Not only is June the official start of summer in the States, it’s also Pride Month: a month-long celebration of all things LGBTQ+. Pride Month first began in 1970 as a way to pay homage to the Stonewall Riots in New York City, an uprising that is considered by many to have sparked the gay rights movement. As a veterinary practice manager or owner, you have a great opportunity to not only join in the celebration but also help increase employee and client appreciation along the way. Here are ten ways to celebrate PRIDE at your veterinary practice.
1: Complete the AVMA Brave Space Certification Program
AVMA’s Brave Space Certificate Program is “a self-paced learning curriculum that teaches participants how to gain deeper understandings of the people around us and create healthier, safer, more inclusive veterinary teams, practices, and organizations.”
This wonderful CE offering has two LGBTQ+ modules—Identity and Understanding and Inclusion and Support—and offers a clear path for practices to become not only a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community but a brave space. Complete the program yourself and offer to sponsor your staff as well. This will go a long way in helping your LGBTQ+ staff and clients feel supported, seen, and respected.
2: Bring yourself up to speed with LGBTQ+ terminology
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, one question I get frequently is “Why are there so many letters and labels?!” Look, I hear you, it’s a lot to digest and remember. I once gave a luncheon presentation explaining every letter of LGBTQQIAAPP and since then, we’ve seen the addition of more terms to the lexicon, helping even more people feel seen/recognized/heard/accepted.
At the end of the day, diverse and specific LGBTQ+ terminology exists so that individuals have a way to understand and identify themselves and others. Labels change over time, much like our language changes—Shakespearean English, I’m looking at you here—and personal labels may also change as individuals come to understand themselves at deeper levels. For now, take a moment to familiarize yourself with today’s terminology and consider this another tool in your empathy and inclusion toolbox.
3: Invest in staff pronoun stethoscope clips or buttons
Pronouns, pronouns, pronouns. My high school English teacher would be beside herself with joy at how often pronouns are discussed nowadays. Historically, pronouns were based on gender assumptions—think he/him, she/her—but as gender identity and expression expands, there is a clear need to ask for pronouns rather than assume them. Thankfully pronoun stickers and buttons are starting to become the norm, reducing the likelihood of incorrect assumptions.
A fantastic organization called PrideVMC now offers pronoun stethoscope clips in a variety of colors, all student-manufactured and 3D-printed with a plant-based plastic. Consider investing in pronoun clips or buttons for your staff members. This is an easy way to signal to employees and clients alike that you operate a welcoming and supportive practice. Also, it goes without saying, use someone’s chosen pronouns and if you slip up, simply correct your error and try again.
4: Join or sponsor an LGBTQ+ organization
Speaking of PrideVMC, another great way to show your staff and clients that you’re committed to equality and inclusion is to join or sponsor an LGBTQ+ organization. PrideVMC membership is open to the entire animal health and veterinary community including allies, which are heterosexual or cisgender people who support equal LGBTQ+ equality and rights.
Check out PrideVMC’s membership options and partner sponsorship options to see which would be right for your veterinary practice.
5: Fly the “Progress” PRIDE Flag
Originating in San Francisco and now used worldwide, the rainbow flag is a symbol of diversity and pride for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2018, designer Daniel Quasar advanced the concept further by reimagining and redesigning the flag.
According to Quasar, the “Progress” Pride Flag design features 6 full-sized color stripes representing life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), harmony/peace (blue), and spirit (purple/violet) plus 5 half-sized stripes representing trans and non-binary individuals (light blue, light pink, white), marginalized POC communities (brown, black), as well as those living with AIDS and the stigma and prejudice surrounding them, and those who have been lost to the disease (black).
Go beyond the standard rainbow flag this year and instead hang the “Progress” Pride Flag in your lobby, exam rooms, and break room to show your employees and clients that you support Pride Month and LGBTQ+ equality.
6: Have a colorful scrubs day
Continuing our deep dive into colorful LGBTQ+ expression, why not consider having a colorful scrubs day? Encourage your staff members to wear rainbow scrubs or even form groups to represent all the colors of the rainbow—bonus points if your staff members include the additional colors from the “Progress” Pride Flag.
Pride Month is purposely meant to be joyful and full of expression, so have fun with it! Be sure to take pictures of your colorful staff members to share on social media—this not only shows your support publicly for the LGBTQ+ community, it also shows your appreciation for your employees.
7: Hold a PRIDE pet photo contest
Another fun way to celebrate Pride Month is to hold a PRIDE pet photo contest for your clients and staff members. Unconditional love comes naturally to pets, so obviously they make excellent mascots and icons for Pride Month.
Encourage clients and staff to dress their pets in PRIDE gear, snap and post photos on your social media accounts, and then you have the great honor of awarding the most creative pet pics. Beyond spreading joy and support this is also a great way to generate social media engagement and interaction.
8: Display support hotline resources in your break room
On the more serious side, we know that many veterinary professionals experience mental health challenges and veterinarians have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. Add to that the bigotry, hatred, and violence directed at members of the LGBTQ+ community and it becomes evident that support is necessary.
One small thing you can do is display a list of support hotlines in your break room. PrideVMC has compiled a list of resources you can use to start or add to your list. Also, consider adding any local resources you may have in your area and the contact information for your EAP or Employee Assistance Program.
9: Donate to an LGBTQ+ organization in honor of your practice
Another great way to celebrate Pride Month and help support the LGBTQ+ community is to donate to a reputable organization in honor of your practice. Look for 501c3 organizations making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ folks in your community.
You could even offer to match employee and client donations to your chosen organization for an extra boost of engagement. Be sure to promote the donation drive on social media, within emails and physical newsletters, and during appointments. Charity Navigator has a great list of reputable nonprofits.
10: March at your local PRIDE parade
By far one of the most fun and visible ways to celebrate PRIDE is to march in a Pride Parade. If you’ve never been, Pride Parades are joyful, powerful, and exuberant events celebrating all things LGBTQ+. These parades would not exist without community support, so consider recruiting staff members to march in the parade on behalf of your veterinary practice. Employees could dress up, hold signs and banners advertising your business, and announce to the world that you’re not just tolerant but accepting and uplifting of the LGBTQ+ community.
I can tell you right now that if I saw a veterinary practice marching in my local Pride Parade, I would immediately send all of my pets (read: fur babies) there for care. Sign me up now. Take my money. Client for life.
More ways to celebrate PRIDE at your veterinary practice
Beyond these 10 ideas, there are certainly many more options for honoring and celebrating Pride Month. For your veterinary practice, get creative, be specific, and perhaps most importantly, be bold. Every ounce of visibility and support helps the LGBTQ+ community feel accepted and helps align your veterinary practice with peace, love, and equality.