Out With It

On Corporate Pride with Alexis Kantor and Nancy Lyons

June 17, 2024 Nancy Lyons, Alexis Kantor Season 1 Episode 4
On Corporate Pride with Alexis Kantor and Nancy Lyons
Out With It
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Out With It
On Corporate Pride with Alexis Kantor and Nancy Lyons
Jun 17, 2024 Season 1 Episode 4
Nancy Lyons, Alexis Kantor

In this episode of "Out with It," Jaymes Black is joined by successful business leaders, LGBTQ+ parents, and Family Equality board members, Alexis Kantor and Nancy Lyons. Together, they tackle the issue of "rainbow washing," discuss what it truly means for corporations to support the LGBTQ+ community — and how that support can boost business. Tune in for an inspiring discussion about the impact of authentic advocacy in the corporate world and beyond.

Family Equality is creating a world where everyone can experience the love, safety, and belonging of family. As the leading national organization for current and future LGBTQ+ families, we work to ensure that everyone has the freedom to find, form, and sustain their families by advancing LGBTQ+ equality through advocacy, support, storytelling, and education. Learn more and support our work today!

Interested in sponsoring the podcast? Contact info@familyequality.org to chat more.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of "Out with It," Jaymes Black is joined by successful business leaders, LGBTQ+ parents, and Family Equality board members, Alexis Kantor and Nancy Lyons. Together, they tackle the issue of "rainbow washing," discuss what it truly means for corporations to support the LGBTQ+ community — and how that support can boost business. Tune in for an inspiring discussion about the impact of authentic advocacy in the corporate world and beyond.

Family Equality is creating a world where everyone can experience the love, safety, and belonging of family. As the leading national organization for current and future LGBTQ+ families, we work to ensure that everyone has the freedom to find, form, and sustain their families by advancing LGBTQ+ equality through advocacy, support, storytelling, and education. Learn more and support our work today!

Interested in sponsoring the podcast? Contact info@familyequality.org to chat more.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (00:09):

Hello, outspoken changemakers, and welcome to Family Equality's Out With It, the podcast where conversations are raw, insights are bold, and the mission is clear: to foster a society where justice is non-negotiable and equality is the norm. I'm your host, Family Equality President and CEO, Jaymes Black, and I think it's time to come out with it.


Today on Out with It, it's our Minnesota episode! I'm so excited to be chatting with two good friends of Family Equality, business leaders and all around powerhouses, Nancy Lyons and Alexis Kantor. Nancy is a CEO, advocate, parent, speaker, and author of two acclaimed books, "Work like A Boss: A Kick in the Pants Guide to Finding Using Your Power at Work" and "Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People and Process." She's been voted most admired CEO for Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, 100 People to Know from Twin Cities Business, and Business Owner of the Year from the National Association of Women. And you might know her team's work from our own website, familyequality.org, or our recent partnership to create Path2FamilyEquality, a digital crisis and resource hub for LGBTQ+ families facing political obstacles across the country. Alexis is a senior business leader and strategist who has worked for two decades as an executive in global operations and product design for Fortune 100 enterprises.


She's let teams of over 200 people, overseen more than 40 brands around the globe, and, in that work, she's been a part of a number of important diverse business councils and initiatives to amplify the needs and experiences of LGBTQ+ folks, people of color and more. Both Nancy and Alexis are also LGBTQ+ parents raising children in the heart of the Midwest. And they've been such impactful voices on our Family Equality board. And what some of you might not know about me is that I worked heavily in the business sector before coming to Family Equality, so I'm really excited to dive back into my roots, talk a little bit about the intersections of business, pride, and parenthood with these two wonderful individuals. And let's say hello to Nancy and Alexis. How y'all doing?

Alexis Kantor (02:17):


Nancy Lyons (02:19):


Jaymes Black, President & CEO (02:19):

My Texas accent came out. How y'all doing?

Nancy Lyons (02:22):

I liked it.

Alexis Kantor (02:23):

Yeah, real good. I don't ever want my bio to follow Nancy's though.

Nancy Lyons (02:30):

Oh, are you kidding? You're like global teams. 4,000 people bow to me on the regular, and she was in the local paper. You're fine.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (02:39):

That was in the notes. I didn't say the bow part, it was in the notes.

Alexis Kantor (02:43):

I love you two. I love you two!

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (02:44):

So we're going to start off — we start off with an icebreaker to...I don't think we need icebreaker, [but] we're going to start off with one. Anyway, the icebreaker that I want to start with is that I'm putting together a playlist of songs suggested by our podcast guests. And so I'd like to ask you both, what song should I add to the Family Equality playlist?

Alexis Kantor (03:07):

Alright, I'll kick off. I've been listening to this on repeat lately, so it was the one that I've been thinking about because makes me feel good. But Brittany Howard "Stay High." So...I mean she is an incredible talent and when you hear her voice, I mean it makes the hard days better and the bad days....You hear this amazing voice. She's kickass.

Nancy Lyons (03:33):

She is.

Alexis Kantor (03:34):


Nancy Lyons (03:35):

That's been on my playlist lately too.

Alexis Kantor (03:37):

Love it!

Nancy Lyons (03:38):

Just like, oh, she's so good. But the one that I chose was Beyonce's duet with Miley Cyrus from the "Cowboy Carter" album. "Most Wanted." And actually it was sent to me by my friend Megan. It's really a ride or die buddy song. Yeah, Megan is also a friend of Family Equality, and it's been on repeat ever since. Love it.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (04:00):

That song is, I don't even know how to describe it, but it's wonderful. It puts you in the mood and you want to send it to all your best friends and your siblings and all the people that you love in your life.

Nancy Lyons (04:13):

I'm going to send it to both of you when we're done here.

Alexis Kantor (04:16):

It was playing in our car when I had a bunch of 17 year olds [there]. I mean it was just blaring, and we did the whole...it was all of it. It was real fun.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (04:23):

Oh, I love that. Is that Gen Alpha? The Gen Alpha folks digging the album?

Alexis Kantor (04:27):

Well, I think I have the end of Gen Z in my house right now.

Nancy Lyons (04:33):

That must be what mine is too.

Alexis Kantor (04:34):


Jaymes Black, President & CEO (04:36):

I guess that's it. Well, I'm so happy to have you both on the show today. So we're going to start off with our opening question because we have a lot to talk about. I'm really excited to get to it. So the opening question that I start with all the guests is that - this platform is about talking about challenging topics and so the time to as we "come out with it." So in your experiences, what is one thing, wish people knew or understood about business, or parenthood, or pride, or any combination of those topics.

Nancy Lyons (05:11):

We're so worried about jumping on each other!

Alexis Kantor (05:13):

Yeah, I'm like, who wants to go first?

Nancy Lyons (05:16):

You go ahead.

Alexis Kantor (05:18):

Alright. I think for me, as I read the words, "business, parenthood, pride," we make them separate things. And I wish people thought about the whole human. I am not a business leader, and then a mom, and then have pride in my queerness and Jewishness. I show up — we all show up as whole intersectional connected humans. And so, if I think about the conversation we're going to have today and why pride month tends to be challenging, it is because we forget that we are part of one big community and our identities are...When we're at our best, they are connected and unified, and we're not trying to divide it all up. And we're seeking those similarities with others. [That's] why we have the conversation in business or in parenting or in life about what's hard. And I don't want to shy away from the hard conversations and it feels easier to me to do it when I say "This is all part of who I am and what we do every day."

Nancy Lyons (06:28):

Yeah, we share a brain. As you started, I knew where you were going, and I was like, "Damnit, I should have gone first." No, I couldn't agree more. I think that's the biggest issue. And quite frankly, I think the workforce is dealing with a sort of collective existential crisis now more than ever. I think moving through the pandemic and recognizing how much we're expected to manage in terms of how we present ourselves and share our creative energy is exhausting. And I think it's important for organizations to recognize intersectionality. And I sort of reject this notion that woke language is taking over the workplace. Actually we're starting to see people as fully dimensional human beings that require our respect and understanding and acceptance in order for us to expect from them their best work. So I don't think you can separate those things. It's who we are.


I have pride in my ability to be a parent. I have pride in my ability to be a queer parent and a queer business leader. And that's my identity. My identity is complex. I'm sorry that it's not easy for the world to understand, but none of us is —

Alexis Kantor (07:54):

But isn't everybody's complex?

Nancy Lyons (07:55):

Right, exactly.

Alexis Kantor (07:57):

I mean I loved what you said, Nancy, because it's like "woke"? No, we're talking about who we are and whether that means this Jewish queer person or a very religious Southern person. That's not about being woke, that's about owning what you're proud of and finding that connection with others, not othering others. And honestly, didn't we learn during COVID? I think about, I was part of a massive organization that had some historic results and in doing that, we did it in sweatpants or pantsless. And how do we start to break down some of those preconceived notions on what it means to be in business or in life?


And really we're all just trying to show up and do our best.

Nancy Lyons (08:46):

Well, and if I may, and we don't have time for us, that's what I know for sure right now. But this quote that I've been sharing a lot lately is by Paul Farmer, who was a physician and activist, and I am going to massacre it. But basically he says: All of the problems that humanity deals with can be distilled down to this idea that some humans matter more than others. And I think organizations, especially corporate organizations [or] business entities rely on hierarchy almost to a fault. And hierarchy has this implicit sort of baked in reality that some people do matter more than others. So it tends to reinforce some of the most problematic aspects of our culture without even trying. And I do think when we start to recognize that all humans matter simply because they were born, we're going to be much better off both at work and at home.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (09:46):

Yeah, I totally agree. And this is a whole other conversation, but I don't think it's about ridding ourselves of hierarchy. It is about the way that we approach hierarchy, and for me it's about using it as a decision making tool, using it in that regard rather than who matters and who doesn't.

Alexis Kantor (10:05):

Well, and realizing hierarchy and leadership is you are not better than somebody else. You are in a different position. And how do you use that power for good, right? I mean it's not

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (10:18):

Yeah, exactly. We're using hierarchy to oppress people. I think that's where he's going with it. Something that you've said Nancy, is...was also my experience about being exhausting, holding these multiple identities. Exhausting. Do y'all think that it's because we're having to show up separately or siloed in those identities rather than being this, you said, the whole person or something along those lines, Alexis. Do we think that's what it is? Because for me, I felt like I had to show up in different spaces as a business leader and then as a Black person, then as a queer person, and then as a mom. And that segmentation is, like you said, it's exhausting.

Alexis Kantor (10:58):

I don't know that I recognize the level of exhaustion, especially because I was known to be the out vocal queer leader in this corporation. I didn't realize it until I had made the decision to leave and the recovery that it took and the understanding that I actually loved my job, I loved my team. I didn't love that so much of what I had done had to. It was Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill every day. And I didn't realize that that rock coming down on me for 21 years...there was massive recovery needed. And when I think about that, that's what people are dealing with every day. How do we make these workplaces healthier? How do we have better conversations and how do we not need...And the very real privilege of me being able to step aside and take a moment to get healthy again because of that fatigue. I mean, I don't think we're talking enough about the very real health and mental impact if we don't take care of people and recognize the fatigue of others and recognize the lived experience of others who have to come in. What it took you, Jaymes, to show up at work is different than what it took me. And to be able to talk about that, honestly, again, I think it goes back to what Nancy was saying is we're all humans and how can we not start with the human conversation first?

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (12:29):

Yeah, totally agree. So one of the things I want to talk about is your role as board members at Family Equality and your role as business leaders. And I wonder...has being on the board of directors of Family Equality, you, Nancy, for quite some time — You also maybe four or five years, maybe even more. So you've been a part of the organization for some time. Did it shape how you, or does it shape how you show up in the business world, being on the board of Family Equality? What does that look like?

Nancy Lyons (13:05):

Yeah, it absolutely shapes how I show up. In fact, when I think about your last comment, I can delineate my career into sort of two parts. There's the part where I tried to play by the rules and tried to separate and then there's the part where I just accepted and owned my reality and lived out loud. And I think when I look at those two parts, the second half of my career, it feels more successful to me. And that's not about revenue, it's just about level of comfort, energy, enrichment, fulfillment, satisfaction. And I think that you said, I've been on this board for quite some time. I actually rolled off and came back. So it's been a ridiculously long amount of time. But part of it is I can no longer see how to separate my identity from the work that this organization is doing.


And that might be weird, but I feel like I made some conscious choices in my leadership journey to use the good work and the good reputation of my company as a platform to tell stories that aren't heard in business and Family Equality because it's so close to my heart. But also because I mean right now we're centering our conversation around our queer journeys, our queer experiences. But in my mind, the family construct has changed. We no longer live in post-war America where 2.5 white children are born to two cis-heteronormative parents. So the concept of family has broadened so dramatically. That is a story in and of itself. And so I think the work we do, a byproduct of the work that this organization does is about building respect for the way our culture is evolving, respect and equity and opportunity.


And that's important to me. So I think that the stages we get, the platforms we get in business are so important that it goes back to the first question you asked. I cannot separate my business from my reality and I owe it to my staff and our clients and the marginalized folks in our communities that don't have the same privilege, that aren't the CEO, that don't have the same opportunity to feel comfortable and congruent in how they live.

Alexis Kantor (15:55):

Well said. I came out as a teenager. I've always been out. And it was a challenge because then I always loved massive corporations. My entire experience just is in the big ones, and I love it because I think it's this corporate game that I loved being part of. However, when you end up at a company that you love and the first day somebody tells you, don't tell anyone you're gay, I didn't know what to do.


I was like, okay, there's a decision to be made right now. And the only decision that I felt was right for me because I couldn't separate who I am was, well now I'm gay for pay. You are going to get the gayest version of me because I'm not going to be told...Because if I was told that who else was told not to be themselves? Who else was told not to wear their hair a certain way, not to dress a certain way, not even invited into the room. And so I think there were some...I love what you talked about Nancy stages. I think I can see some clear stages. There was that very first day and the realization of what I was going to set as my foundation and thank God I have love and support in my life of my family. I think there was a stage that the company I was with made a huge mistake after Citizens United and my family was the vocal...the face when they made that mistake.


And you never want to see your spouse, yourself, and your 2-year-old with the word "propaganda" over it. So again, [it was a] pivotal moment where I get to decide "Do I stay? Do I go?" And I always stayed to have a bigger impact. And as that pivot happened, the very next stage was me having a bigger platform at work and getting involved with Family Equality thanks to Nancy and the confidence that comes when you don't just have support and love, you have connection and community and data and insights. And when I could show up, magic is possible, but it's hard. I think hitting each stage where it feels incongruent or you're faced with what's really challenging, we each have a decision. And honestly, I think about each one of you who have been there to listen to me and to support me so that I could stay at a Fortune 100 company, I could stay as an officer, I could make sure there was representation so that when others looked up they knew it was worth the fight. And I think doing it honestly with integrity...I think clear is kind. And so no matter what I pushed for, I did it out of kindness. I did it out of the idea of creativity, innovation and growth and business can be for good and for me it was the more confidence that I gained in Family Equality, the more I could show up in business. Just pushing, pushing, pushing for more.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (18:59):

Yeah, I love that. As someone who started their corporate career very early — before my thirties — whenever I would find a Nancy or an Alexis in the organization that was a business leader and was either a VP or President/Director and they were openly queer and they were also sitting on the board, I'm like "That's the person. I want to be that person. Let me lock arms with that person. Let that person mentor me, support me." So I love anyone in the audience who is a business leader, who has not sat on the board or can be safely open at work. Those younger generation folks are still looking for us. They're looking for that guiding light. Guiding light in a very tough corporate environment, especially now. And I love to pivot to that because we were going to talk a bit about the corporate environment as it stands today, rainbow-washing...


But I sort of want to take it a bit further where again, I came from corporate and I remember right before I left, it was post George Floyd and it was also Pride Month. And so you saw this increase in corporate support around diversity and inclusion initiatives and around anti-racism initiatives. Also leaning into pride and leaning into LGBTQ+ issues. [Flash-forward] to where we are today, when you see entire DEI offices, organizations, officers being terminated or the departments being terminated or...I don't feel that the effort that they had after George Floyd...I don't feel like that's there so much effort, at least what I thought was [an] embracing of issues that they should have embraced a long time ago. So when you think about, and you guys are in Minnesota, so this probably better than anyone, what happened [with] George Floyd both being leaders and probably seeing entire departments from a perspective totally disappearing. And then you also think about where they are from an LGBTQ+ perspective. We've seeing that support also backing away. So what do you think is causing, what is going on and how can corporations who need us...I think about the pink dollar, which I call our money, how important is that? How important that is? What is going on and why are they not thinking about the pink dollar and LGBTQ+ power?

Alexis Kantor (21:31):

Oh, good lord. Fear. Lack of courage. I think to be a leader today, it takes a massive amount of integrity, accountability, and courage. I think you have to show up with some vulnerability and empathy. And I think about all the amazing leaders I have been grateful to be around. And in the worst moments I watched them fail. And again, it goes back to humanity. I think if every year pride comes around or Black history month comes around or Hispanic heritage, you name it. And if every year it feels like your company has to take this massive stance that starts to create the "us" and "them." It starts divisive conversations. And I think about proactive strategic thought here. Proactive partnerships with movement partners so that you're not standing alone. I think about experiences that I've had at my previous company where what would happen, diversity breeds innovation and creativity.


And without that you don't have business growth. Purpose-driven companies have exponential growth beyond what others do, and it is hard to be purpose driven and really stand in your values. And so why not be proactive? Why not? I'm going to use Target. You're Target. You're part of [muffled]. You're part of all of these organizations. What would it look like to get every retailer together during pride and stand firm in just being affirming to all queer people, non-binary folks, trans folks? How do you think about this differently? When I think about corporations there are so many leaders who have been trained in on this old antiquated way of being a leader and thinking about strategy and thinking about pre-competitive moments. And I just think the solutions of 2024 and beyond are not going to be found in 2019 or 2015. And so I think we've got to be a conscientious corporation.


It's going to take courage. It's going to take partnership. It's going to think about pre-competitive spaces because honestly, to do right by the people and planet is not for one company to win. It is for us all to be part of and build a bigger village. I mean, it sounds very simple, but again, for some you're just slapping a rainbow on a cup. For others, you're trying to put more out there, and you want queer product for queer people. I mean it's so fascinating when you think about the balance. You want maybe the rainbow flag in Nebraska for an ally mom who wants to buy that, but you also need to show love to the queer community, and that's going to look different. So again, I think it is about massive collaboration, being strategic and proactive and bringing people along with you so you're not standing there all alone facing the fight.

Nancy Lyons (25:08):

Yeah, I totally agree. You have experience in retail. I don't, but I do know that I think what we're feeling right now is a pretty dramatic pushback against capitalism. And when I think about the pressure to be busy, to perform, to deliver...That is internalized capitalism, and we all suffer from it. So we put a ton of pressure on ourselves. I mean there's this sort of relatively quiet conversation, but it's getting louder about how the 40 hour work week wasn't designed for people to be parents and commuters and wives and fathers and whatever. And so there is this conversation happening among a traditionally disempowered - the workforce. And I think that as it continues to bubble up, we're going to continue to see changes. I also think that what capitalism did was made us compete for numbers. Performance is measured with data. The data is numbers, it's revenue, it's output, it's efficiency, it's productivity and the stuff.


And so to your question too, Jaymes, about why don't they want the pink dollars? Well, they do want the pink dollars, which is why pride has often been associated with a marketing opportunity. And what happens then is rainbow washing happens purely for optics, which is what Alexis touched on. But there's no strategic or substantive changes or support or alliance as a result of that. It's one month of rainbow T-shirts and then it's sort of over. And I think that's the limited time products are the problem that doesn't address the systemic issues that affect the people inside of that organization, the customers and communities that they serve. I also think it is counter to a successful marketing campaign expectations in that it leads to skepticism or criticism from the general population. I think that the awareness of rainbow washing and performative action is growing among consumers and internal staff or employees because I think people are becoming more discerning, which is why we're seeing people leave organizations because the organizations don't align with their values.


It's why we're seeing people say, I'm not going to eat cereal anymore. I'm done with cereal from this particular company because they're recognizing that they actually aren't powerless and they can call out performative actions and demand transparency and demand that organizations show up and treat their customers, all of them as fully human. And I think that shift, that shift with the traditionally disempowered is prompting organizations to sort of reevaluate their approaches. But I think they have to be super aware of whether or not in that reevaluation, that reevaluation on its own is performative. Alexis made the critical point. It has to align with strategy, it has to align with values, and everybody in the organization has to believe that this is the direction we must move in in order to evolve. And that also impacts hiring strategies and how we skill and staff our departments, our teams, our divisions. So there's so much involved. And I agree. I think what kind of power would it be for organizations the size of which you mentioned to align with organizations of similar magnitude and stand in line and say, actually this is where we're going now. This is where the world is going. These are the people we're making products for. It's a broad swath of differently abled, differently identifying human beings, and we're here for them, all of them.

Alexis Kantor (29:35):

It feels so easy, yet it is so hard.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (29:44):

Hard for the organizations? Because I mean, I guess I agree it's hard, but I guess what blows my mind is that these organizations who do back away from...from having products on the shelves are not understanding the economic power of queer people. So it's almost like they see us transactionally. So we do want the pink dollar because...This is just me summarizing what I think they think is that: "We know you want to buy the rainbow shirts in June and we're good with that," but this sort of integrated approach, their DEI and their products and who they're serving to me, it's like... Do they not see us as an economic power within the economic community? In that if you are only transactionally for us during June, but you're not in July and August, et cetera...You'll also lose our dollars. And it feels like to me like they're not thinking that way. And so how are they not seeing that queer people have economic power? That's what I [want to know.]

Alexis Kantor (30:46):

Well, and you're balancing, right, the queer dollar versus a bigoted dollar, unfortunately.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (30:53):

Which one weighs more? Which one has more value.

Alexis Kantor (30:56):

I think about, for me, I was raised without pork because I was Jewish. I didn't want pork taken out of grocery stores. I walked by it and never purchased it. It's the same thing. If you don't want to buy pride gear, you can walk right on by, nobody is putting it in your cart. Nobody is asking you...That is not making you gay. But I think there is a way to have these conversations, and we have to be honest because when this pushback comes, we have to be willing to have harder conversations because again, who are we policing in stores when white Christian people lose their mind in a Target...They're not being policed the same way a Black body is being policed. And so I think, again, you can't just surface level fix this. You've got to unpack every piece of it because again, it goes to your internal employees seeing it.


And when you have fallen back on pride, your Black teamers are now wondering, are you going to not do this to meet our reach goal? Right? There's all of this stuff. And at the end of the day, with DEI under attack, DEI is best served embedded in every part of your business, every part of your business as part of a P&I owner. It's embedded because you cannot deliver business results without ensuring you are meeting the needs of every community you serve.

Nancy Lyons (32:35):

Yeah, again, we share a brain. I want to hug you because I do think that most organizations make the mistake of making it a third party consultant issue, an initiative, a special HR operation, and it becomes an island that cannot thrive and it suffocates and dies, and then they say, "Well, it's not working anyway." And to your point about pork, yeah, let's talk pork.


Let's talk pork. I mean, honestly, it sounds almost ridiculous. It sounds so obvious that it's ridiculous, but when you think about where we are headed, I'm often amazed that we have politicized human beings and that the DEI conversation has become part of a political conversation. And now we want to legislate instead of recognizing that freedom of choice is baked in to the liberties that are offered to us by our constitution, instead of recognizing freedom of choice in all ways, we are now trying to determine what choices are. Okay. And we're going to vote on that, or we're going to vote for a representative to decide on those things. What choices are okay, what choices are not. So when you think about it, it makes sense that organizations struggle with this because we are struggling with it at all levels of our culture. I do think that part of what's happening too, and let's call it out, is women and people of color, queer people, differently abled people are not represented on boards of directors and in leadership of large organizations with the kind of power that we're talking about.


And the people that are represented are used to the world being for them. And they're also not used to the discomfort that comes with — and this is what's necessary to do what you suggested — the discomfort that comes with putting a stake in the ground and dealing with the subsequent ebb, the inevitable ebb in your sales, in the conversation around your brand. But the realities around how culture evolves, suggest data, suggests stories and history, suggest that we will move back to our successful times. We will see that flow again. And I was just in a conversation this morning where this piece came up, the DEI piece, and one of the things I said, there was the thing that Benjamin Franklin said, right? We want to put the right of women, the bodily autonomy of women up for a vote in states, or we want it to be reflected in how we vote for the highest offices.


We want to put the legitimacy of LGBTQ+ families up for a vote or to be determined by courts that are appointed by folks who have been voted for. Benjamin Franklin — who, whatever, love him or hate him — made a very important point early on as a founding father. He said — and this has been pointed to time and time again — you cannot let the majority decide on the rights of the minority, which is what happens in these organizations when the majority is white and cis and male. Let's be honest. And they're making decisions for white cis males. They are not impacted by the same experiences that the rest of the world is. So there has to be another way, or we have to find allies who are accomplices, who are willing to move through the discomfort and the pain of change.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (36:22):


Alexis Kantor (36:23):

Preach it.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (36:25):

Amen. And so I have often said to people that I do think our corporations been sort of playing this middle ground for quite some time, dipping their toe into the DEI pool, into the LGBTQ support pool. And that middle ground is slowly diminishing. And to your point, Nancy, you're going to have to put a stake in the ground and if you support us, then you support us. But sort of having this sort of, "I'm in and out" performative knot, "we have DEI now we don't, that doesn't exist anymore." You're going to have to choose a lane. That's the moment that we're in too, is that a pivot has to happen strategically. And I think they're afraid, and it's almost like they don't know the history - that we will come back around to our successful times. They don't know that history, so they freeze.

Alexis Kantor (37:10):

Well, I also think people aren't using data. The data's there.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (37:13):

No, there's no way.

Alexis Kantor (37:15):

And it's interesting, as I think about before I left an organization, [there were] lots of arguments. It's like, "The data says this." It's like...actually it doesn't. You have to be willing to look at the data. You have to be willing to see that trend. You have to know you have to be more futuristic in your business acumen. And none of this should mean people have to make choices. For me, I love being a business leader, but I was never going to walk the tightrope and toe the line of saying there are two perspectives on non-binary and trans humanity as a parent to trans and non-binary kids. That was my line. And it's really interesting when you're forced to make decisions when that line has been crossed. And my goal is that nobody has to do that because companies and organizations are willing to do the hard work, have the challenging conversations, because honestly, if you're not going to have them about this, you are not having them about something really critical in your business and you aren't going to be successful in the future.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (38:26):

Yeah, totally agree. So that brings me to our next question around what support looks like for corporations who want to support the LGBTQ+ community. As we know, pride is upon us, and one of my friends lovingly calls pride a tap dance because it's when corporations are reaching out to all of us and they want us to speak and they want us to show up and they want to show their support. What does authentic support look like if they truly want to support - and support even sounds maybe too light of a word - they truly want to embrace the LGBTQ+ community as an important part of this country, your employee population and outside their employee population. What does authentic support in your opinion, look like for corporations going into this pipeline?

Nancy Lyons (39:18):

You want to go? You want me to go?

Alexis Kantor (39:20):

You want to go first?

Nancy Lyons (39:21):

I'll go first. Sure. Okay. Well, I think support, if it's done authentically and meaningfully starts with listening and learning. I think it starts with making real connections inside and outside of your organization. I think it requires integrating inclusion in a meaningful way in a real way. Alexis said this earlier, and I think this is part of all of this, you have to weave it into the fabric of your culture. And it can't just be a once a year event. I think you have to educate and train. And that's...Let's stop calling it DEI, let's just call it professional development. Let's do the training and the work and provide that training for our workforce to foster the inclusive environment. Because sometimes people are blind to their own biases. And I think that training on LGBTQ+ issues and biases and allyship really is the first step toward ensuring that people understand the importance of inclusion and what it means and what it will do for your business.


I think you have to support - we use the word support, but I think the big dollars of these large organizations means that we need them to financially support LGBTQ+ organizations like Family Equality. I mean, I think that one of the hardest conversations we have is with large organizations because they're trying to figure out how to make everybody happy. But I think it's really important when you put your money where your mouth is and go beyond symbolic gestures. I think promoting visibility, I think people like Alexis's position in her last role. I have no doubt that she amplified and mentored folks that had similar experiences. But I think going beyond just one person's advocacy and promoting visibility inside of the organization, but also through your marketing, through the public statements that organizations make through active participation in pride events, but events throughout the whole year.


And then I think the most important, I mean in addition to authenticity, which we've touched on time and time again, is hold yourself and your organization and your people accountable. Because if you find out first from your customer that you've been caught, you're doing it wrong, it's holding yourself accountable and reconnecting around those things that you're trying and having active conversations about what's working, why it's working, how you could do better next time.

Alexis Kantor (42:02):

Preach it. I think progress means you're going to make mistakes. Great organizations, great leaders stand tall and say, "We made a mistake. I am sorry." End. End sentence, not a bunch of excuses. And I think when you're doing that, you also have to know you have to start internally first. If you externally tout all of this stuff and you do not live up to it internally, you are best advocates, your best ambassadors or your internal employees who are calling you out for being full of [bleep], pardon me.


Here's one of the things that I think is so important when we're talking about this, and I'm going to use another company as an example. When you stand firm in your values, people know who you are and still make choices. So I look at Ben and Jerry's. They don't mess around. They're crystal clear. They fight for all the things, all of it as you should, and they sell as much ice cream in Walmart as they do in Target. And so I do think companies have to know that when you stand firm, you may lose somebody in the short term, but the loyalty you gain in the long run is it, right? Because again, are you going to chase the bigoted dollar that will only be there — and may not even be in your store! — or are you going to go after the future and are you going to build up those communities so they have the dollars to both be employees, have a seat at your table and be changing your business in the future?

Nancy Lyons (43:40):

And I just want to say one thing. As somebody with massive experience in retail, what do you want? It's the repeat dollar because customers are fickle. So that word loyalty is what every organization is striving for. And there's so many gimmicks in that space that people are trying. And the truth is we don't need gimmicks, we need humanity.

Alexis Kantor (44:04):

You got it.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (44:06):

So I really appreciate you both taking the time out of your busy schedules to talk with me. And before we go, I wanted to ask you a closing question. So as you both know, the movement for equality hinges not only on fierce honesty, but also on fierce hope. So what's one thing you're fearlessly hoping for in the future? And what's one change that you'd like to see in the world?

Alexis Kantor (44:26):

Good Lord.

Nancy Lyons (44:29):

I'm going to just go out on a limb and say, I'm fearlessly hoping that we are raising our children better than our parents raised us. And I don't want to put the weight of the world on them, but I do want to believe that the generations coming up now see the world, see, actually recognize the humanity in one another. They're not so concerned about categorizing labeling and mattering more than [others]. They're more concerned with valuing one another. So my hope is for the future and the young folks that will move us to it.

Alexis Kantor (45:10):


Nancy Lyons (45:11):

And what was the second half of your question?

Alexis Kantor (45:14):


Nancy Lyons (45:16):

I want to see mindsets change. I want to see people recognize that you can hate all you want, but people aren't going to disappear because you hate them. And the greatest conflicts in world history happened because of hate, and it did nothing for us. It did nothing for us. So I think people don't just disappear because you don't like 'em. So figure your own stuff out before you decide to vote for or against another person's right to be fully human.

Alexis Kantor (45:48):

Again, hive mind. [Completely the same] for me. The fearless hope is kids, hopefully that we've done the work to raise good ones. But I was blown away. My kid loves anime, loves it. Conventions, dresses up, does the whole thing. I got to watch this little group, this little threesome of a cis straight kid, trans boy, and a non-binary kid, all just supporting each other to be exactly who they are in every moment in life. We all deserve to have communities, villages, businesses support us and see us for the amazing humans we are because we all are. And I think about change, and I think about what I'm going through and the transformation of being part of a massive organization making the decision to take a step away. And I hope as I'm going out there and exploring that, I'm going to meet organizations that are courageous and are going to take chances on leaders that are a square peg in a round hole, because it's going to be that square peg that is going to be that innovator, that is going to be that kind disruptor that is going to be the change maker for your future.


And I hope that for me and others, they're going to find their place because we need a lot of those square pegs and round holes.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (47:23):

Thank you to both of you so much. This has been amazing, and I'm so grateful for you that you are board members and friends, and now you're friends of the Out with It podcast. So it is my firm belief that true equality can only be achieved if we work together: businesses, nonprofits, community groups, legislators. It's going to take all of us. So Alexis and Nancy, thank you so much for being part of the Family Equality family.

Alexis Kantor (47:51):

And Jaymes, thanks for having us.

Nancy Lyons (47:52):

Yeah, this has been fun. Love you both.

Alexis Kantor (47:55):

Oh, right back at you. Two of the best people right here.

Jaymes Black, President & CEO (48:03):

This has been a Family Equality production. As a leading national organization for current and future LGBTQ+ families, we work to advance equality through advocacy, support, storytelling, and education to ensure that everyone has the freedom to find form and sustain their families. I'm your host, Family Equality's President and CEO, Jaymes Black. Our producers are the communications team at Family Equality, and our amazing music is designed by Michael Koppelman. Special thanks to Clockwork for supporting this podcast, and special thanks to you for listening. The fun doesn't have to stop here. Follow Family Equality on socials @FamilyEquality for up-to-date resources, community events, insights from the movement, and ways to get involved. You can also follow me at @TheJaymesBlack on Instagram and TikTok. Remember, this is more than a podcast. It's a platform for change. So rate, subscribe, and review this podcast to help us spread the word. As always, you can support Family Equality and the amazing work we're doing on behalf of LGBTQ+ families every day by donating at donate.familyequality.org, you can also reach out to chat more about potential sponsorship opportunities. But for now, I'll catch you next time.