Main illustration: Christopher Gale
This year has brought many joys and challenges for the LGBTI+ community – from new online spaces, to coming out stories, to a renewed commitment to elevate Black trans and queer voices.
At Intercom, we’re proud of our thriving, inclusive employee group for LGBTI+ employees and allies, aptly named InterProud. Each June, Pride is a time for learning, reflection, and celebration within Intercom.
Last year we wrote that “inclusion isn’t defined by the spaces we’re in, but rather the values we share.” We’ve held on to this mantra over the course of a year filled with challenges – from our individual struggle to stay connected with loved ones and work remotely during a pandemic, to the larger societal challenge of navigating the violence and social change taking place across the world.
For Pride this year, we made “remote” work for us. We held learning sessions that covered topics like the ABCs of LGBT, trans awareness, supporting LGBT kids, as well as remote events like bingo and a drag makeup masterclass. We recorded podcasts spotlighting the experiences of our community over the past year, and once again donated to our incredible partner BeLonG To Youth Services, a charity supporting LGBTI+ youth in Ireland.
“For LGBTI+ and other marginalized communities, both online and offline safe spaces – that is, spaces where we can bring our whole selves – have a long way to go”
But still, for LGBTI+ and other marginalized communities, both online and offline safe spaces – that is, spaces where we can bring our whole selves – have a long way to go. We must never forget that Pride started as a protest, and that spirit is just as relevant today as we support the Black Lives Matter movement, fight violence towards Asian and trans communities, and continue to advocate for LGBTI+ rights.
How we’re marking Pride 2021
After a monumentally challenging year, we’re keeping a few things top of mind during Pride. Here are some of the things the InterProud community has focused on over a year of being “out while the world is in.”
With all of the isolation, lockdowns, and disruption to our day-to-day lives, the past year has been an extremely difficult time for everyone. However, we must acknowledge and reflect on the fact that, like other marginalized groups, the LGBTI+ community has been disproportionately affected, especially in terms of mental health and economic stability.
“LGBTI+ youth are already more likely to struggle with mental health, and rely heavily on support networks and services that have been far less accessible”
LGBTI+ youth are already more likely to struggle with mental health, and rely heavily on support networks and services that have been far less accessible during the pandemic. A May 2020 study from BeLong To revealed that demand for its services had increased by 113% since lockdown had begun in March, compared with the same period in 2019.
Lockdown has given many people time to reflect and come to personal realizations in relation to their sexualities and gender identities. While some have found it safer to come out during the pandemic with the support of online communities, others reside in unsupportive home and work environments without the resources to find those safe spaces.
We must continue to build personal and professional spaces where people are comfortable bringing their whole selves and identities, especially now that the line between work and home has been blurred. It’s important to share both the positive and negative experiences we’ve had among the community and with others so we can learn from – and relate to – one another.
Building new communities
The past year has also highlighted the importance of community. LGBTI+ people rely heavily on their communities, and global lockdowns have taken away some vital support networks. However, in the face of adversity, the community has rallied and blossomed online to continue to meet the needs of its members, with many turning to platforms like TikTok to stay connected. Many LGBTI+ folks have created and strengthened friendships across the world, and regained some of the support they may have lost during initial lockdowns.
As our fellow Intercomrade Sam Stocker puts it in our special Pride edition of the Inside Intercom podcast: “Our community is resilient. I’ve definitely learned resiliency is number one here. When we couldn’t be out, everyone came in and started these platforms online. Help centers and chat rooms, you name it, it’s out there for us to be in while we can’t be out.”
That said, it will still be vital to re-engage in local communities over the coming months as things start to reopen – online interaction is not a perfect replacement for in-person engagement, and some have difficulty accessing the internet, or don’t feel welcome in online spaces.
Now more than ever, it’s crucial for LGBTI+ folks to have allies at work and in their personal lives to mitigate the impact of this loss of community, and to foster safe and inclusive environments. Our InterProud group and June Pride events thrive because of the efforts of a mix of LGBTI+ identifying employees and allies. And if you’re an ally – actually be an ally! Allyship means doing the uncomfortable work to confront your own prejudices and bias, educate yourself, and take action against discrimination.
What can you do?
So many things! Here are some of the ways we at Intercom have worked to support each other and become better allies over the past year.
Whether you’re part of the LGBTI+ community or an ally, there is constant work to be done to stay informed and educated. A few of our favorite resources are:
- 6 ways to respectfully be a better LGBTQ ally.
- How the Stonewall Riots sparked a movement.
- Out & Equal: An organization for LGBTI+ workplace equality, that helps LGBTI+ people thrive and supports organizations in creating a culture of belonging.
- PFLAG: Peer support, education, and advocacy for LGBTI+ people, their parents, families, and allies across the United States.
- Communities of Color HRC resources: People of color who are also LGBTQ face a unique set of challenges at the intersection of two marginalized communities.
- The It Gets Better Project: Uplifting, empowering, and connecting LGBTQ+ youth around the globe.
- Equality for Children Instagram: Fighting for equal rights for children of LGBT+ families in Ireland.
Communities and organizations have shifted online and will need help to maintain these services while reintroducing vital in-person ones. Look into local organizations, or donate to some of our favorites across Intercom’s global locations:
GLAAD – Global
- Tackling tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change.
BeLonG To Youth Services – Ireland
- Supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI+) young people in Ireland.
Trans Women of Color – United States
- Uplifting the narratives, leadership, and lived experiences of trans people of color.
The Aurora Group – Australia
- Supporting a broad range of projects responding to the frontline needs of the LGBTI+ community.
LGBT Foundation – United Kingdom
- Delivering advice, support and information services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) communities.
Check in with friends, co-workers, family, and loved ones, and don’t assume what they might be feeling or experiencing.
Get involved locally
If you haven’t already, find a community that suits you in your local area as they reopen. If you were a part of one before the pandemic, make sure to start attending in-person events again when you can. Even though it may feel a little overwhelming at first, attending events (once you feel comfortable) means a lot to organizers, and it’ll help you start to get back to our new version of normal. If you don’t have a community, build one! While it can be a lot of work, starting a community can be extremely fulfilling, especially when you see the positive impact it has on others.
Tune in to our podcast to find out more about Intercomrades’ experience of being “out when the world is in.”