Queer Resiliency is Strong
R is for Revenue. R is for Reimburse. R is for Return. But more than ever R is for queer Resiliency, an essential trait in a strong business leader.
Continuing our P-R-I-D-E theme for June, today we bring you the letter R. “R” for the queer community stands for resiliency. We face a lot of headwinds today that concern many in our community, which is why we must embrace our queer power. However, as Gloria Gaynor belted out nearly 40 years ago, we will survive.
How do we know? Because history says so.
We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby
Let’s take a stroll down the yellow brick memory lane. From the 1920s to the 1950s, less dogmatic times, gay people were portrayed as the funny men or the odd girl out in movies. We were light in our loafers and could incite a laugh or were quiet and shy, like a wallflower. We weren’t a concern as long as we stuck to our roles.
Between the 1950s and 1970s, we were the diabolical characters who died in the end. We were the liars, the cheats and the murders. In dramatic fashion, the end of a movie meant the end for us. This assured movie-goers that they did not, in fact, want to turn gay.
In the 1980s and through the 1990s, because of the HIV/AIDS crisis, we were the victims. Again, the movie or show harkened our end and, again, assured viewers not to consider a life of being gay. By the mid-1990s, something happened. It was edgy to be gay and even more trendy to have your own gay, like an accessory. By the late 1990s or early 2000s, we were in our heyday, living large on both the big and small screen. Our characters and personalities were out and proud.
Then a shift had happened. Maybe all those years of dying in life and art caused empathy for the queer community or our gayety for life was contagious. By the mid-2000s, acceptance of queer people was so widespread that many bars, clubs and restaurants that were created for queer people started to lose business because there was less demand for segregated communities.
It may have taken decades, and we still have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way in the public eye, baby, and that’s a good thing. Our foremother and forefathers were resilient for our sake.
Queer Resiliency Overcame Life’s Biggest Hurdle
The deadliest foe the queer community has yet to face has been HIV/AIDS. In 1981, doctors discovered unusual clusters of cells in five gay men in Los Angeles. By 1986, it was a full-blown epidemic with a name, HIV/AIDS.
Because of the demography of the victims, predominantly gay men, neither the U.S. Government nor the Center for Disease Control (CDC) showed a sense of urgency in finding a cure. It was only because of queer activists that experimental drugs already approved in Europe were fast-tracked through the CDC’s process. The drug trials were mostly positive and expedited the saving of lives both gay and straight people.
By the mid-1990s, the first drop in death rate by HIV/AIDS was seen in over a decade. Today, with the discovery of a cocktail of three drugs that lower viral loads and help fight the spread of HIV infections, HIV/AIDS-related deaths and the rate of HIV infections have dramatically decreased.
Because of the advancements in the fight against HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS doesn’t get the attention it should. The talk of the need to wear condoms and regularly testing for HIV/AIDS and other STDs has all but disappeared from the national dialogue.
It’s because of these examples in history of the queer community overcoming obstacles that we know for sure we can overcome the barriers of today and tomorrow. What’s our role today? Will you be resilient?
Take Our Seat at the Table
Diversity and inclusion, two words are all the rage in businesses today. While we are grateful that this needed conversation is finally happening, much of those talks are being led by those who don’t have the queer experience. Therefore, we need a seat at that table of the discussion of diversity and inclusion. Queer voices need to be heard because inclusion doesn’t live on the periphery.
One way of to get your seat at that table is to join your company’s LGBT employee Resource Group or Business Resource Group. These resource groups are often volunteer groups of employees who build relationships with other queer people and allies. They advocate at work and in local communities for queer people, and they represent our businesses as leaders of diversity.
If your company doesn’t have one, start one by contacting your human resource group. It may help your employer know that the queer community has nearly $1 trillion in purchasing power and that 78% of queer adults and allies would switch to queer-friendly brands.
Advancements in our civil rights are always best when it comes from private business, our nation’s electorate. Will you step up to the plate? Will you be resilient?
Equality Isn’t Passive
The Equality Act has been stalled in the U.S. Congress since 2015. With a Republican-controlled Congress, it’s not likely to budge, but it doesn’t mean we should give up. The Equality Act was recently referred to committee by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). We should give these men our support by pressing our congress people to give Cicilline and Merkley their support.
The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include employment, housing and institutional protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Such protections would eliminate much of the risks our community faces, especially in the 28 states where queer people can still lose our jobs or be denied housing if we’re gay or lesbian and the 36 states where we can still lose our job or be denied housing if we’re transgender.
Employment or housing because of our sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t be a threat to our quality of life. With our continued queer resiliency, they won’t be. Be resilient.
They Can’t Ignore the Resilient
Now is our opportunity to take the lead. The queer community has made a lot of progress over the years, and we’re in a sweet spot to make more headway. We often tell society that they should see us for more than our sexual orientations and gender identities, so let’s show them more.
We’re more than hair stylists and clothing designers. We’re more than home decorators and personal trainers. We’re those plus some with diverse specialties in many industries. Let’s become so good at our niches in our industries that our colleagues, and by consequence society, see us more for the contributions we make and the value we add and less for our differences. When we do that, we can guide industries and influence laws that embrace diversity and inclusion.
These may sound hard, even impossible, but our queer resiliency shows us that our community can overcome laws, stereotypes and death sentences. If we can overcome those, we can overcome the business world.
We ask you this Pride season to not get down because of our current political climate. Today’s politics is merely a bump in our long, winding, yellow-brick road. Because of the queer resiliency of our community, there are rainbows today, and there will be tomorrow even though tomorrow is another day.