At the beginning of 2020, OUT Georgia Business Alliance — serving as our state’s only LGBTQ+ and Allied Chamber of Commerce — was in line for one of our most successful years to date.
After a 25-year history of serving Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ business community, OUT Georgia started the year with incredible energy after the successful rebrand of the organization (formerly known as the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce) and the expansion of our scope to intentionally serve businesses and professionals beyond Metro Atlanta, reaching across the state of Georgia with open arms.
While our LGBTQ+ chamber was able to quickly pivot as COVID-19 took its unrelenting hold, many businesses across Georgia, including several of our members, weren’t able to survive the devastating health and economic crisis, which has now claimed more than 4,000 lives right here in Georgia.
The coronavirus pandemic has without a doubt changed the course of our organization and every Georgian, especially our LGBTQ+ residents of color who have been disproportionately impacted versus their white counterparts.
So, what’s next for Georgia’s LGBTQ+ business community after navigating challenging reopening plans, evolving health and safety measures, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the Paycheck Protection Program, loan forgiveness, and the growing spotlight on systemic racism and racial violence?
I believe now is the time to use education, collaboration, and generosity to radically advance Georgia’s LGBTQ+ momentum.
Over the past two months, we’ve seen the historic passage of LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes legislation and we’ve witnessed East Point, Savannah, and Smyrna adopt comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances to join the ranks of Atlanta, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville, and Dunwoody with similar measures.
Georgia consistently ranks among top states in which to do business, but we must leverage our individual and collective voice to continue driving real improvements for our community, with an emphasis on what we can do to genuinely support our Queer, Trans, Gender Nonconforming, Black, and Brown Georgians.
Progress for minority communities and those most marginalized and vulnerable will in turn drive improvements for even more folks across our state.
When city councils and governments across Georgia are considering nondiscrimination ordinances, LGBTQ+ inclusion, minority funding, etc., often it’s the voice of local business owners and professionals from that community who can make a significant difference by helping provide much-needed context and the perspective of real, compassionate, and intelligent humans.
Take time to educate yourself on issues related to racial inequities, bias, intersectionality, funding, housing, legal and nondiscrimination protections, youth and family support, health access, safety, work environments, and employment practices.
By investing your energy to learn about these important issues (and others), you will be better positioned to enact change for yourself and your organization, and ultimately to collaborate and support others from a more empathetic perspective. This spirit of education, collaboration, and generosity is what we’ve seen time and time again during the march to equality and equity.
Now, it’s time for you to prepare for an active role in that march, and don’t you dare discount the role you can play in advancing the lives of the LGBTQ+ community, as a business owner, leader, professional, neighbor, parent, student, or informed citizen.
Go beyond checking a box.
Scrutinize your hiring practices, professional development, and internal advancement to ensure you are welcoming, supporting, and cultivating diverse talent and perspectives. Learn about engaging minority-owned and -led businesses throughout your supply chain.
Know that the issues referenced above have clear ties back to the health, wellness, prosperity, and economic impact of Georgia’s LGBTQ+ community. Know that your commitment to showing up, as a compassionate human, can and will make the difference.
Even when the weight of the world seems absolutely overwhelming right now, I am incredibly encouraged by the stories I hear from OUT Georgia’s member businesses, leaders, and professionals. Now more than ever, we are asking how we can help, cheering on our peers and competitors, and celebrating others to a level I’ve not seen before.
So, what are you doing to show up for your neighbor, to recommend a black or queer business, to educate yourself on LGBTQ+ and racial issues … to help make Georgia a better place?
With a focus on education, collaboration, and generosity, you can make a profound and radical difference in the lives of others.
If you’re interested in charting that impact as a member, corporate partner, or volunteer with the OUT Georgia Business Alliance, know that we need you! Email me at Chris.Lugo@outgeorgia.org to get involved and help shape how we best serve LGBTQ+ businesses, nonprofits, professionals, and entrepreneurs throughout the state.