Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are helping others and making a positive impact in the world.


Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.


May 30, 2024

Thomas Ryan-Lawrence | Q+ Equality Foundation


Thomas Ryan-Lawrence

Thomas Ryan-Lawrence is the Executive Director of Q+ Equality Foundation headquartered in Atlanta, GA. Follow on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube and learn more at qplusequality.org.



My name is Thomas Ryan-Lawrence, and I am the executive director of Q+ Equality Foundation, a non-profit working to foster Q+ Equality in the workplace. The work we do not only focuses on how companies can be more welcoming of their Q+ workforce but also on how Q+ individuals can help lead the way in fostering innovation and strengthening the workplace culture for all people. Creating Q+ equality is a dual responsibility!



I spent the better part of two decades working toward LGBTQ+ equality from the consumer side with The Gay Community Yellow Pages and, later, Gayborhood. As my experience in human resources and DEI grew, I noticed how the “standard DEI” practices lacked a simple and pragmatic approach to actually solving the issue at hand, which is the lack of Q+ equality in the workplace. Our team is changing that.

Thomas Ryan-Lawrence

Thomas Ryan-Lawrence is the Executive Director of Q+ Equality Foundation headquartered in Atlanta, GA. Follow on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube and learn more at qplusequality.org.



Most people know that Q+ employees fear being completely out in the workplace. But what most people don’t know is that 85 out of 120 business leaders tread carefully around Q+ situations for fear of the repercussions of “getting it wrong.” The fear is mutual.

There will always be missteps in life, sports, and business, but a misstep in a well-intentioned move – such as the ones Bud Light, Target, or Disney took in support of Q+ equality, which ended up biting them. We want to encourage more and more companies to take these bold steps, no matter how small.

There are so many videos on social media showing people getting pronouns wrong, trying to correct themselves, and being told off for not getting it right. This does not help; it stops people from trying. We want allies to feel confident in trying and improving, not expecting them to get it absolutely right the first time.

I am a business owner, have been a Q+ job seeker, and have faced challenges as a member of the Q+ workforce. Before any of this, I was born a Q+ person and know that at times, my own community can make it harder for us to progress. This is why this work is important to me. Achieving Q+ equality in the workplace is possible tomorrow with awareness, understanding, and the right mindset.



In late 2022, we embarked on what was initially an experiment in a select few schools. Our question was simple yet profound: Could we guide Q+ graduates away from workplaces where they felt the need to conceal their true selves and accept lower pay and instead steer them towards environments where they could thrive and earn what they truly deserve? The experiment quickly gained momentum. More schools joined our mission, and word of mouth spread amongst Q+ talent.

Then, companies started paying attention. That’s when we knew we could do more. We started helping these workplaces become places where the Q+ workforce feels seen, respected, and valued.

Today, we stand as a bridge connecting the Q+ workforce of all ages with companies across various industries. Together, we’re committed to fostering workplaces that are not just welcoming but also more productive, truly recognizing the value of every individual.



I remember getting my first job offer after graduating college. It came with a contingency: I needed to “butch it up” in front of the conservative clients. Well, little did they know that I “butched it up” for my interview! While I can look back now and share that story with laughter, it really was a blow to my confidence as a Q+ job seeker. To have the biggest characteristic I was hyperconscious of being used as a bargaining chip…well, it crushed me. Sadly, interchanges like this still happen today, and I want to change that.

Years later, I entered a leadership role with a small company. I didn’t have the experience, yet there I was, a mid-20s early career professional leading a multimillion-dollar sales team, some of whom were twice my age. Little did they know how scared I was, how inadequate I felt. I know what it was like to be a leader and not have the resources I needed at my disposal. Our team is solving that problem for leaders today regarding Q+ equality in the workplace.



Big strides have been made in gender and racial equality over the decades, though we’re not completely there yet. Respectfully addressing societal beliefs is not easy and requires many factors to align, which takes time. Thus, Q+ equality is likely to follow a similar path. Yet, in the workplace, we have the power and a simple, pragmatic way to change this narrative now. The opportunity to champion Q+ equality in the workplace is not just possible; it’s essential.

We have developed an innovative approach that removes the burden of hiding one’s self and creates an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance and respect…for all people. We call it the Q+ Equality Initiative, and it’s taking off like fire! Focused on four main pillars of service: Talent Acquisition, People Leaders, Workplace Empowerment, and Equal Commitment, the QEI has already been adopted by organizations like AppLovin, Gartner, and REI.

The BIG dream for the impact we want to make is having the QEI implemented in as many organizations as possible, whether small businesses, medium enterprises, or large conglomerates. For each new company that becomes a member of the initiative, it’s an additional workplace actively promoting Q+ Equality throughout the year.



A big challenge we face is creating unity between the various generations that make up the Q+ workforce. While Gen Z is seeking out mentors in leadership positions that identify as they do (Q+), Gen X and Millennials typically wish to keep their identity separate from their roles; they don’t want to be known as a Q+ team leader…they just want to be known as a team leader. Additionally, many Gen X and Millennials in the workplace don’t necessarily understand or accept the continuously expanding landscape of sexual orientation and gender identity. Without the willingness to be accepting from both sides, we have a divide within the Q+ Workforce itself, the very group that is so desperately seeking Q+ equality in the workplace.

Another challenge is separating the desire for societal Q+ equality from the need for Q+ equality in the workplace. There are three categories every single person should fall into in the workplace: Q+ workforce, Q+ ally, and Q+ observer. The first two should be self-explanatory; the third is a newer concept introduced by Q+ Equality Foundation. A Q+ observer is someone in the workplace who acknowledges the presence and rights of the Q+ workforce without diving into advocacy debates. They are all about the neutral vibe on Q+ matters. They may be supportive in spirit, as it relates to Q+ equality in the workplace, and be less engaged in active participation. It’s important to note that personal beliefs should have zero influence on how a person treats someone else at work. If someone allows their personal beliefs against Q+ people to be used as a scapegoat for not respecting others in the workplace, they are not a Q+ observer – they are a Q+ detractor and should find a place to work where Q+ equality is not a core focus (program).

On a personal note, it’s been a challenge to realize that true Q+ equality has a long road ahead. When women’s rights are being rolled back, gender equality is under attack, and racial equality has yet to be achieved, equality for Q+ people will take time.



Q+ equality in the workplace is essential to the success of organizations. Sometimes, those with strongly held religious beliefs feel as though we’re trying to change their beliefs or “push the Q+ agenda down their throats.” This statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

Just as we ask Q+ people to be respected and welcomed in the workplace, we are happy to do so with our adversaries as if they were allies. We are not here to change anyone’s beliefs; rather, we work to ensure everyone displays appropriate behavior while at work.

We want to be a bridge, not a toll booth.



For the first five or so years of my son’s life, I really struggled. I struggled to balance being a successful entrepreneur and a successful father. And then, I heard Shonda Rhimes’ Dartmouth commencement speech. This quote stays with me every single day. It reminds me to forget about “having it all” because perfection is impossible.

“If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.” – Shonda Rhimes



Simply put: Get involved!

The Q+ Equality Initiative (QEI) is a simple, pragmatic approach to fostering Q+ equality in the workplace. We hear a lot about celebrating during Pride Month, and trust me, we love a good celebration! But a celebration for 30 days doesn’t necessarily mean that Q+ equality is a part of the daily culture at your organization. We’ve worked with organizations as small as 25 people and as large as 55,000. Whatever your organizational landscape looks like, we’d love to be a resource for your organization. So, become a champion for Q+ equality in the workplace – request more information yourself or make an introduction to a decision maker on your team.

Secondly, know what category you fall into and remember, there is fluidity here. You may be a member of the Q+ workforce, a Q+ ally, or a Q+ observer. Whatever category you fall into in a situation, own it. Don’t try to present as a Q+ ally when, in actuality, you’re a Q+ observer. Be willing to have slightly awkward conversations, when necessary. The flip side: respect the category others align with. If someone informs you they are a Q+ observer, don’t try to shift them into a Q+ ally. Allow them to be where they are and be their authentic self.

We are all a work in progress. Each passing day, we aim to get better. Accept feedback with the positive intention with which it was given.

Finally….remember that every person deserves at least a moment of your kindness.



At Orapin, we believe those who are working for the greater good should be known, supported, and celebrated. We help purpose-driven organizations generate consistent media coverage and thought leadership opportunities to increase awareness, influence, and impact. If you would like to be featured in INSPIRED IMPACT™, reach out to hello@orapin.co.