How to Be an Ally in the Midst of a Backlash
As of May 2, more than 540 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Laws are now in effect banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth, requiring or allowing misgendering of transgender students, and censoring school curriculum, including books. This trend runs alongside the post-Dobbs collapse of reproductive rights; 43% of reproductive-age women now live in states where abortion may soon be, or has already been, banned completely.
It’s not the first backlash, not by a longshot. Black history is marked by waves of progress stalled and dismantled with policy and brute force, notably the backlash to emancipation and Reconstruction. Today, this movement to return to an era of homophobic secrecy and fear threatens the dignity and equality of all gender and sexual expressions. And the 50 years of constitutionally protected decisions around pregnancy have given way to a frightening patchwork of punitive and dangerous legal impediments.
At schools, libraries, and healthcare providers, dealing with these laws is mission-critical. Even if you and your organization aren’t directly affected by them, your employees are. What can leaders do to be strong allies amid the backlash?
Think about how your employees are feeling. Make space for conversation.
Make sure your policies are as inclusive as possible.
Be explicit about how you protect employees’ rights and do not tolerate harassment or discrimination.
Sign on to campaigns in defense of LGBTQ equality and reproductive freedom, and announce your support publicly.
Don’t make any changes to equitable policies in the face of criticism from outside—or the fear of criticism that might come.
After Dobbs, several companies announced that they would pay for employees in conservative states to travel for abortion care. Although I cringe at the thought of a woman having to share this personal information with her employer, it was encouraging to see companies take a stand. As we see in the case of Disney and their support of LGBTQ freedom in Florida, organizations can influence the conversation.
Even if that kind of visible action isn’t comfortable for you, you can still send a message with your money. Florida, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas have been the most aggressive in advancing anti-LGBTQ+ laws and censoring teachers. Don’t attend or host conferences in those states. Money sends a strong signal. Where and how we spend it is a tangible demonstration of allyship.
It takes everyone doing their part to fight against the backlash. And history shows it makes a difference.