It’s an incredible time to be alive.
Never before have we had the collective freedoms and opportunities that exist today. We’ve progressed exponentially when it comes to personal liberties. Our society has never been more aware of diversity and the importance of recognizing it. This is not to say that we’re free of struggles, though – we still face tremendous challenges for social justice. Many states are still trying to roll back on LGBTQ+ legislation or enact laws prohibiting trans rights. The ACLU has an extensive, terrifying, and constantly updating list of legislation inhibiting LGBTQ rights that are going through state governments right now.
We should recognize progress but always be reminded of what else is left to be done – that way we can work toward a brighter future for all of us. The first step to unlocking that potential is being adamant about creating spaces full of acceptance, compassion, and growth. That includes within tech and startups. A recent Silicon Valley workplace survey of 7,000 employees found that 40% of LGBTQ tech employees have witnessed homophobic discrimination or harassment at work – compared to only 8% of non-LGBTQ employees. This leads to an awareness gap, where non-LGBTQ employees don’t even think about discrimination, and since they’re the majority, it leads LGBTQ employees feeling powerless and gaslit when they experience it.
When we think about progress, it’s impossible to ignore the LGBTQ community and the growth of Pride – which has continued to bring new levels of self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and acceptance for millions of historically marginalized people. It’s important to take time to recognize how much has changed. The last three presidents have acknowledged June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in the United States. Internationally, there are enormous Pride celebrations throughout the year. There is more acceptance for people regardless of gender or sexuality than ever before.
Pride symbolizes a paradigm shift – one that doesn’t happen overnight or without significant effort and intentionality. When we think of the etymology of the word “pride,” what stands out is that it portrays this idea of confidence and self-respect. Self-respect, building our self-esteem, and being confident in who we are at our core are some of the challenging and important parts of being human. No person, not a single individual on the planet, can ever truly embody another person and accurately share their experiences and stories. Having confidence in being yourself and sharing those stories comes from being surrounded by a community of people – family, friends, loved ones, etc – who encourage and accept you for who you are. Pride is what drives change, inclusion and visibility – and that affects the tech behind the scene as much as it affects our obvious day-to-day life.
We learn so much from friends, family, and other members of the LGBT community in our lifetime. If being yourself is one of the hardest things to do as a human, and those in the LGBT community are fighting for a culture that not only embraces, but encourages radical, unapologetic authenticity, then they are the warriors and heroes for driving social change. After spending years in tech, it is easy to find yourself believing that technology holds the answers to unlocking our brightest possible future. While it undoubtedly represents tremendous opportunity to change the world, the greatest transformation starts with us and social leaders from all walks of life – Stonewall’s influence 50 years later is evidence of how impactful that intrinsic change can be.
There’s still shame and stigma surrounding these social groups (among other social injustices) within tech communities and work to be done to ensure basic human rights. There’s a push within the tech community for better training regarding LGBTQ inclusion – like including pronouns in email signatures and on Linkedin. Tech helps, but it’s people behind it who really drive change, and we have to think about how human biases play out in technology and algorithms. It’s a responsibility of the tech and founder community – the ones building the future – to take these biases into account and counteract them. It’s not enough to “not be biased,” we have to be actively unbiased.
Studies have found that Gen Z specifically is overwhelmingly focused on supported companies that match their ethics, values, and social views. This has accelerated conversations that many companies are having on gender expression and identity. This ultimately leads to them fumbling the ball when it comes to addressing Pride and LGBTQ issues. It’s been dubbed “rainbow capitalism” – when large corporations paint themselves in rainbows for Pride month while actually exploiting the cause for their own gain. R29 says, “Rainbow capitalism exploits marginalized communities by turning them into markets, selling them back to them as a product, and commodifying pretty much everything about every part of their lives.” What makes this worse is that many large (yes, many of them tech) companies have played an active role in funding anti-LGBTQ candidates and legislation. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that opportunistic companies have pursued chances to grow their market shares, it’s happened for decades. Nor should it be surprising that the world is shifting, led in no small part by the efforts of Gen Z and others, to no longer tolerate these contrarian practices that vainly hide company’s self-serving nature. People around the globe, now more than ever, demand true authenticity and transparency, respect for individuals no matter their identity, and a more unified, accepting society.
It’s taken too long for the world to get to this point where more people can feel comfortable sharing their whole selves and have confidence in themselves without feeling the harsh judgement or being “othered.” We’re not completely there yet, we’re no utopia, but we’re closer than ever before. Transformation of cultural and cultural norms is happening before our very eyes, and with continued efforts from people all over the world, we’ll continue to make progress.
In the meantime, here are some organizations that are committed to diversifying tech through LGBTQ+ causes –
The LGBT Technology Institute is the nation’s premier organization working to bridge the technology gap for all LGBTQ individuals. The Institute works with individuals and communities and engages in research, education, volunteerism, and partnerships to provide cutting-edge technology and resources to improve the lives of LGBTQ individuals, especially those that are disadvantaged.
Out In Tech
Out in Tech’s mission is to unite the LGBTQ+ tech community by creating opportunities for members to advance their careers, grow their networks, and leverage tech for social change. They seek to inspire queer and questioning youth to explore tech, support LGBTQ+ equality and activists and host annual events to bring together LGBTQ+ tech professionals around the world.
Start Out is a nonprofit empowering LGBT entrepreneurs. It provides networking, resources, expertise, visibility, and even an accelerator lab for members, and holds dozens of annual events.
Lesbians Who Tech
Lesbians Who Tech is a community of LGBTQ women, non-binary and trans individual in and around tech. Their goal is to help these communities within tech connect, be more visible, get more women, POC, queer, and trans people in tech, and connect their community with other organizations doing good work. They also hold annual summits, this year’s being virtual and held this month during pride.
Trans*H4CK seeks to shift the ways trans, gender non-conforming, agender and non-binary people live by creating technology that economically empowers, improves access to social services, promotes gender safety and community sustainability, while bringing visibility to trans tech innovators and entrepreneurs.
LGBTQ in Technology Slack Group
This is a space for LGBTQ people in technology to chat and support each other. Who’s invited? Anybody who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and those questioning whether they fit into those or any of the many other sub-genres of people who are not generally considered both “straight” and cis.
Charlotte-based LGBTQ causes
Time out is a resource for LGBTQ+ youth in the Charlotte area. Their mission is to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth by offering vital programs, fostering unconditional acceptance, and creating safe spaces for self-expression through leadership, community support and advocacy.