Month: April 2019

Are You A True Ally?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Disclaimer: I need to preface this by saying I’m only one member of the LGBTQ community and I am not attempting to represent everyone from every under-represented and disenfranchised community. We all have our own individual experiences and it’s important that we all talk about them.

I’m a queer female. I’m privileged enough to live in a progressive, usually safe area of the country. I work for a company where my life is just as normal as the next person and I have never felt as if I were treated differently based on my sexual orientation. I’m an elected official on my town’s City Council where I am the first openly LGBTQ member of the council. 95% of the time I am completely comfortable with all of that. The other 5%? I really need my allies there.

Here are some recent examples of how my allies have supported me, walked beside me, given me space, and even stepped in front of me:

  • I was invited to a formal dinner that would be primarily attended by men in fairly conservative careers. My first thought was how awkward I would feel walking into a formal dinner with a nicer bow-tie than the men there, and how out of the norm that would be in their day-to-day life. I talked to another invitee about that and she offered to wear a suit with me. That’s a true ally.
  • When I was campaigning, I had volunteers doorknocking for me and they were met with questions about why I looked like Al Franken on my lit (I don’t know.), rolled their eyes when they saw a picture of my wife and I, spent hours listening to misogynistic old men talk about how women were terrible and had no place in local government. Instead of walking away, they continued to be proponents of why I would be a great representation of the people in our city. Those are true allies.
  • I experienced some mild stalking shortly after winning the election. I told a friend about it. She sent her husband and son out to drive by my house several times to make sure all was well last night. That’s a family full of true allies.
  • At the start of my new role, my leader at the time wanted to send out an organizational communication announcing my arrival. She asked if I wanted her to write anything about my family, specifically asking if it was okay to say I had a wife. She let me make that call. That’s a true ally.

We all want to be allies. At least I hope we do. I want to be a true ally and I know I can be better. It takes work because we have to check our privilege and the vast majority of us don’t realize we have to constantly do that. We can’t assume (i.e. pretend we know) what each person needs at all times.

On the other hand, those of us who need allies will be hard pressed to approach someone and say, “Hey, will you be an ally for me for a hot second?” I know that’s tricky, so it’s up to those of us with the privilege to step up, step out, and be a true ally to those that could really use one.

A few links to familiarize yourself with what this all means:

National Out to Win Day

Perhaps you’ve heard me say representation matters a time or two. Or maybe you’ve heard me say it a million times or two in the span of about five minutes. Either way, you know I’m a fan.

And perhaps you also know that I won an election this past fall to represent Ward 3 on City Council in West St. Paul, MN. I’m now the first openly LGBTQ person to serve on our city council. We’re a first ring suburb in the Twin Cities, which has over 3 million people if you combine Minneapolis and St. Paul, and one of the largest Pride festivals in the country. It’s progressive and diverse. It was baffling to me that it took that long to make that happen.

Today is National Out to Win Day. Running for office isn’t easy for anyone. I don’t care what people say. It’s not easy as part of the LGBTQ community for several more reasons. When you knock on someone’s door or introduce yourself to someone at a community event, you don’t know how they’re going to respond. My intent isn’t to scare people away by saying that, but an attempt to show how badly we need more representation. We can’t keep moving our communities into positive and we can’t make progress until more of us are represented at those levels.

For my LGBTQ folks, consider running for office. Any office. We have to be told over and over and over in order for it to resonate that we can do something like this and that we can make a difference. I’m here to tell you that same thing again. You can be a voice, not only for people in the LGBTQ community, for other people in marginalized and underrepresented groups that haven’t had these voices.

And for people that are reading this because they thought it might have something to do with human resources, here’s some breaking news. It has to do with humans and that’s your bag. When we’re underrepresented, we need our voices amplified. Help those around you move into positions where they can do that. That’s a true ally.

First-Timer at #WorkHuman

I was finally able to attend WorkHuman Live this year thanks to my new employer. After pining over it for the past three years, I kept pinching myself up until I was on a plane to Nashville to make sure it was real.

I always get plenty out of any HR conference/seminar – employment law updates, insights on leadership, FMLA tips, standard things I think many folks in our industry look at as the most important . They’re not entirely wrong.

But I’m in HR because the human aspect is where I’m completely invested. I don’t go home at night thinking about whether or not we’re meeting ACA guidelines. Slow down. I do those things in the office because they have to be done. I go home thinking about whether or not the policy we’re about to roll out is easy to understand, fair for as many people as possible, and is something I’ll be proud to stand behind. I sit in traffic and wonder if we’re trusting our employees enough or if we’re giving our managers the right tools to be the best leaders they can.

I’ve just always been a big fan of bringing humanity to the workplace and that’s what WorkHuman lives and breathes. I’d heard the hype about these conferences and the keynote speakers over the past few years had been enough to get anyone excited about going. I was slightly concerned it might be one of those Kool-Aid drinking situations, but I was fully prepared to guzzle that juice right on down.

When I first got to the convention center/humongous hotel the conference was taking place, I wandered around a bit because my room wasn’t ready yet. One of the very first pieces of WorkHuman signage I ran into was a giant banner that said, “You belong here.” I was hoping that would be true, more like a rarity for me at most HR conferences.

The people that attend WorkHuman are my people. They get we have to believe in humans and they want to believe in humans.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that, yeah, I did belong there.