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It Doesn’t End in June: Five Ways To Be An Ally After Pride Month

July 18, 2022 Frank Niles with Adrianne Karasek

With Pride Month behind us, it’s perhaps easy to let the parades, festivals, and excitement fade from memory.

At least it is for me (Frank), as a person outside of the community, yet one deeply committed to inclusion, I’m sad to admit it’s sometimes easy to forget. 

Which has caused me over the past weeks to reflect on what it means to be an ally.  How can I support, in an ongoing way, my LGBTQ+ friends, colleagues, and relatives, given they continue to face discrimination and even violence?

So, I decided to ask them.

I also invited my friend, former student, and passionate ally, Adrianne Karasek, to join me. Her keen insights are seen throughout. Unless otherwise noted, this is a collaborative project.

The response was overwhelming. Over 20 people shared their insights, ranging from corporate and community leaders to new employees.

We boiled down their responses to five main points. Here’s what they shared.

Be an ally, not a savior

When I (Frank) thought about writing this post, I asked my sister who is gay, if she, first, thought it an important topic, and second, if LGBTQ+ colleagues and friends would be offended by a straight guy asking them what they needed from allies.

Her response?

A resounding, “Yes, it’s a super important topic and a question I’ve never been asked ‘What do you need from allies?’.” And to my second concern, she assured me folks would love to talk about their experiences and needs.

She added, “Just don’t be arrogant or an a**hole and you’ll be fine.”

I took this to mean, “Just listen; don’t assume you know what they need and don’t give them unsolicited advice. You’re not there to rescue them.”

It’s a theme I consistently heard.

Michael Bennett-Spears, Program Director, The Equality Crew, perhaps sums it up best:

“True allyship comes from either standing behind in support or next to in solidarity, but never in front to lead. The individual, or community, you wish to stand with as an ally should always be deferred to in leadership as it is their experiences that drive the narrative. Otherwise, you risk presenting a “savior” mentality that is the antithesis of true allyship.”

Bennet-Spears also says that new allies should educate themselves. For instance, if you have a co-worker who has an “identity you don’t understand, do your own research before asking probing questions. In the modern digital era, there is a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.”

A young employee at a CPG company shared a similar sentiment: “If you are curious about learning more, ask for sources to seek out,” but also cautioned, “do understand some topics might be too personal to broach.” 

Another way to be an ally is to lend a listening ear if someone comes to you and says, “I think I am LGBTQ+” or “I think my child is LGBTQ+.”

Need some help getting started? Here are some terrific resources from FFLAG in the UK.

When in doubt ask, “How can I help?” 

Hear something. Say something.

Dr. King famously said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people."

Although speaking up to stop bullying language can be difficult for some of us, it’s vital. For business leaders and others with a platform, it’s our responsibility to speak up.

“I think the obvious one, which people understand, is [being an] active bystander,” says Ken Batty, Non-Executive Director, East London NHS Foundation Trust. “Tackling comments and jokes which are inappropriate.  I think [the active bystander] needs to be sure of their ground, which is that the company will back them up if the person making the comment says ‘I disagree’ or worse, ‘Mind your own business’.”

An ally can also be a shoulder of support after an incident. For example, Batty says, “what do I do if someone says to me 'I am being bullied or mistreated because I am LGBT?’”  Most companies have non-discrimination policies. Support your colleague by doing some leg work. In most companies, workplace discrimination is illegal.

Use inclusive language

A simple but effective way to be an ally is to use inclusive language. One early-career professional told us, “I am non-binary and queer. My partner is a bisexual man. I could refer to him as my boyfriend but instead I refer to him as my partner and he does the same for me. Also, including pronouns in email signatures, business cards, helps. It makes it a common thing across the board to have.” They once had a job interview where the interviewer asked for their pronouns, and it made them feel positively about the company.

Other examples are to kindly correct others if someone is misgendered. We can use they/them unless we know pronouns. If you misgender someone on accident and they correct you, simply say thank you and move on.

This is admittedly still a challenge for me (Frank). For example, I grew up using “guys” when speaking to groups of people, in a manner akin to the Spanish word, ustedes, or as we say in the South, “Hi y’all.” When I was at Fortune 1, I received feedback that using “guys” could be seen as non-inclusive when speaking to a diverse audience. In some contexts, “guys” could work, but I know now to think carefully of my audience. 

Walk the talk

Being a good ally takes action, often involving our own personal resources, such as financial or time.

Mark Shephard, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, says, “For me, I realized my organization cared when they didn’t just have words buried deep in HR paperwork, but they publicly flew a rainbow flag next to the Scottish & GB flags right outside admin.”

Showcasing Pride events on your homepage and even sponsoring local events can make a difference, too, Shephard says.

Sudeep Ralhan, Chief Human Resource of Officer of Upstox, agrees. “While organizational charters, awareness programs and leadership messaging signal the right direction, true change on the ground comes only when allies make their voice heard.”

And again, leadership has the responsibility to pave the way. “I realized that when I personally spoke about why inclusion is important to me as a leader and as a business, and what my own journey as a member of the LGBTQ+ community has been, it created a waterfall effect,” Ralhan explains. “The number of both allies and other members of the LGBTQ+ community speaking out increased multifold.”

Bennet-Spears says the top thing you can do is openly show your support. “It’s such a seemingly small thing, but there’s always an LGBTQ+ individual within your circle... [who] is watching for confirmation that you support them. Attend LGBTQ+ events such as Pride and contact your representatives in opposition to harmful legislation.”

Don’t make it weird

“We're the same person you knew before we told you, you just know more about us now. It takes a lot of trust to tell people something that personal because it could backfire,” one young professional told us.

Overly enthusiastic and awkward support can make LGBTQ+ coworkers unsettled. The reverse is also true when your support is so silent it’s no longer support. It’s best to let your colleagues lead in some conversation topics or personal experiences so they are comfortable with your allyship/friendship.

“My only input,” says a gay professional, “is GAY GUYS ARE NOT INTERESTED IN EVERY MAN THEY SEE, WHETHER ITS IN OR OUT OF THE WORKPLACE (original emphasis). [I] get a lot of weird/uncomfortable vibe from heterosexual people, and it makes gay people feel as if the work environment is ‘tainted’. [The workplace should be] ‘my business is my business, your is yours.’ Let’s not make this weird.”


Being an ally doesn’t begin or end in June. Our LGBTQ+ friends and colleagues would love our clear, tangible support. We’ve embedded several resources throughout this article but are always open to learning about more!

Allies, what actions have you taken that your LGBTQ+ colleagues/friends/relatives said they found helpful? And LGBTQ+ friends, do you have any other suggestions?

About the authors:

Frank Niles, Ph.D. is Principal Business Psychologist at BSM Partners where he leads the firm’s business transformation practice. A trusted advisor to leaders and organizations around the world, he works with a broad portfolio of clients, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 50 Companies. Frank is regularly featured or quoted in the media, having appeared in Inc, Fast Company, CNN, NBC, NPR, and many more media outlets. In his free time, he climbs mountains.

Adrianne Karasek, M.A., is a Trade Compliance Analyst at Walmart and holds an M.A. from Florida State University in International Relations.

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