Cathy Nestrick (she/her)
DEI Leader / Co-Host, Parity Podcast; Former VP and General Counsel, Berry Global Group, Inc.
Pride Month is celebrated every year in June in remembrance of the 1969 Stonewall riots, with the goal of achieving equal justice and opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) Americans.
In June of 1969, patrons of the Stonewall Inn in New York City protested persecution of the LGBTQ community which was all too common at the time. These protests marked the beginning of a movement to eliminate discriminatory laws and practices against LGBTQ Americans. Throughout the world in June, people celebrate the contributions of LGBTQ people and remember those who were lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS.
Today, there is increased conversation around LGBTQ youth who are particularly vulnerable. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimates that 5 to 10 percent of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide, which is 2 to 3 times the rate of heterosexual youth. Trans and nonbinary youth are the most vulnerable and have the highest rates of suicide. A startling 59 percent of transgender boys and men and 48 percent of transgender girls and women considered suicide in the past year, according to the Trevor Project.
One of the major reasons for the increased risk is that 60 percent of LGBTQ youth report not having supportive families, leading to higher rates of homelessness. The highest rates are among the LBGTQ youth who are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color. Having someone to talk to helps. If LGBTQ youth have at least one accepting adult in their lives, their risk of suicide is reduced by 40 percent.
LGBTQ adults also have higher rates of suicide—they are 3 to 6 times more likely than their heterosexual peers to consider, attempt and commit suicide according to the National Institutes of Health. Being an ally for your LGBTQ co-workers and co-workers who have LGBTQ family members can save lives. To be an ally, you can:
Being an ally can be scary. If you work in an environment where you frequently encounter inappropriate comments about any group of people, practice how to speak up. We can all be advocates, but being an advocate requires a skill that you may not use every day. Practice those skills of vocalizing your support for someone who is being ridiculed, so that you can more confidently be an ally when the situation arises. As with all things, practice makes perfect.
I recently talked to someone who referred to an ally as having a “ripple affect” within her organization. She found that once individuals started advocating for others and being more inclusive, their colleagues started similar behavior. These people started a ripple for a more equitable and inclusive workplace, and just like them, you can start a ripple where you work.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions about how to be an ally for LGBTQ co-workers and co-workers who have LGBTQ family members.
Cathy Nestrick is a retired executive in the plastics industry, the founder and co-host of Parity Podcast focused on accelerating gender equality, and a DEI thought leader and speaker. You can find her on LinkedIn or www.par-ity.com.