We are fortunate to work in a fairly progressive industry and, for the most part, we are ready to accept and welcome any new clients, regardless of gender identity or sexuality. Same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States five years ago in a groundbreaking Supreme Court case that ensured equality for all couples. Since then, equality has become a buzzword and rainbow filters are aplenty on social media.
However, we must recognize the important distinction between the things we post online and the core values that we hold dear in our business. Being an LGBTQ+ ally goes well beyond having gay friends or retweeting a few posts on your timeline. Allyship is a mindset that drives actions that support the LGBTQ+ community; it’s an intentional effort to use your voice and privilege to level the playing field and create equal spaces for all.
Most event professionals are inclusive, but could stand to be a stronger ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Let’s explore a few ways you can do this from an authentic place.
Support LGBTQ+-friendly partners
Who you work with speaks to your company values, so be mindful of your creative partners’ language and actions. Avoid working with anti-LGBTQ+ vendors at all costs; when you’re working with same-sex, transgender, or non-binary couples, it’s your responsibility to ensure their comfort throughout the planning process. Connect with other equality-minded professionals and build a referral network that ensures your clients feel safe and welcome.
Stop making assumptions
Don’t judge a book by its cover — we use this phrase all the time and, with the LGBTQ+ community, it rings just as true. The truth is a couple could walk into your office and appear to be heterosexual, but one (or both) may identify as bisexual, pansexual, agender, transgender, or virtually anywhere else on the spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation. Allow your clients to divulge if they feel comfortable doing so; otherwise, continue serving them as you would any other client.
Adjust your language
Even with an open mind, humans naturally lean on language cues that they’ve followed for life. Thus, a fully-inclusive wedding business may be surprised to find that they aren’t booking same-sex weddings because their marketing materials were full of gendered terms, like “bride and groom” or “bridal party.” Although done without malice, this kind of unconscious bias can signal to LGBTQ+ couples that they should look elsewhere.
Accept your mistakes and apologize
As you change your perspective and open your business up, you’ll likely make a faux pas or two while you learn the preferred verbiage and expectations of the LGBTQ+ community. Don’t feel ashamed; instead, be quick to apologize and turn it into a learning lesson. Humility is key to being an ally. Everybody makes mistakes, but it’s important to own up to them and discuss solutions to prevent them from happening again. For example, if you use the wrong pronoun for a client, you may consider including a question on your client intake form for people to designate their preferred pronouns. Being wrong is OK as long as it spurs positive change.
The LGBTQ+ community have faced generations of discrimination and hate. Their voices have been silenced while their identities are politicized. In an industry that is built upon weddings and life celebrations, we need to lead the charge in celebrating all people regardless of how they identify. Being an ally means lending your voice and your support to your clients and showing them that they are not alone because you have their best interests in mind.