A new feature on the Lyft app might make ridesharing a better, safer experience for LGBTQ+ and gender-nonconforming passengers. As announced on May 30, Lyft has become the first rideshare app to allow passengers to share their pronouns with drivers before entering their requested rides, by letting users add their preferred terms into their profiles on the app.
The feature is part of the company's Pride campaign launching in June, but riders can start adding their pronouns in ASAP. The options given by the app include he/his, she/hers, they/theirs, an unlisted pronoun, or "prefer not to respond." As stated in a release from Lyft, the update is designed to show respect for nonbinary and transgender passengers who use the ridesharing service, but any person can select their preferred pronouns as an act of solidarity or effort to minimize gender assumptions.
However, the new feature comes with one major oversight: drivers cannot communicate their pronouns to passengers via the app in the same way. In an email to Mic, a Lyft spokesperson said that this might change before long. "We're rolling [the new pronoun feature] out to the passenger app first, but look forward to providing our drivers the same opportunity," the spokesperson said.
It's good that Lyft intends to let drivers have this option down the line, but it's disappointing that it's not currently allowed. Like their passengers, rideshare employees deserve to have their names and identities respected; having to correct a passenger's incorrect pronoun use can endanger a driver, just as not correcting a passenger's incorrect pronoun use can be emotionally damaging to a driver.
Still, employees aren't totally ignored in Lyft's new Pride campaign. The company has partnered with the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) to provide support for drivers looking to legally change their names. Free resources and advice on the name change process will be available to drivers starting in June, and Lyft will offer $200 financial support for name change fees on driver's licenses, in partnership with NCTE.
The company also announced that in June, they'll be partnering with storytelling nonprofit Storycorps to share the tales of LGBTQ+ elders, in addition to facilitating donations to LGBTQ+ causes like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), by giving riders the option to round up their fares to the nearest dollar and donate the extra to the organization of their choosing. Lyft does not match the donations, but a spokesperson notes that the company did donate $100,000 to various LGBTQ+ causes in 2017 as part of its partnership with HRC through Round up and Donate.
Lyft's 2019 Pride Campaign is labeled "two is too few," based on the concept that offering just a male and female box for user profiles is not sufficient to the diverse range of Lyft users. "It’s not only outdated, it’s wrong and hurtful. Two is too few recognizes the beautiful and very real spectrum of LGBTQ+ humanity," read a news release for the campaign. The company's efforts to support and give back to the LGBTQ+ community are commendable, but it's still frustrating that at this time, at least, drivers can't benefit from the company's changes in the some ways as their riders.