by Jessica Jansen, Senior Vice President and Small Business Banker Manager at Bank of America

This is a Content Corner guest article. Learn more here.

Being an Ally of the LGBTQ+ community took on a new meaning for me when I started volunteering for an organization in my hometown of Detroit called the Ruth Ellis Center.

I was helping out one day in 2016 when a teenage girl who identified as a Lesbian came in as a runaway. Her father beat her because she admitted to him that she was gay. She was terrified. Tears came pouring out of her swollen eyes as she told me, “I just wish I wasn’t gay.”

All I could do was hold her as she cried and tell her she was perfect the way she is. Thankfully, after more visits, the swelling subsided, we got to see her beautiful smile, and she began a new life being the person she longed to be surrounded by a supportive community.

I am new to Nashville. I moved here in 2021 for my job with Bank of America. I share this moment that I will never forget with you because I want to relay the importance of everyone being an Ally, not only in the month of June. Seeing the teenager’s pain fuels me to continue advocating for LGBTQ+ youth all year long.

Being an Ally is holding ourselves accountable for the support and inclusion of marginalized groups. It’s not defined by a single moment, but continuous commitment.

History has shown that the private sector has been a key driver in advancing equitable opportunities, workplace protections and benefits at times when public policy was deficient. In the workplace, for example, many of the basic resources available to LGBTQ+ employees today — such as domestic partner benefits or adoption support — were not always available.

Back in 1998, Bank of America was the first financial services company to provide comprehensive domestic partner benefits, as well as to include sexual orientation in our non-discrimination policies. A few years later, we were one of the first financial firms to expand our health insurance to cover medically necessary procedures for employees embarking on a gender transition.

I’m proud to be one of the 30,000-members of the employee Ally Program at Bank of America, which supports the needs of LGBTQ+ colleagues and issues that drive positive change and makes our workplace feel safe for everyone.

Whether you’re working to be an ally in your personal life or creating a company culture of allyship, the common ground and respect we find can create inclusion.

I hope you will join me in working together to help all of our employees, co-workers, family, friends, and community members feel comfortable in their own skin and be their whole selves.