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LGBTQ people and allies leverage purchasing power in favor of allied businesses 

Allies are important; they are our friends, family members, people who want change, acceptance and equality. But what about corporations? What does corporate allyship really look like?

Certainly, it’s great when companies that have influence proudly and publicly support the LGBTQ community, but in order to really be an ally, businesses need to be active in advocating for change.

For example, look at Apple. The worldwide tech company expanded their employee health insurance policy to cover gender confirmation surgery. In addition, back in 2015, Apple released a statement about the same-sex marriage ruling saying: “Apple strongly supports marriage equality and we consider it a civil rights issue.” While marriage equality isn’t the final destination for LGBTQ rights, both of these are acts of true allyship. Not only did Apple publicly take a side on a controversial issue, but the company took action by expanding health care coverage for employees who are transgender.

Then, there are businesses like Chick-fil-A. Along with vehemently opposing marriage equality, the fast-food chain donates large sums of money to anti-LGBTQ organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which requires students to sign a contract swearing off “homosexual acts.”

Obviously, a company that donates to an organization that still preaches that being homosexual is sinful isn’t making our community better. In fact, this particular belief can be dangerous, especially for LGBTQ individuals who are also Christian.

As a proud pansexual woman, I find it important to know what agenda I’m really funding when I make purchases. I like being able to look down at my iPhone, see my wallpaper photo (which is set to a picture of my girlfriend and me), and know that the company that made my phone works in favor of the LGBTQ community rather than against it. On the other hand, there was a time when many of us would gladly devour one of Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwiches and some waffle fries, but the duty of an informed member of the LGBTQ community is to ensure our money no longer contributes to working against other LGBTQ people through the organizations that harm us. We need to support the companies that support us and stop giving power to the ones that work against our fundamental rights as human beings.

While some businesses do work against the LGBTQ community, there is hope when it comes to corporate allyship. Shari Zabel, the CEO of Springs Equality, the Equality Center of Colorado Springs, offered some insight, saying: “I think businesses, for the most part, really do care [about the LGBTQ community]. ... Our business partners are invested in making our community better.” She explains that the members of Springs Equality’s Chamber of Commerce sign a non-discrimination agreement and are encouraged to become members of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. This agreement ensures that companies such as DoubleTree by Hilton and Lane Mitchell Jewelers, both members of the local Chamber, really do care about the LGBTQ community, which provides some reassurance.

Moving forward, we — LGBTQ people and allies — need to be active in patronizing businesses that not only refrain from discrimination, but actively advocate for LGBTQ people. We need to use our purchasing power to show that we hold companies to a high standard. The power of money in this capitalistic society can easily corrupt; however, money can also act as a way to promote the values and practices that we find important. The way we spend our money influences corporate agendas. Whether we like it or not, corporations have a great deal of power that they can use to the benefit or detriment of marginalized communities.

Not only is it important to care about which companies actively advocate for the LGBTQ community, but it is also crucial that we care about businesses that work for all marginalized communities. Just as the LGBTQ community needs allies, people of different races, religions, abilities and socio-economic status need allies too, and being a mindful consumer is one way to advocate for equality for everyone.

Editor’s note: To find LGBTQ-friendly companies, check out: the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, nglcc.org; Colorado Springs’ Equality Chamber of Commerce, springsequality.org; and Human Rights Campaign’s workplace equality index.

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