Being an ally for the LGBTQI Community often comes with unwarranted challenges; however, Tony Nabors allows his empathetic spirit to prevail.
To be an ally of a community you’re not a part of, sometimes people will believe you more, which again it shouldn’t be that way, but that’s just kind of how it is, and so there’s a lot of opportunity and responsibility.– Tony Nabors
Tony Nabors Interview
Tell us about yourself and what drives you?
Tony Nabors: I’m the founder and principal consultant at Tony Nabors Consulting. Through my consulting, my mission and vision help organizations and institutions center the most marginalized people on their teams and in their communities and with their clients, especially with a big focus on racial equity.
Also, recognizing that there are a lot of other areas that really need attention and focus too, like gender issues, discrimination against LGBT people, age ableism, and all those sorts of different things that needed to be strategized around so that everybody gets the best opportunities to thrive in society and that is the stuff that I’m passionate about.
I’m married and have four boys, so we’ve got a very big family. I’ve been working in diversity, equity, and inclusion for about 18 years. I’d say it’s my most significant life passion outside of my family.
In addition to my work, I love photography, which is one of my favorite hobbies. I love pretty much anything that has superheroes in it, like movies, even if it’s a terrible movie.
What is the story behind Tony Nabors Consulting?
Tony Nabors: The story, at least to me, is kind of funny. I’ve been working in this industry for pretty much my entire adult life. Whether that was my job to do it or not, I was working with people because I’m passionate about this work.
Then I came to a place where I just had a lot of interactions with people that wanted to pull from my experiences, knowledge, perspective, sometimes start arguments with me, but didn’t really value my experience and just sort of expecting that I could be on call any time they want to have a conversation about this work and not realizing that it’s very exhausting to have conversations about race and to teach people things and help people to figure out how to move in, to work and operate.
I think my aha moment came when some of my acquaintances and friends were starting their businesses. They started saying, “Hey! You know I value what I have to offer. So it makes sense I should require compensation for what I have to offer, and just pretty much any other area of expertise that people have is the area of expertise people desire. People will usually pay for those sorts of things.”
It also helps people get more serious with the information you give them when they have some skin in the game. It is one thing to have a really good conversation, and then it’s just really kind of discouraging when people don’t do anything with the information that you’ve given them. But when they have some investments in the conversation, they are likely to do something with the information you provide them.
My wife knew years before I knew it. She already saw me being an entrepreneur. So that’s kind of our story together that she always knows things years before I figure them out. Eventually, I figure it out, and then we move forward together. So, in 2018, I just decided to go for it.
I see that you have the pronouns He/Him/ His, and based on our conversation before the interview, you are a straight cisgender and heterosexual married man with kids. Is that your way of being inclusive or being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community?
Tony Nabors: I’m happy to share about it. Just as I’ve learned, this is something that has just been a gift of my life experience. I had a season, maybe five or six or seven years ago or something like that, where we were just kind of all in the same window.
Several of my closest friends came out to me, and I just learned this is part of a journey. You know, queer and a lot of different ways play out for many people, so it helped me just sort of to say: “oh, my goodness, I want to learn more about your story. I want to learn more about your journey.”
We already have relationships and trust together. I appreciate you sharing these things with me, and I would love to learn more about your journey so that I can continue to grow. And something that I’ve learned is that it takes so little effort for me to say: hey, my pronouns are he, him, his, and I hope that as someone who is cisgender and heterosexual, when we normalize using pronouns, then it doesn’t make it a big deal for somebody who might have pronouns that you don’t expect but to make it normal not to assume people’s gender and just right out of the gate.
My name is Tony. My pronouns are he, him, his, and then go on with whatever the conversation. This is because if there’s someone where maybe people might assume their gender-based off on their visual appearance, it kind of lowers the pressure of self-identification and then hopefully makes the space safer for people. This is something that, again, I’m deeply passionate about.
I want people to thrive and be their full selves. There are spaces where I can take my lived experience as a heterosexual Black man in ways where I know that I’ve had to struggle and fight just to feel like I can be my full self in all these different experiences of the world. I can use my experience as a jump-off point for empathy.
Of course, I don’t know what it is to be LGBTQIA+ because that’s not my life journey. But I can at least have a sense of empathy in terms of understanding and seeing things differently.
Thank you so much for being such a great ally. What advice do you have for individuals who are homophobic or transphobic?
Tony Nabors: So that’s an interesting question that I’ll answer in a couple of different ways because of something I have learned. I’ll try not to go too far into the weeds here. There is something with human psychology that’s called the Backfire Effect, and that’s something that I teach about often when I’m leading workshops.
The Backfire Effect states when humans have their co worldview challenged, the brain will respond to that in the same way that it will react to a wild animal attack like that level of intensity and freak out and defensiveness and all those sorts of different things.
What’s more interesting is even when it’s challenged to a core worldview supported with facts, with data, with statistics, with stories, all that sort of thing, the human brain, by default, will dig in even further into their currently held perspectives, even if they are factually wrong.
So, we have a gift when we know that’s how our brains work and can take steps to resist that and disrupt that.
People’s ideas about human sexuality usually fit into a category where when you challenge them, you prove it and show that by default, they can get defensive on their perspectives again, even if they are just wrong and even if they caused a lot of harm which is why I’m always thoughtful in thinking about and trying to be very strategic about conversations with people who are homophobic or transphobic or hold those sorts of views and perspectives because in general, it’s hard to change people’s minds when they lockdown on a particular perspective.
I find that when I have an opportunity for someone who is curious or is asking questions, or is interested in my perspective, I think that’s a gift. As someone who is heterosexual, people can’t as easily dismiss my perspectives on LGBT rights because they can’t assume that I’m just trying to do what I want to do. After all, it’s not for me; it’s for other people.
To be an ally of a community you’re not a part of, sometimes people will believe you more, which again it shouldn’t be that way, but that’s just kind of how it is, and so there’s a lot of opportunity and responsibility.
The other half, I would say, I always try to lean on people’s sense of empathy and lean on people’s understanding of humanity. I try to have a strategy of the head and the heart, so whenever I’m trying to convince somebody of something having to do with people, I lean on the head and the heart. That’s usually my best strategy to try to change somebody’s perspective.
Thank you so much. This was amazing.
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