Transcript: Truly Become An LGBTQ+ Ally & Run An Inclusive Business With Hank Paul

June 29, 2023

HANK PAUL: “Figuring out ways to speak to your community that's still on brand but still is inclusive of all people. And I think it's so important because when I speak about, you know, being inclusive of all people, then that natural argument against that is, ‘No, no. I know who my niche is. I just want to speak to my niche.’ But there are probably people within your niche that you have left behind because you're not using inclusive language.” 

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY PORTERFIELD: Oh, I'm so excited to tell you about this podcast that I think you should listen to. But to be quite honest, I think many of you are already listening. It's the Goal Digger Podcast by my girl Jenna Kutcher, and it's brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals. So the Goal Digger Podcast helps you discover your dream career, with productivity tips, social strategies, business hacks, inspirational stories, and so much more. I love all of Jenna's episodes because they are the perfect mix of actionable-meets-candid conversations. She'll cover things like how to improve your website and your email copy to how to say “Screw it” to your morning routine. You’re going to love it. So listen to Goal Digger wherever you get your podcasts. 

Well, hey, there. Welcome to another episode of the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast. 

I can't even tell you how excited I am for you to listen to this episode, because today we are talking about a very important topic that should always be kept top of mind, and that's LGBTQ+ inclusion. Yes, my friend. We're going to dive into what being an ally really looks like and how you can be more inclusive in your business and why being more LGBTQ+ inclusive can help your business's long-term growth. And by having these conversations about these issues, here's what happens: we help create a world where everyone is valued and respected, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And for me, that's really important. And I've got so much to learn. And I have some beautiful friends in my life that are part of the LGBTQ+ community and some beautiful souls on my team as well. And I'm just really, really proud of this episode because it's a conversation that needs to be had.  

Now, a lot of the conversations about LGBTQ+ inclusion didn't start happening until kind of recently, so you still might have a lot of questions about the whole topic in general. You might even roll your eyes at some topics that come up around this, and I'm not going to judge about that because we've all been raised a certain way. We all have different opinions and thoughts about this. But I hope that you will at least listen through of this entire episode, keep an open mind, and just think, “Is there a different way I can look at this that would actually allow me to help other people feel seen and heard?”  

And here's the deal: you might even feel a little intimidated or confused about how to truly become an ally and commit to an inclusive business. And yes, it's a daily commitment. And if you have feelings about this episode—and you'll hear me, when I just start the interview with my guest, you'll hear how I feel about having this conversation as well. I just put it all out there. But the truth is, there aren't many resources available to business owners on how to be a true ally and run an inclusive business. At least, I don't find a lot of these conversations out there. And that’s why I wanted to invite my dear student Hank Paul on to the show.  

Hank is an award-winning wedding photographer, a writer, and queer-inclusion strategist. They are the author of the book Queer Owned, and creator of the digital course Authentic Allyship Academy, where they teach students how to “inclusify” their businesses and become confident and knowledgeable allies. I love the work that Hank is doing to make a difference in this area. So with that, let's get to it.  

Hey, there, Hank. Thanks so much for coming on the show. 

HANK: Thanks for having me, Amy. I'm so glad to be here. 

AMY: I'm really glad you're here, too. And I want to tell you, just to be really honest, conversations like this sometimes make me a little nervous. I'm afraid to say the wrong thing or go down a weird road that maybe I shouldn't go down or anything like that. And I'm guessing you work with some people that feel a little nervous to kick off these conversations, or maybe not. 

HANK: Absolutely. Absolutely, Amy. This is so normal. So I think it's important to state from the top that for people who, you know, even people who have a lot of queer friends and people who've been, you know, engaged in the community, they still are afraid of saying the wrong thing a lot of the time. Like, it’s so normal. And I think, like, part of what the work that I do is about is trying to demystify some of those, you know, that feeling of awkwardness and uncomfortability and make sure that people feel like, actually, even when we feel awkward, there's a space for us to have these conversations. And if we make mistakes, it's just part of being human.  

So, I mean, I've got a lot to share today. We’ll definitely get into it. But I mean, thank you for sharing. It’s so normal. And I promise that, like, I can hold space for awkward, and it's okay if you make mistakes today, Amy. It's okay if people make mistakes. Like, that's so normal.  

AMY: I appreciate you saying so. It kind of sets my mind at ease just to be myself and to really get into a really true, meaningful conversation.  

And before we do that, I would love for you to talk about yourself. Like, tell me a little bit about your personal journey.  

HANK: Yeah, absolutely. So, I'm assuming most people listening to this podcast aren't aware of who I am, so I'll give a little introduction and, yeah, share my personal story, for sure.  

So, I'm Hank, and my pronouns are they/them. I am a non-binary human living in Sydney, Australia, and I was raised in a fairly conservative home and conservative community. I went to a very religious school, and it had associations with my local church, and I was brought up in that church community. And so, I think that for the majority of my, like, adolescence, the messaging around queerness was always negative. It was always associated with something that was wrong with a person. And for a really large part of my life, I internalized that into, you know, my own queer phobia and was afraid of what that might mean about who I was and my identity.  

It was through the church that I actually started my first business. And I mean, like probably a lot of your entrepreneur friends, Amy, I mean, I started in wedding photography— 

AMY: Oh, yes! 

HANK: —so it's a very common story. But I was mentored by somebody in my church in starting my business. And I remember when I was explicitly taught how to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in that business. And I was—clearly, I wasn't “out” at the time, but my mentor, who was also a wedding photographer, received an inquiry from a queer couple. And he came to me and he said, “Hey, like, just so you know, like, this is what we do when we get this sort of inquiry because we don't want to be associated with this sort of person.” And, you know, kind of walked me through, how do we handle it? And essentially, we were discriminating against these people because of their identity. And that planted this seed that took so long to get rid of of, like, self-hatred and really, you know, feeling like my business success needed to be completely separate from my genuine, authentic identity.  

And it was in 2017, Australia had quite an unnecessary vote on whether or not to legalize marriage equality. And everyone in the public was asked to vote and give their opinion on something that had clear, broad support from all governments at all levels. But because of just some of the ways that the conservative side of politics were working, they said, let's put it to a vote. And that did a lot of damage in the queer community. And so I found that it was in that environment where I realized that I needed to use my voice and speak up, and so that was, for me, the early stages of coming out and coming out as a queer-owned business. That was, like, scarier than coming out as queer; it was coming out as a queer-owned business.  

AMY: Wow. 

HANK: I think we think so much about, you know, as entrepreneurs and our identity is so caught up in what's the work that we do, and what's the impact that we have? And so much of my work at that time was tied to people in the church getting married. And coming out as queer owned then meant that I was no longer a desirable choice for a lot of people in my, at that time, my niche, my ideal community. And it was a real process to then figure out, well, who is my ideal community, and what are my values, and how can I build a business that is in alignment with my queer identity? And so what I do today is pretty much a result of all of that, which is really just helping to champion and empower people to connect with LGBTQ+ people in their businesses, and do it in an authentic way.  

AMY: So tell me this. You alluded to this a little bit, but what ultimately inspired you to become so passionate about advocating for LGBTQ+ inclusion in businesses? I see how you got there, but why were you, like, “You know what? This is something I have to champion, and I have to get to be a part of in a really big way”? 

HANK: It's a big question. And I think, you know, for people listening who are queer, and they'll understand that coming out is often a big process, and you have to learn a lot about yourself and unpack a lot of your own internalized queer phobia. And I don’t know if there was a specific point that then got me to say, “This is exactly what I need to do to support my community.” I think it was a journey. And, you know, I think that journey—the catalyst, I want to say, was this vote for marriage equality and the harm that was experienced by people in my community. It's—I mean, it sounds dramatic, Amy, if you weren't here, and if you're not queer. But honestly, to this day—it's what? Five, six years later—it's still a topic of discussion within my community and with my friends. And we're constantly unpacking that trauma because what happened was there was a platform given for people to tell us why our, you know, why we didn't deserve to have the same rights as our hetero counterparts.  

AMY: That is traumatic. When you put it that way, that is traumatic.  

HANK: Yeah. Yeah. It was really tough.  

AMY: Yeah. And so for you, that was a moment that you thought, “I have to start speaking up. I have to do something about this.” And have you changed your career, meaning have you moved away from a wedding photographer to doing this advocacy work full time? 

HANK: So, I'm still mid pivot. It's a slow process. But essentially, the way that this began was then as I became a voice speaking up about what was happening in the wedding industry, people were coming to me and saying, like, “Can you help me?” People in the wedding industry were saying, “Can you help me inclusify my business? Can you look at my website and make sure I'm being inclusive? Can you make sure that I haven't said anything wrong?” And I was like, “I need to monetize this somehow.” 

AMY: Good for you. Yes, you should. 

HANK: Yeah. Yeah. And so then I would say it was probably six months ago that I then began that transition to say, “Well, it's outside.” Oh, sorry. “I want to scale beyond the wedding industry, who I've been serving.” And, you know, I've created a digital course, thanks to DCA. And, you know, that was all targeted for people in the wedding industry. And now it's like, actually, you know, I'm working with copywriters; I'm working with financial advisors; I'm working with hairdressers. Like, being able to authentically connect with LGBTQ+ people is so important no matter what your market or your niche or your industry is.  

AMY: Yes, so true. Okay. So because of that, here's my next question. What are some specific ways that my listeners can be more LGBTQ+ inclusive in their own businesses that they might not even be aware of? And I am sure I'm going to learn some things here for my own business, too. So I'll be taking notes.  

HANK: Yeah. Look, I have created a whole course on this, Amy, and there are— 

AMY: I love it. 

HANK: —dozens of things that you could be doing, and it's going to be really hard to unpack it all. But I mean, let's give you just a topline level of where to go.  

AMY: Perfect. And we'll link to—I want to link to your digital course in our show notes.  

HANK: Yeah. Thank you. So I think the first thing is when we want to connect and be inclusive of LGBTQ+ people, a really great place to start that feels manageable, I want to say—like, you know, let's start with some small wins, right? Like, it can be overwhelming if we try to be perfect. And as we said at the start, like, we're all going to make mistakes. So let’s, like, just have a really clear baseline of what can we do today, and then maybe, what can we look at doing in the future? 

So I would encourage everybody to really think about their ideal community right now, and think about, what role does gender or sexuality play in the assumptions that you make about the people that you try to serve? Well, that you do serve, not try to serve. Let's be confident. You're serving your community. You're doing a great job. I'm sure you are. But are you, whether it's intentionally or unintentionally, are you missing out on people because you actually haven’t explicitly been inclusive and going out of your way to be inclusive? 

So let me get more, like, practical here. I see so often, Amy, when people are creating their ideal community or their customer avatar that they will explicitly say, “It's a woman in her thirties, and she's earning x number of dollars.” Now that's great. That's helpful to a point. But you and I both know that actually what's much more important than that is what is she afraid of, what does she desire most, and what problems is she coming up against that we can try to solve? Like, those psychographics, what's actually, like, the driving motivating factors in a person's decision to buy is so much more important than someone's gender identity or sexuality. And so what that means is we need to—like, I would encourage people to focus much less on a person's gender in the language that they use and focus much less on the assumptions that there's always a mom and a dad at home, for example, because those things are not inclu—that's not inclusive language when it comes to how we speak to our community. And if we hone much deeper into the psychographics and the motivations and the desires of our ideal community, those demographics become less important in the way that we market and the way that we speak. 

AMY: Wow. That's really valuable for me because, as you know, I teach this ideal-customer avatar. And we have struggled over the last few years about how to make that more inclusive, because we want people to think about, like, “Close your eyes and think about your ideal-customer avatar. Who are they? What are they all about?” But I love that you said focus less on their gender and more on their challenges and their pain points and what's keeping them up at night. That right there is something that is very doable.  

HANK: And I mean, I don't want to discount the importance of gender in a person's identity and then how they are spoken to in a market, right? Gender is important to a lot of people, but then it's going, like, that next step of, “Great. Well, if I'm here to serve women, am I just going to say women? Or do I say all women?” And that could be cisgender women, transwomen, or non-binary people who want to fall into that category, you know? Like, it's how can you broaden the scope of even that definition within your ideal customer or ideal community to make sure that you're going out of your way to communicate that you're inclusive.  

AMY: I love that. That is really valuable. I'm going to make sure my team listens to this, especially my content team. I love that. And marketing.  

Give me a little bit more. So if we're talking about, you know, different things that people can do to make their businesses more inclusive, what's another way to do so?  

HANK: Absolutely. So building on that, I think once we understand that, “Oh, there's this whole portion of the market that maybe I've accidentally forgotten to speak to because they haven't actually accounted for them in my ideal community,” then you start to realize, “Oh, I've got ‘Hey, ladies’ on my website,” or I've got, like, you know, my background in weddings. It's like, “Oh, I photographed brides and grooms.” And it's like, what is the gendered language that is used in your messaging that you can actually go back and review and find alternative ways that is still in your brand voice? I'm not trying to get people to not sound like themselves. We want to be authentic allies, right? So figuring out ways to speak to your community that's still on brand but still is inclusive of all people. And I think it's so important because when I speak about, you know, being inclusive of all people, then that natural argument against that is, “No, no. I know who my niche is. I just want to speak to my niche.” But there are probably people within your niche that you have left behind because you're not using inclusive language.  

And so if we can actually—you know, I teach in my program about, like, how to actually go through your entire website and analyze it for inclusive language. We're talking about, you know, when you are asking someone to fill out a form. Like, you know, particularly this, you know, it's always industry specific, but say you’re a gym owner or a personal trainer or someone, you might be asking, you know, directly, like, “What's your gender?” And have you got options for people to select non-binary, for example?  

Or, you know, when you are selling clothes online—like, this is something I come across at the moment because I'm just on my own beautiful fashion journey at the moment—but buying clothes, right? Like, everything is segregated into men's clothing and women's clothing, but actually, like, clothing has no gender. And I don't know who decided what can be appropriate for a man to wear and what can be appropriate for a woman to wear. I just want to wear bright, colorful floral clothes. Like, that's what I'm wearing today, you know? I want to wear my pearls and my makeup. But so much marketing around that is targeted to just women. And there are just so many ways that we can just shift our language to be more inclusive.  

And I feel like I'm being a bit, like, broad and vague about it, because it can go in so many different directions. And it does start with understanding your own industry, your niche. But there's just an element of, “Am I going to take the time to check this out and ask the question, is anyone being forgotten when I'm speaking?”  

AMY: It's a great question. Is anyone being forgotten when I'm speaking? I love that question.  

You said something that I hadn't heard anyone say before, when you said to be an authentic ally. That's what you said, right?  

HANK: Mm. 

AMY: And I liked that word authentic, because, as, you know—I have a lot of the same experience in this conversation I've had around during the Black Lives Matter movement and being more inclusive in that way as well. And sometimes as I navigated that—and I'm nowhere near being perfect at that either, but it's something we spend a lot of time on in our business—sometimes in the beginning I didn't feel authentic. I would say or do something because I didn't want to get in trouble or I thought I should say it this way. And that doesn’t feel good. You know, it doesn’t feel authentic. So when you say an authentic ally, can you kind of talk about that a little bit more why that's important? 

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HANK: So why is being authentic in your allyship important? Because the opposite of authentic is performative, and performative allyship is hollow, it's ineffective, and in some cases, it actually causes more harm. If we pretend that we're doing a good job all the time and that we pat ourselves on the back because we are “being an ally” in a way that's performative, we haven't moved the needle. We haven't impacted anything positively. And if we just congratulate ourselves for the most basic of things that doesn't change anything, then what's the point at all? And so I think I would just challenge people that authentic allyship means actually impactful powerful allyship.  

AMY: I agree. And I think that if I'm not being authentic, I will not continue to do it. It's going to fall by the wayside. It’s going to happen when people are looking at the most intense times, and then it's not going to be anywhere in my messaging a year from now. So I think the more authentic I can be, the more consistent I will be in showing up in that way. So I love that you said that. I'm going to remember that, for sure.  

HANK: Yeah. I just want to jump in and say, like, as an example, just purely based on the conversation that we've had so far, what, for me, is, like, a great example of authenticity in your business is if you don't do the work on your ideal community, if you don't do that background work—or, you know, like, it's about getting the roots right before we can grow the tree right—if you don't do the stuff that's unseen, then the stuff that is seen feels inauthentic, because if you start using inclusive language but you know that in your little brand-strategy guide, your ideal community is still just women between thirty and forty, then when you then go and use inclusive language, it is inauthentic because it hasn't permeated into the rest of your business strategy. So that's, like, an example, just based on what we've talked about. An example of what could be performative allyship is when you go and do the thing that's visible without doing the stuff that's unseen.  

AMY: Yes, that absolutely makes sense.  

So kind of to take it back to a little bit bigger picture, when you were talking about these different strategies that we could use to be more inclusive in our business—I guess, I mean, I should know this, but I want to hear it from you, as more of an expert than I am—why is this important for business owners? Especially in 2023 and beyond, why is this important? I think it's important to be a good human being, but I'm guessing it's more than that.  

HANK: Yeah, absolutely. There's, you know, what I would just call is the moral imperative to do the right thing.  

AMY: Right. 

HANK: Absolutely. I hope that people feel inspired just by that. If that's not enough for you— 

AMY: That is a good way to put it. If you need a little more. Yeah. 

HANK: —there is absolutely some commercial interest in this as well.  

AMY: Yeah. That’s what I was kind of getting to. 

HANK: Yeah. Yeah. Of course. 

AMY: It kind of feels a little weird to talk about it, but I think it's important.  

HANK: Yeah, no, absolutely. And we're running businesses. We running businesses to make money. There's also some questions to ask about what else do we want. Do we want freedom? Do we want to run a business that's aligned with our values? Or are we going to sell out our values in order to make even more money? So knowing those sorts of fundamental questions is also really important to directing how much energy you put into allyship.  

I, for one, am all for a values-driven business, and I will not do something that feels like it's compromising my integrity, because for the sake of my freedom and my mental well-being, I have to feel really good about every decision I make in my business. And that's, you know, I account for things like what my impact on the planet is, and I account for what my impact on other marginalized communities will be as well. So that's my perspective. But I also want to make money. I want to run a profitable business. I totally get that.  

So for people who are, like, a little skeptical, I'll lay it out for you. People between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, who are generally kind of the adult portion of Gen Z right now, 20 percent of people in that demographic are identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community, 25 percent of Gen Z, broadly. So that extends younger than just eighteen. But 25 percent of Gen Z broadly are expected to change their gender identity at least once in their lifetime. So what we're talking about is a generation that's probably ten years away from being the dominant consumer market. Ten years from now, the biggest market of people who will have the money to spend—this is industry to industry, business to business. But probably within your ideal market in the next ten years, at some point, we're talking about 20 percent being part of the queer community. If your language is not inclusive, if your business model is not inclusive, if you are not seen to be advocating for and showing your allyship toward the LGBTQ+ community, you'll be left behind. And so there's this this kind of, yes, it's the right thing to do.  

Secondly, it's important if you want to keep your business growing and healthy in the next ten years. And ten years feels like a long way away. But as I say, like, this is, we're talking about people who are twenty-five today. And, you know, I started my business when I was seventeen. So like, I was making purchasing decisions as a business owner earlier than twenty-five.  

And then, thirdly, it's just, like, how do you want to be seen in the world: as a business that is contributing to making the world a better place, or do you want to be seen as a business that is silent, or worse, making the world a worse place? So there's brand reputation at stake as well. 

AMY: Yes, for sure. 

So tell me this. What are some of the biggest misconceptions that businesses have about the LGBTQ+ community or allyship? Like, what are some misconceptions that businesses have about allyship?  

HANK: Yeah. It's a great question. And in all of my market research and in validating my course and the course calls that I was doing, like, these are the things that I was learning and able to apply to the way that I market myself, right? And so it kind of—there’s three main things that I came up against where people had these misconceptions.  

So the first one is that I think a lot of allies believe that only queer people are qualified to talk about queer issues and to show, you know, some kind of level of allyship, that you as an ally, that you should stay silent all the time and let the queer people do the talking. And I would challenge that notion and say, again, if we bring it back to, what happened in Australia was we had this vote, whether or not we would legalize marriage equality. And that required the voices of allies and the votes of allies in order for us to reach that milestone of equality. So there is a role for allies to play in actually, you know, seeing things improve for people in the queer community.  

Secondly, I think a lot of people—and we talked about this a little earlier as well—will pat themselves on the back for something as simple as, “Well, I have a gay employee,” or, you know, “I have that queer friend that I catch up with once every six months. And so I'm connected in, and I'm fine. Like, I don't need to do anything more.” Now, I don't have any—I would encourage people to have gay friends and queer friends. I would encourage people to employ queer people in their businesses. Absolutely. We’re a hoot. We’re a good time. But it's not enough to just have someone in your orbit to then say, “Tick that box. I've done my work.” So there's still more responsibility on an ally's part to do the work.  

And thirdly—it's funny. I'm like, “Oh, we talked about this. Oh, we talked about this,” and we talked about this third one as well, which is this misconception that allies always say the right thing. 

AMY: Mm, yeah. 

HANK: It's just not the case. We all make mistakes. I mean, I'm queer, I'm non-binary, and I still make mistakes. It's the human condition. And what's more important is actually just learning how to make mistakes well, and that's an art form in itself, something that I teach. It's actually, probably, one of my favorite things that I teach, because it's so applicable across the board in life. Like, it will come up as a model that you can use no matter what mistake you make.  

AMY: Yes. Amen to that. I love that. I have about twenty full-time employees, and as of right now, eighteen of them are women and two of them are men, and both of the men on my team are gay, and I love them with all my heart. And I love that you said, like, “We're a lot of fun.” They literally are some of my most-favorite human beings in the whole world.  

HANK: Oh, I love that. 

AMY: But, you know, to tell on myself a little bit, I find myself being, like, “Well, I've got these—” Actually, I think I have three—not think—I have three gay people on my team, and I'm proud of that. But, like, I have to be careful of being proud of that. It's not enough. That's just how my business is set up. I didn't do anything as a great person to be an ally, and that's why they're on my team. I have a lot of work to do to kind of look at the other things in my business that will really represent where my heart is and what I feel is most important in terms of value. So I appreciate you saying that, because I've heard myself be, like, I don't know. I'm just like, it's just a thing that I just know that I've got these guys on my team. Like, I have no straight guys on my team. That was not by design. It's just kind of happened.  

So, but anyway, this episode really makes me think. And when you're working with people, let's say you're working with people like me and building my business and wanting to be a better ally, what are some of the things—this is kind of a weird question—but, like, some things that you just kind of, like, get frustrated with. Like, “Oh my gosh, if I could just help them understand.” Or where do you run into some struggles with the important work that you do, working for people like me—I'm a privileged white woman, who's had a lot of success online, and there's a lot of blinders that I've worked through and still will continue to work through—but I kind of want you to get vulnerable with me or honest with me. Like, what are some of the frustrations that come up with you working with people like me? I won’t take it personally, because we've never worked together yet.  

HANK: I could tell you just something that happened yesterday, actually. 

AMY: Okay. 

HANK: And it's, you know, maybe it's slightly adjacent to the exact question you're asking about, like, when I'm working with people. But this is a friend of mine who needed—okay, I'll build the context. I don't know if this is making it into the episode, the context— 

AMY: Okay. 

HANK: —but I'll just put it in anyway. 

AMY: Share it with me.  

HANK: So my housemate is a new wedding celebrant, and they have just done some paperwork for a couple who are getting married and needed to send it across to the marriage office and whatever. And there was one error on the paperwork. And we didn't know what the answer was to, like, fixing this problem. So I said, “I've got all these people who have done my course who are wedding celebrants. Let me call one of them up” —or not call—”But let me message one of them and ask them if they know the answer to this question.” 

AMY: Really fast. Maybe this is an Australian term, celebrant? I don't know what that means. 

HANK: Oh, yeah. Okay. Officiant. Yeah, you're right.  

AMY: Okay. 

HANK: That is an Australian term. Yeah.  

AMY: Okay, officiant. 

HANK: A marriage officiant, yeah.  

AMY: Okay, got it. I’m with you. 

HANK: So I sent a little voice message to this woman who has done my training. And I say, “Okay. So my housemate has got this problem with the paperwork, and they just need to know the answer to this question.” And then she replies, and she says, “Well, he needs to check this, and he needs to do this, and he needs to do that. And then for the person getting married, it's all about on his birth certificate.” So this person, who has done my training around unpacking biases and gendering people without knowing the gender identity, has gendered both my housemate and the person who is getting married as a man, using he/him pronouns. Neither of them were men.  

AMY: Oh, wow.  

HANK: So in their, like, answer to help a problem that we were just trying to solve, that made so many assumptions about the gender of the person that I might live with, the gender of the person who is getting married. And so I think, like, you know, again, I don't know how relevant this is to your question— 

AMY: Hank, it’s very relevant. I do it all the time, and I cringe. I also have a really bad habit of saying, “Yes, sir,” and “Yes, ma'am.”  

HANK: That's a very American trait.  

AMY: Very American, right? 

HANK: I spent a bit of time in the States, and I only get that in America. I don't get that in Australia. But yeah, and especially, yeah, it's just, like, a polite nicety that people will say. 

AMY: Yeah.  

HANK: Yeah. 

AMY: I feel like I'm being really respectful, and I was raised to say, “Yes, sir,” and “Yes, ma'am,” and it's not appropriate any more. And some people listening are rolling their eyes and they think, “That's ridiculous, Amy,” or whatever. I don't think it's ridiculous. I would really like to not gender people in that way.  

And actually, someone called me out on it in, like, the nicest, sweetest way a while ago. Actually, they called me out in this way, exactly what you just said. I asked her to tell me about her boyfriend, and she said, “Well, let me tell you about my girlfriend.” 

HANK: Yeah. 

AMY: And it just, it was nice how she did it. I caught it, and I was like, “Oh, I apologize. Thank you.”  

But tell me this. That situation, I love that example you used, when that person was saying, “Okay. He needs to do this. He needs to do that,” what should they have said instead? Because I really fumble over that. 

HANK: Okay. Great question, and yeah, I think really practical. As much as possible, if we don't know a person's gender identity, then reverting to gender-neutral language. So pronouns like they/them, which are my pronouns, but they're also a great default pronoun to use for everyone until we have confirmation. So in that response from my friend, from this officiant, she should have said, “Well, they need to do this, and then they need to do that. And the person who signed that, you know, thing with their birth certificate, they need to do this.” It's one of the best tools in the ally toolkit is gender-neutral language, because until someone confirms with you or until someone else has maybe confirmed on their behalf, we never know.  

And again, if we talk about the fact that Gen Z coming up, as they get older, one in four people in Gen Z are expected to change their gender identity at least once, people's pronouns, people's gender identities change. And that's okay. It's okay for people to change their gender identity. I think there's a lot of fear mongering around that. But the reality is that the closer we as humans become to finding our authentic self, the better we believe we need to be treated and the less shit that we'll put up with. I don't know if I'm allowed to swear. Sorry.  

AMY: No, you can swear. 

HANK: And, you know, I think we become a better society when we actually value ourselves enough to go, “No, this is my gender identity. This is how I deserve to be affirmed. This is how I deserve to be seen.”  

AMY: Yes. I love that. I talk a lot about how people in my audience, they deserve to have success in business building, and a lot of people who struggle to have the success, they don't feel like they deserve it. So when you say you deserve to have the pronouns that make the most sense for you, you deserve to change that, you have every right to change that if that doesn't feel right, that, I think, is so, so important. I love that you said that. 

HANK: Your students or your clients or your customers, they deserve to be seen and affirmed by you. That's customer service right there, right? 

AMY: Yeah. 

HANK: The more you can validate someone and make them feel seen and represented and, you know, and feel supported in your business, well, that's actually going to come back and do wonders in your own business growth as well. So it's something about —like, being inclusive is also about creating a more bespoke and specialized customer service.  

AMY: I love that. I love every minute of that.  

So, tell me this, Hank. If people want to learn more about you; they want to learn from you; they are brand new to allyship, and they want to kind of dig in a little bit more; how can they work with you? How can they find out more? How can they learn from you? Tell them where to go. 

HANK: So, I'm pretty much everywhere online at So that's my website. That's my Instagram. That's my TikTok. You'll find me in all those places. I would highly encourage people to go and download my guide, which is this Small-Business Allyship Roadmap, and this Small-Business Allyship Roadmap outlines the six steps to mastering LGBTQ+ allyship in your business. What happens from here is, I mean, and this is all the training that you've given me, too, Amy, but you download that, and you go on my mailing list, and each week, I'll send you new information and educational stuff and stories from my life and other people's lives that help you actually keep a pulse on things while you're still trying to figure this out, right? Like, no one's ready to make that jump into, you know, signing up for the course straight away. But really, it’s about taking on that self-responsibility of, “I want to educate myself. I want to become aware to the issues that the queer community are facing. I want to start to feel like I'm dipping my toe in.” And that's what my mailing list is about. Each week, I'll send you a word of the week. You know, terminology is often a big obstacle for people. I'll share different stories of my life, my business, and also, like, people in my community as well. So that's I would say, like, the number one place for people to go and just dip your toe in the water. You don't need to get everything right today. But yeah, that Small-Business Allyship Roadmap is a great start.  

AMY: And where do they go to get that?  

HANK: Well, that's on my, you know, on my home page, 

AMY: Perfect. 

HANK: You can also, you know, if you want to go directly there,  

AMY: There we go. I like a direct link right to that lead magnet. So that's perfect. And we will absolutely put it in the show notes. But  

HANK: Yeah, yeah. 

AMY: Great. We'll make sure to put that in there.  

HANK: And one more thing. I have just relaunched my podcast with my beautiful friend CJ Cruz, and it's called The Values Proposition. So you can hear us rave about values-driven businesses, interview business owners who are values driven. All of that is the good stuff on our podcast.  

AMY: Wonderful. Great. Then, I can't wait to take a listen.  

Thank you so much, Hank, for being here. I feel like you are such a very special person. I love learning from you, and I think my audience have gotten a lot of value as well. So thanks again. 

HANK: Thank you so much, Amy. It's been wonderful. 

AMY: Ooh, that was a truly enlightening conversation. I really, really love how Hank allows you to put your defenses down and really understand why this matters and what we can do to make a difference. I think my most favorite part is when he was talking about authentic allyship and performative allyship. I'm really sensitive about that. I am sure I have been performative in the past, and I might be in the future, but it's something I don't want to be. And so when he talked about being authentic, I thought, “Yes, this is what will really make it stick.” And when I'm more of an authentic ally, it will feel good to me. I'll want to do more of it. And I really thought that was important.  

So, what I'd love for you to do right now is think back over this interview and think of maybe two or three things that you can do right now to make your business more LGBTQ+ inclusive, whether it's making more people feel at home when they're on your website by tweaking some of that copy, or maybe it's having some conversations with your team members to get them on board, maybe have them listen to this episode. There are so many simple things that we can do right away to create an environment where people of all sexual orientations and gender identities feel welcome, respected, and safe.  

Thanks so much for joining me on this episode. And for those of you who maybe it was a new conversation or maybe one that you totally aren't ready to get behind, but you're a little, little bit open to it, I really celebrate you for that. I'm really glad you stayed until the end. I really do think that there's some work that I can do—I know there's work I can do—but all of us can do, just to make it a safer place and a more welcoming place for everyone.  

I love you to the moon and back. I hope you have a wonderful day, and I'll talk to you soon. 

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