because not everyone who works here agrees with LGBTQ+.

That statement is incorrect. It is a logical fallacy.


You cannot agree or disagree about people. To do so is a statement about their right to exist. You cannot agree or disagree about women. Or children. Children might not be for you, but that doesn't mean they don't have a right to exist. Likewise, you cannot "agree" or "disagree" about people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or any other gender or sexual identity. They are people and they have a right to exist.


In defense of the going too far position, one can point out how anti-inclusive it is to demand that people agree with you on everything, or that if they don't agree with you, it is they who are not welcomed. These people reason, "A Trump supporter should be just as welcomed at our company as a Biden supporter. A gun-rights supporter should be just as welcomed as someone who is anti-guns."


Yes, this is true. It is impossible for me to agree more with that statement!


But that logic does not follow with LGBTQ+. It's a false analogy.


Being gay is not a political statement. So there is nothing to "agree" with or "support." Just like being a woman is not a political statement. You can have a position on a policy that affects women, like reproductive rights. That's political. Likewise, you can have a position on a policy that affects people who are gay, like the right for same-sex couples to adopt. That's political. Those are policies, and you can agree or disagree on policies.


You cannot agree or disagree on people.


It's one thing for a company to choose to support specific policies. It's quite another to make your workplace safe. All people should be as valued and as respected as all the other people in your organization. This is non-negotiable.


And this is what DEI is all about.

Having a rainbow logo does not mean a company supports all "gay" legislation. That is not what is represented by flying a rainbow flag. Just like the American flag does not mean you support every policy of the U.S. government (which would be impossible, by the way).


From a workforce and talent perspective, a rainbow flag and a rainbow logo alert people that you welcome those who are gay to work here, that yours is a safe environment, and that anything less than that will not be tolerated. Further, implied in the rainbow is that you retain, engage, develop, advance, and reward all people.


Of course, you better be willing to back that up by promoting people for great work. And punishing -- even firing -- people for harassment or bullying.

There are those who may not "understand" what it means to be gay. It may go against what they are familiar with or what they were taught to believe. That's okay. But that does not give them the right to hate, harass, or bully, especially at work.


Here's how the workplace conversation with these individuals plays out: "If there are gay people who work here and you don't like it (or them), you are free to go work someplace else. Not because we choose gay people over you, but because we choose All people over people like you who choose only Some."


You can substitute POC or women or Jew in that statement. To wit: "If there are Jewish people who work here and you don't like it (or them), you are free to go work someplace else. If there are Black people who work here and you don't like it (or them), you are free to go work someplace else. Not because we choose these people over you, but because we choose All people over people like you who choose only Some."


That is what is represented when we rainbow our logo or we put up a Black Lives Matter sign: We choose All people to work here over people who choose only Some. We value and respect All people. We commit that this is a workplace that is safe and supportive for All. And we endeavor that all people who work here will do what it takes to retain, engage, develop, advance, and reward All people.


Businesses cannot survive if we do not accommodate All people. We need all people to contribute. We need them to feel comfortable about giving their full selves to the cause. We need their ideas if we are going to innovate. We need their backs to do the heavy lifting. We cannot afford to hold people down or hold them back just to make Some people feel comfortable when they don't "understand."


To make workplaces inclusive, it is not necessary for every last person to "understand" the lifestyle of people who are different from them, or agree with the tenets of their faith, or have gone to an integrated school, or have a person of color in their family. The only thing we can do is accommodate All people.


What do you think?

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