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LGBTQ+ Inclusivity: A How-To Guide for Allies 🏳️‍🌈

how to be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community

gay men holding hands at wedding styled shoot

I want to start by saying that I am not the expert here, and I would never want to pretend that I was. Each LGBTQ+ persons experience is unique, and the way in which I experience the world is definitely going to be vastly different than how others experience the world.

And that, frankly, is awesome.

I feel that I can speak comfortably on this subject because I live my life as an openly gay woman. I am in a loving and committed, (and loud!) lesbian marriage. I am active in, and I have many friends in the LGBTQ+ community. I am lucky to have met a lot of incredible LGBTQ+ people in my life. Even luckier still that they are willing to confide in me about their experiences with living openly as their true and authentic selves.

One thing I often hear within the community is how people are tired of educating others. Well that’s just fine because I LOVE educating others, and I am happy to share this “article” and I am happy to share my first-hand knowledge. Because I believe that everyone deserves a fair and loving chance. Because I am more than happy to fight for everyone’s right to celebrate their love, WITHOUT the fear of being turned away for who they love!

So, this one is for the warriors that have had to stare hate and discrimination in the face, put up their middle finger, and keep living loud and proud. 🏳️‍🌈

LET’S DO THIS!

Two Women Embracing each other after having just been married

Step 1:
USE INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE

It is literally the EASIEST thing you can do! Inclusive language can go a very long way in helping non-hetero couples feel more welcome and cared for.

Strive to use inclusive language in everything you do:

  • Website
  • Blog posts
  • Signage
  • Labeling

It’s seriously important! And believe me, every same-sex, non-hetero, or “non-traditional” couple sees the glaringly obvious “bride” or “groom” label that doesn’t apply to them… and it always stings. Listen, I’m not a monster, it is understandable that not every situation can be remedied by nixing the word “bride” or “groom,” but we can absolutely make an effort to be more inclusive in situations that we can control. So, what are some ways to refer to a couple without gendering them as specifically hetero?

Let’s try:

  • Couple
  • Partner
  • Other Half
  • Pair
  • Team
  • Twosome
  • Significant Other
  • Duo
  • Newlyweds
  • League
  • Sidekick

…get creative! Have some fun 🙂

ALSOOOO!

FIANCÉ is male-gendered language
FIANCEÉ is female-gendered language!

putting “you + your fiance’s [name]” is not LGBTQ+ inclusive!!

Two men dancing together during a wedding styled shoot

Step 2:
Ask preferred names, pronouns, and any other identifiers the couple would like to share

Alright, let’s break it down.

I (being Chelsie) am a feminine woman, aka: cis-gender, (cis = latin for “on the same side as”) my pronouns are she/her. But I also have no issues with going by they/them. I feel that the way I present on the outside, is the same as I feel on the inside. But not everyone feels the same, and it is not okay to assume.

Think about those moments when you’ve mistakenly called a woman, “sir.” Or vise-versa. It’s awkward, right? And no amount of apologizing makes that mistake go away. We all still vividly remember what you just did. And while it may not really be a big deal to someone like me, who is lucky enough to feel comfortable in my own skin, it can really weigh on someone who does not feel comfortable in their own skin.

lesbian women kissing before their wedding ceremony

We are all human beings, and when it comes to this industry, we are all in the business of celebrating love. Let’s take care of each other. Let’s make each other feel valued and important, for the simple reason that each of us IS valuable and important.

Asking up front alleviates the need for any awkwardness. Both from when you are corrected for using the wrong pronouns, and from when your client has to actually correct you. They will likely even thank you for asking…and they will also share that experience with all of their LGBTQ+ friends! Helloooo more business – just for not being a jerk! 💃🏼

Furthermore, this is super easy to do! It goes like this:

ME: “Hi, my name is Chelsie. I am one of the owners of The Lumen Studios, what is your name?”
THEM: “My name is so-and-so, it’s nice to meet you.”
ME: “It’s really nice to meet you too, do you mind if I ask what pronouns you use?”

…and then you know.

Question over, awkwardness avoided!

*** Also, it is okay to make notes of these preferences in their client files. We are all busy being business owners, things slip through the cracks and when you may only see a client a handful of times, and maybe even several months apart, it’s 100% better to remember, than to misgender someone later on down the line.


Step 3a:
Be a LOUD, and proud Ally!

YES! DO THIS! Let LGBTQ+ couples know that you are there for them and that you are PROUD OF THAT.

  • Put a freaking rainbow on your website!
  • or, the Human Rights Campaign logo
  • or, post photos from LGBTQ+ sessions you have done
  • or, make a “Happy Pride Month” post
  • or, do a Pride month discount session for LGBTQ+ couples
  • or, just straight up write it somewhere!

we WILL notice!

**PS: in case you missed it, Pride Month is all of June!

lesbian women laughing at their wedding

Step 3b:
Be an Affirming Ally:

Allies cannot be self-defined; they must be claimed by the people they seek to ally with.

@queersextherapy

I stumbled upon this quote a few weeks ago and it absolutely floored me. It’s so exactly correct. You don’t get to say your an ally and *poof!* you’re an ally. You have to do the work. Being an affirming ally has many meanings, but it’s overarching theme is this: DO. THE. WORK.

If you want to be an LGBTQ+ ally, then standing up for the queer community is now YOUR responsibility. You are now expected to fight back any form of homophobia you encounter. You can no longer sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

So what does this look like?

  • celebrate us on your social media platforms, website, and any other open communication you have with the world.
  • call other vendors out on their shit. Don’t continue to let people get away with sharing the false notion that marriage only belongs to cis-gendered men and women. Queer people have had the right to marry for 5 years, and we deserve to be celebrated, and included, by everyone.
  • proudly share your support of the community, and work to educate others about the LGBTQ+ community.
  • support the work that those in the queer community are doing to make the wedding industry a kinder, more inclusive space for couples.

You’re not an Ally because you say that you are, you’re an Ally because your actions show that you are.

lesbian couple holding hands during their engagement session

This one might be a little scary but…

Step 4:
Stop working with vendors who are known to not be LGBTQ+ welcoming.

Seriously. We have to stop allowing this shameful behavior. Each of us are in the business of celebrating LOVE – let’s act like it! There shouldn’t be anyone, anywhere, that gets to pick and choose which love we celebrate.

We have to hold ourselves, and others, to a higher standard!

I’m not in the businesses of normalizing hate, and I have no desire to accept money to work with those that do.

I realize this is a pretty thick line to draw in the sand, but honestly, I just don’t care anymore.

I am absolutely sick to death of hearing stories of LGBTQ+ couples that can’t find the vendors they need to celebrate their love. It’s an absolute disgrace to OUR industry. How can we stand up and act like love is the greatest thing in the entire world and then TURN PEOPLE AWAY FOR BEING IN LOVE??? It’s foolish, and it is not okay.

In fact, it’s absolutely unacceptable – so let’s stop accepting it.

You can’t just say you’re an ally so you can take their money, you have to ACT like an ally. Your business is an extension of you, so LIVE your brand, act like an ally in all facets of your business!!

Now, naturally, you can’t be 100% in control of this. What if you have a couple that hired someone you know isn’t LGBTQ+ welcoming? Of course, you can’t really be expected to drop that couple and ruin their wedding day. I’d never ask that of you. That couples deserves a beautiful wedding day the same as any other! So what can you do? Don’t worry, yah girl loves some actionables! On to Step 5… 🤗


Step 5:
Have a Preferred Vendors List of (confirmed) LGBTQ+ Welcoming, Accepting, Loving, and Celebrating Vendors

gay men at wedding enjoying each others company

Your LGBTQ+ clients have to come out to EVERY SINGLE vendor that they inquire with and it is definitely unnerving. Every time is a gamble for whether or not they will be turned away and made to feel less-than. Make it easier on them! Know ahead of time who is (and isn’t??) accepting of the LGBTQ+ community and offer them a list of people they can turn to. A solid list of people that are not just accepting, but WELCOMING, celebrating, loving, and excited to celebrate their love!

Don’t know which vendors in your market area are LGBTQ+ welcoming? Then, ASK! (are we starting to see a pattern here??)

I am in a “KC Wedding Vendors” group on Facebook

**you can totes just search if there is one available to you already. If not, make one of these for your area!**


Plus, it’s a great way to keep in touch with other vendors in your area and

  • Set up styled shoots (if you’re into that kind of thing)
  • Let other vendors know if you have a couple looking for something
  • Initiate meetups with other vendors for friendships or marketing
  • Start a thread to see who is LGBTQ+ welcoming in your area!

It’s easy! Here, I’ll show you (just copy + paste!):

“Where my LGBTQ+ celebrating vendors at? I am looking to make a preferred vendor list that is inclusive-only. Leave your info in the comments!”

BAM! Mission Complete.

Be a pioneer in your field, I promise it won’t go unnoticed!


Congrats – you made it all this way!

Your reward is all these super-cute videos of super-cute queer couples! 😍

Love,
The Lumens

Education, Queer Weddings

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LGBTQ+ Inclusivity: A How-To Guide for Allies 🏳️‍🌈

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ALL ARE WELCOME!
We are proud to call The Lumen Studios a safe space for celebration of all people from every race, religion, non-religion, sexual orientation, and gender.
We have an absolute zero-tolerance policy for discrimination in any regard.

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