Op-ed OEX24-06

Op-ed by Beto Yarce: Celebrating Progress and Working Toward a Brighter Future

As leaders within the LGBTQ+ community, we celebrate the tremendous progress made in advancing equality, justice and inclusion in the 55 years since the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. We also recognize that this crucial work continues and remain committed to equality, justice and inclusion for our community and all marginalized people.

During Pride Month, we reflect on our journey so far. Just a couple of decades ago, it was common for most of us who identified as LGBTQ+ to live in fear of losing relationships with our families and friends should our sexual identities be disclosed. The fear of losing our livelihoods was very real unless we were able to pretend to be someone we weren’t. The self-employed refrained from being our authentic selves given that potential customers might refuse to do business with us and that it might be more difficult to find employees. 

Small businesses have frequently been at the forefront of both recognizing and accepting those who identify as LGBTQ+. Many entrepreneurs welcomed those who felt excluded from other businesses by providing safe spaces to gather, build networks and simply be ourselves. These included coffee shops, bookstores and other centers of communities. 

While attitudes towards acceptance have evolved in the ensuing years, unfortunately, there are many within our community who are still excluded and unsupported. While we continue to address and break down these barriers, we’d like to recognize that numerous recent successes have helped to ease some of these challenges, thanks in full to the hard work of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. For example:

  • GSBA was founded in 1981 in Washington State and is now the largest LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce in North America.
  • The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber created a best-in-class diversity certification program for LGBTQ+ businesses in 2004.
  • Forward-thinking businesses throughout the state and region have joined together to encourage customers and businesses to welcome those who identify as LGBTQ+.
  • LGBTQ+ businesses help power our national economy to the tune of an estimated $1.7 trillion annually while generating thousands of new jobs in our local communities each year. 

Pride Month is an ideal time for those who strive for a more inclusive world to be intentional in our actions and words. We are unified in our belief that advancing entrepreneurship is key to financial independence, prosperity and the betterment of our families, communities and nation. We believe that entrepreneurship also contributes to our personal feelings of well-being, accomplishment and connection. 

We ask you to join us during Pride Month to stand together in support of the American dream of business ownership. This includes advocating for small business, working to eliminate barriers experienced by those facing discrimination and connecting them to resources. Regardless of what Americans believe in other arenas such as politics, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research, Gallup and others, the overwhelming majority of Americans trust small businesses and strongly believe in their importance including how they shape and support thriving communities. 

Whether you currently own a business or are thinking of starting one, there are resources available through supporters like the U.S. Small Business Administration, GSBA and other local organizations. There are also trainings and resources specifically designed for those facing challenges due to being LGBTQ+. 

Leaders within our community and our allies work diligently both in the spotlight and behind the scenes to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live their authentic self and is recognized for their inherent human value. 

We are committed to rolling up our sleeves to advance entrepreneurship as a means to financial independence. We agree that this can be achieved via fair and equitable access to business opportunities, capital, training and entrepreneurial resources. We believe in the American ideal that progress and prosperity is only achieved when we treat all others with dignity and respect.

We invite you to stand with us during Pride Month in our support of the American dream of small business ownership.

Won’t you join us in this journey?

For more information on how the SBA can assist your small business start, grow or expand, please visit www.sba.gov. Para Español visita www.sba.gov/es.


Ilona Lohrey is President and Chief Executive Officer of GSBA, Washington’s LGBTQ and allied

 chamber of commerce, which was founded in 1981 and represents over 1,400 businesses.


Beto Yarce was appointed by President Joe Biden to oversee 

the SBA’s programs and services as the agency’s Regional Administrator for the

Pacific Northwest serving Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.


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About GSBA

GSBA was created in 1981 and is now the largest chamber of commerce for LGBTQ+ and allied members in North America. With more than 1,400 members, GSBA provides a supportive platform for entrepreneurs, small to medium-sized businesses, corporations and nonprofits dedicated to workplace diversity and equality in Washington State.  To learn more, visit www.thegsba.org .

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov

Media contacts

U.S. Small Business Administration