June is a month that calls for reflection, celebration and advocacy.
Pride is a time for us to honor the progress that has been made within the LGBTQIA+ community and celebrate the spectrum of the LGBTQIA+ identities. It is also a time of protest.
Despite the progress we’ve made over the past decade, homosexuality remains illegal in 69 countries globally, and we’re also seeing rising transphobia, anti-drag and anti-trans legislation across the world.
In the U.K., Rishi Sunak’s anti-trans tirade mocking trans women has been condemned by both MPs and charities, and in the US, the American Civil Liberties Union is tracking nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, many of which have banned drag shows.
With this understanding, in this article, I’ll be focusing on four important lessons that we can learn from LGBTQIA+ movements globally to practice active allyship during Pride month and beyond.
Lesson 1: Recognise intersectionality.
Our identities overlap and interplay with our personal backgrounds and experiences. The recognition of intersectionality includes acknowledging how our different identities overlap, and helps us become better allies and advocates.
Some of us experience queerphobia because we’re LGBTQIA+, but at the same time, might still benefit from and do not experience institutional discrimination due to our gender, socio-economic background and/or ethnicity. It is also possible for minority groups to exhibit prejudices towards one another.
Understanding and acknowledging these intersections deepens our empathy and strengthens our support for one another.
Lesson 2: Understanding that we experience minority stress differently.
Minority stress refers to the unique psychological stress experienced by those from marginalised groups, which can be due to our social identity or minority status.
Each minority group experiences stress differently. For example, as a gay entrepreneur, I have to contend with whether to ‘come out’ in professional settings. This choice is a double-edged sword. I might ‘pass' as straight and choose not to correct someone if they assume incorrectly as straight, but at the same time, having to hide who we are can be stressful. Unfortunately this is not a unique experience as in the UK, the charity Just Like Us’ research revealed that up to a quarter of LGBT+ young adults go back in the closet when they start work.
Within entrepreneurship, the figures seem more stark, with Proud Ventures’ research highlighting that 75% of queer founders hid or have hidden their identity from investors.
Lesson 3: Accepting the possibility that we might be wrong.
The fact that our lived experiences and knowledge is limited means that we also have to contend with the uncomfortable realisation that we might carry inherent biases about other minority identities that are wrong or naive.
We might underestimate the challenges other groups face because we don’t face it ourselves.
And sometimes, we might also be part of the problem.
As uncomfortable as this might be, confronting this discomfort is integral to learning and growing as an ally.
Lesson 4: Practicing active allyship.
So how can we lift each other up?
We can practice active allyship.
In companies, this means recognising that allyship extends beyond performative gestures like temporary logo changes. This isn’t inherently bad, but I just mean we need to go beyond this if we want actual change.
It is about going beyond surface-level support. It's about standing up for each other, advocating for substantial changes within organisations.
For example, in tech, this might mean jointly advocating for increased office hours for black founders, women founders, LGBTQIA+ founders, and founders from less privileged socioeconomic backgrounds: identities which are historically underrepresented and underfunded.
We can also advocate for inclusive healthcare policies within company insurance coverage plans: advocating for trans-inclusive healthcare policies, as well as comprehensive mental health offerings that takes into account the lived experience of the employees, going beyond one-size-fits-all policies.
As we wrap up, let's remember that allyship is about standing up for one another, challenging the status quo, and creating equitable opportunities for everyone, whether it's black founders, women founders, LGBTQIA+ individuals, neurodivergent individuals, or those with disabilities. It's about recognising that Pride is intersectional and interwoven with other systemic issues.
The march towards equality is far from over.
But as we continue this journey, let's ensure we do it together, hand in hand, one ally at a time.
About the author:
Jaron Soh (he/him) is Co-founder and CEO of Voda, the LGBTQIA+ mental health app. Voda was part of Colorintech’s 2022 Rise pre-accelerator.
Voda is the LGBTQIA+ mental health app designed by leading LGBTQIA+ psychotherapists.
Unlike other digital wellbeing apps, Voda is rooted in the LGBTQIA+ lived experience. Our app provides guided therapy programmes centered on LGBTQIA+ topics, such as coming out, gender dysphoria and internalised stigma.
Our programmes are derived from evidence-based therapy techniques, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and mindfulness.