Less than a month ago, Out & Equal hosted the annual Workplace Summit with over 5,000 attendees from around the world. Even as we continued to wrestle with the impacts of the pandemic, our community still showed up enthusiastically – ready to connect, learn, and shape a better workplace for the future.  

At the end of each Summit, I am struck by how much I continue to learn about our community in workshops, premier sessions, and in conversations with other attendees. And, as I learn, I also see how much unlearning each of us must do to change systems of oppression and to be truer and more effective allies. This was a powerful, recurring theme at this year’s Summit. 

Over the past year, much of the conversation around allyship has focused on the struggle to end White Supremacy – and for good reason. People of Color have been shouldering the burden of fighting racism for far too long. Those of us who have not been the targets of racism increasingly recognize that we need to step up and do this work. Just like the LGBTQ movement needs straight and cisgender allies to do the work on themselves, white people need to step up as allies for People of Color. We need to step forward to use our power and privilege to eradicate racism and combat white supremacy. Even as we make sure that other voices are centered, we must shoulder more of the burden of creating change. 

And this change begins with each one of us.  Each of us needs to embrace and understand the lived experiences, the culture, challenges, and the humanity of our Black, Brown, and AAPI neighbors. It is often difficult work to learn. And it is especially difficult to unlearn. But, when we do it, we have the opportunity to grow. 

We in the DEI community have helped many people recognize the need to do this work, but we have not done nearly enough. Take a look at the vitriol and violence directed at the AAPI community over the last year. We must do more to confront and elevate the experiences of this community.  

We must also pay attention to the fight for the transgender and nonbinary community. Trans and nonbinary people today are at the front lines of a struggle around gender and expression. They face unconscionable legal, physical, and emotional attacks. Those of us who see ourselves as allies need to step up to blunt those attacks.  

It’s not enough to read books about racism, post something on Twitter about privilege, or talk to a likeminded friend about the constraints of the gender binary. It’s time to challenge ourselves with tough questions: When was the last time that I sought out, and listened intently, to the stories of those with less privileged identities? What meaningful work am I doing to create safe spaces for conversations? What am I doing with the stories I hear or the experiences that others share with me? How am I addressing the needs that people articulate to me? How do I continue to build my skills as an ally?

I am optimistic that we have the power to show up as better allies, friends, and advocates for each other. As we work on building the fierce ally within us, we must never shy away from hard truths or rest on our laurels. We must continuously challenge ourselves, our community, and our organizations to do the hard work. The good news is that you are not alone in this journey. We are all in it together. Out & Equal is here to support your growth, your fight for equality, and your focus on allyship. Our community knows the power of radical, queer acceptance. It propels us to love each other, to fight for equality, and to step out of our comfort zones. I want to challenge all of us, myself included, to focus on building a stronger ally within ourselves.  

Please accept this challenge so that, together, we will create a better future.