Cleveland and Columbus offer an LGBTQ+ business certification process. So why aren’t any businesses actually certified?

LGBTQ+ Business Enterprises are part of an intentional effort to create jobs, provide opportunities and build equity...if people sign up. Since 2014, more than 25 public entities — such as Houston, Miami Beach and Nashville — have signed on to offer the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)’s process to certify Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs), including Cleveland and recently Columbus. But despite great fanfare in announcing the new program, few businesses have actually signed up.    

Cleveland was one of the first cities in the U.S. to offer LGBTBEs, opting into the NGLCC program in 2015. The advertised benefits include networking, an online business directory and training on how to secure government contracts. But while the certification has been available for seven years, there currently aren’t any companies with LGBTBEs listed on the city’s online directory.

Coming out while stuck inside: LGBTQ+ youth and young adults face unique mental health risks as pandemic rages on

When Tyler, a sophomore at Cleveland State University, started hormone replacement therapy two months before spring break, the last thing he expected was to spend the rest of the semester with his parents in Westbrook, New York. Tyler had been living with three other trans students he befriended through CSU’s LGBTQ+ Student Services before campus housing closed in mid-March. When Tyler moved in with his parents, they were still uncomfortable with his trans identity and were not using his preferred pronouns (he/his). 

“I wasn’t out in high school and college was the first place I felt like I was actually able to be myself,” Tyler said. “I felt like my sense of community was ripped away all at once.”

Those first few months of quarantine, when Tyler didn’t have a laptop and couldn’t access CSU’s online counseling or the LGBTQ+ center’s virtual drop-ins, were emotionally rough. “The conversations I had with my parents were conversations I was not prepared for, especially being on hormones.