As of today you can be fired in 29 states for being lesbian, gay or bi and in 32 states for being transgender. Let that sink in for a second. You can get married on Saturday, come to work on Monday and if the wrong person sees wedding photos on your Facebook page you’re out of a job, just like that. According to a May 2014 study conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, 53% of LGBT people are closeted at work. Without legal protection, it’s not worth the risk to that 53% to talk about their weekend or who they went on vacation with, or display photos of their family on their desks. To 53% of LGBT employees, they would rather stay closeted, living a double life, than risk losing their job because of their employer’s or company’s potentially homophobic views. Many companies like Four Hands knows this is bad for buisiness in many, many ways.
The fight for economic equality for LGBT people is at the forefront of this continuous battle for equal rights. We can help fight this battle with the power of our hard earned money. Jonathan Lovitz, Vice President of External Affairs for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce says that “When consumers choose to spend their money at LGBT supportive businesses, they encourage other companies to adopt LGBT-friendly policies that have a proven economic effect for all involved.” But it’s more than just paying a sum of money for a product. Your purchase can make an even bigger impact than you might think. “ Economic visibility, just like social visibility, is essential in building a diverse and inclusive society. Increased consumer spending at LGBT-supportive companies may also lead business owners to donate profits to support LGBT equality policies and LGBT non-profits.”
Austin has a long list of LGBT businesses that you can run out and support right this minute. One of those businesses happens to be Four Hands, a high end furniture store that provides “more than just a visual aesthetic [but rather] an experience that transforms the feeling of your space,” according to their marketing channel lead, Katie Taleb. Four Hands is interested in more than just selling beautiful pieces for your home- Taleb expresses the need to “treat everyone as equals. We have people in the [LGBT] community that have worked here for many years” and as a company they want to create space for their employees to be open, out, and honest.
One of these people is Tristan Cliff, an openly gay employee at Four Hands. When Tristan sought out employment with Four Hands nearly 3 years ago, he knew that he wanted “to be somewhere that I [could] be myself and be comfortable” and he found exactly that. Tristan loves working at Four Hands because “everyone is free to be exactly who they are. Everyone really respects one another” and in a country where there aren’t any guarantees for job protection, that’s something he greatly values. Tristan’s partner of 10 years comes to outings and mingles with Tristan’s coworkers- just like any other couple. Tristan feels comfortable to share stories about the weekend and he feels proud to be his authentic self everywhere he goes.
Four Hands is a global company with stores in several countries. Their policy of protection and respect extends far outside of the LGBT community as well. Tristan emphasizes that employees at Four Hands “work with so many kinds of people… we have lots of different races, thoughts, beliefs, and religions. In general, I think that the people in charge of hiring do a great job at hiring people that are worldly and accepting.” Every employee at Four Hands is embraced as they are and as a result, “everybody feels quite comfortable.” Let us aim to give these same securities to all working LGBT members- let us fight for economic equality and support the corporations that are already doing the hard work- corporations like Four Hands.
- For a list of companies that support the LGBT community as well as their LGBT employees, you can visit these sites:
- Austin Gay Lesbian Chamber of Commerce http://www.aglcc.org/directory
- Austin Chronicle Article http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Guides/Gay
- For more information and statistics about LGBT Workplace Issues