Every June, as greetings of “Happy Pride” echo across the country, we recognize how fortunate we are to live in Westchester Country, New York, which is just north of Manhattan and a place that’s very friendly to the LGBTQ+ community.
In the theme of pride, we are proud of the contributions we’ve made to create a welcoming and inclusive community where we live and work. We were instrumental in bringing the Westchester County Human Rights Commission to life. The intent of this organization is to protect residents, employees and visitors from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation and credit.
What’s more, we worked to establish the county’s first fair housing law. On a regular basis, we participate in programs and organizations that foster education, awareness and understanding of diversity, unity and humanity.
We have also been long-time supporters and members of The Loft, our local LGBTQ+ community center and are highly visible at all of their events.
Being visible has been such an important part of our efforts, and we have always been open and upfront about being gay. We were partners in life before we became partners in business. We got married in September of 2011, shortly after New York state passed marriage equality on June 24, 2011, and were the first gay couple to get a marriage license in our town of Eastchester.
We often go on listing presentations together, and as part of our “getting to know you” conversation, we talk about being partners. Sometimes, people make the connection that we are married. Other times, it takes a few meetings before they understand we are business partners who are also married.
It’s always interesting to see the light bulb go off because we know that we have been accepted first as people and that acceptance is unconditional. We rarely lose business because of who are, and in fact, being authentic has allowed to create meaningful bonds with our clients.
We are often asked how best to serve LGBTQ+ clients. The answer, surprisingly, is that we treat them the same as all clients — with sensitivity. Each client comes to us with unique needs, so we respond with the highest level of personalized service possible.
For LGBTQ+ clients, there may be fear of housing discrimination, but that could be said for other clients as well. And while it would seem that telling an LGBTQ+ client where members of the community choose to live would be helpful and sensitive to their needs, we must be mindful of steering. However, we suspect there have been occasions where LGBTQ+ buyers have been denied by co-op boards.
Interestingly, because of our proximity to New York City, many of our clients assume there is an LGBTQ+ “gayborhood” in the suburbs. The Hudson Valley region is home to many LGBTQ+ families, where they are encouraged to live comfortably in any neighborhood they choose — no one community is more welcoming than another.
That said, we are certainly loud and proud in communicating our support of the LGBTQ+ community. Our most recent e-newsletter led with a large headline that read “Happy Pride!” We briefly considered whether we would risk alienating potential clients with such a visible demonstration of support, but we quickly realized anyone who was offended would not be likely to become our client.
And that’s not to say we wouldn’t try to earn their business, but we are never going to back down from our position of pride.
While Westchester County is LGBTQ+ friendly, we know there is still much to be done across the country. The Human Rights Campaign has found that at least 29 transgender or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. have been killed so far this year. If the current rate continues, 2021 could be the deadliest year yet.
New York is obviously one of the more liberal states where the LGBTQ+ community is largely safe and protected. However, we know not all are the same. There are 27 states remaining where it is permissible to discriminate against gender identity and sexual orientation in housing. It’s 2021. How can that be?
The Equality Act, which currently is in the Senate, is so important to us and our society. The LGBTQ+ community should have the same opportunities on the path to homeownership as every other group. Here are a few ways to make that happen:
Get engaged with your community’s appropriate governmental agencies that discuss LGBTQ+ issues. This will support your leadership role in the area by becoming known as an ally in the community.
Embrace the LBGTQ+ community, your LGBTQ+ agents, as well as your family and friends who have ties to LGBTQ+ community.
You have no idea how much it means to see the rainbow flag flying all year round or a window sticker from the Human Rights Commission or other LGBTQ+ groups in your business window.
Identify LGBTQ+ organizations and media outlets and support their efforts with your time and sponsorship. Think of it as another target market but one that requires engaging authentically.
While there are many remaining challenges that require our attention all year long, what better time than Pride Month for all of our industry to join with us to say, “Happy Pride.”
Barry Kramer is a broker-owner at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Choice Realty in Westchester County, New York. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Facebook. John Crittenden is a broker-owner at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Choice Realty in Westchester County, New York. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Facebook.