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When I was first coming out two decades ago, I knew that being gay put me at risk for discrimination. I remember being 16 and seeing hate crimes on TV. I learned early on that there were places where I wouldn't be safe. This influenced where I decided to go to college, where I decided to live, my areas of study, and my career.
The fear and anxiety I felt while coming out is still part of the daily lives of many in the LGBTQ+ community. While progress has been made, discrimination continues to be a reality for many -- and in most states it's legal. A lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person can still be denied housing, employment or public accommodations for their sexual orientation or gender identity in 28 states. The lack of federal protections in this area has created a confusing and insufficient patchwork of laws that can differ by city, county, and state. The fact that housing discrimination still exists today hits me particularly hard as I've grown my career at Trulia, a brand owned by Zillow Group and focused on building a more neighborly world. That's why my colleague and president of the Zillow Group Pride Network, Chris Mielke, and I decided to use our roles to make a meaningful difference.
In the summer of 2017, Chris and I chose to address this legal form of discrimination. During Innovation Week, we built a proof of concept for a feature using data from the Movement Advancement Project that would help home buyers and renters understand what laws are in place to protect fair and equal treatment in housing, employment, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Knowing we had support from Zillow Group, we then worked hard with teams across the company over the next few months to bring the feature to life.
On February 8, our vision became a reality. Trulia launched the Local Legal Protections feature on its property pages to display what legal protections exist for LGBTQ+ individuals in a given jurisdiction. Reflecting on how it felt as a 16-year-old to wonder where I could live and work safely, it means so much to me to work in a place where my ideas and values are respected and encouraged. As we discussed the risks around how it might be received, the consistent message we heard from leadership was: "it's just the right thing to do."
Bringing this product to life and observing its positive reception really opened my eyes to the tremendous opportunity -- and responsibility -- that organizations have to make a difference. Our Local Legal Protections feature is one of a handful of mainstream products I can find that directly serve the LGBTQ+ community. Regardless of industry, every company has the chance to make a positive impact on the world.
Many companies debut a new rainbow-colored logo during Pride Month to showcase their commitment to inclusivity. But it's time to go deeper, to ask the question "How can we do more?" I can tell you from personal experience that the answer to that question will come from your employees. Recruit a variety of people who represent your customers. Ask your employees what issues and communities they care about. Ask them what products or services would serve those communities. Then, empower them to run with those ideas.
Pride Month is an opportunity for companies to show their commitment to LGBTQ+ rights. Through products and services that directly serve this and other communities, companies can take proactive action to make our country more equitable.
MATT KAYE is the director of product for Trulia.
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