Taking Pride

Diversity and Inclusion Work Culture

 

 

BY TREY GRAHAM

Taking Pride in Myself

In 2006, I arrived in San Francisco with a few bags but weighed down by the figurative burden of my entire closet. In my most silent, internal place, I knew I was gay and that moving to SF was the first step of coming out. The process of unraveling would take time and require me to first admit this to myself and then eventually to others.

I first came out to a group of close friends here in San Francisco and thought, ‘Ok, I’ve finally done it. Time to move on.’ I had no idea the energy and space it would take to truly come out after 30 years of self-repression.

In many ways, I’m still coming out and surprise myself by saying or thinking something, only to realize that it’s another step of the journey. Coming out is not a linear event on my life’s timeline, it’s part of my life story.

When I was in the closet, I didn’t understand the importance of what Pride represents to those who celebrate it–the expression of freedom. Luckily, I came out in San Francisco, surrounded by strong LGBT+ community leaders, activists, colleagues, and friends who became my second family. Their influence on how I feel about myself is immeasurable. It makes me wish I could talk to my 12-year-old self and tell him things will change for the better.

For me, Pride is a time to celebrate the beauty of going against the grain and the joy of self-expression regardless of who it pleases. It’s also a time to reflect on the countless LGBT+ individuals who suffered in silence throughout history and the struggles of those who risked everything to break down barriers—allowing me to live as an openly gay man.

Taking Pride in Pride

When San Francisco canceled its 2020 Pride celebration in mid-April due to the pandemic, the LGBT+ community mourned for approximately one hour and then got to work. Of course, we were sad to see our favorite parties and traditions move to a virtual environment or canceled altogether. But something happened in the community that excited me. I noticed an immediate sense of community, reflection, and activism.

San Francisco had planned to celebrate its 50th march/parade this year, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was happy they canceled it. Instead of a big anniversary blowout sponsored by corporations who ignored LGBT+ rights before they were trendy, the SF LGBT+ community had space to reflect and celebrate on its own terms.

Almost immediately, fundraising initiatives like the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlight Fund launched to support the Drag Queens, DJs, bartenders, and artists out of work due to shelter-in-place orders. Community leaders circulated articles reminding us of the queer history we celebrate during Pride month. My Facebook feed filled with virtual talks hosted by queer leaders throughout the Bay Area and the country. Even though the celebration was going to be more subdued, Pride was becoming ours again.

Taking Pride in Solidarity

When George Floyd was murdered on May 25th, the quiet celebration of Pride history quickly turned into a swell of solidarity for black lives. To have a conversation on Pride, the Gay Rights Movement, and the rights LGBT+ people enjoy today and leave out the fact that trans women of color threw the first bricks at Stonewall in protest of police brutality and harassment would be negligent. In fact, without the intersectionality of the Civil Rights leaders’ work, the LGBT+ community wouldn’t enjoy the right to marry, hold a job, keep an apartment, and participate in civic matters.

These same LGBT+ community leaders in San Francisco dedicated to gay rights and history quickly moved to throw the queer voice behind the Black Lives Matter movement. The Pride celebration we thought was going to happen shifted towards what I feel Pride week should be–a protest to demand awareness and equality.

When I attended the BLM protest in early June, I knew I was at home after seeing so many LGBT+ people show up in solidarity to defend the rights of the BIPOC community. I saw countless symbols and slogans from the gay rights movement, such as the pink triangle and “Silence = Death” and loved seeing my queer brothers and sisters march for black lives. I was even more proud to witness a group of queer people call out some non-BIPOC folks for leading protests chants, affirming this was a black-led space. We’re here to follow and lend our voices and bodies for this cause.

The struggles of Black Indigenous People of Color and the LGBT+ community in America are incomparable. They have different timelines, levels of brutality, and inhumanity yet they are indisputably intertwined. Black Lives Matter is a movement to protect all black lives, including gay, lesbian, trans, and gender non-conforming. So, fighting for gay rights means we’re fighting for black rights as well.

I am proud to see my community realize this, stand up in support and take to the streets for Pride is a Riot, June 28th.

“To honor LGBTQ+ freedom fighters who came before us to call for the liberation of black, brown and Indigenous people, and to demonstrate that trans and queer people are in this fight.”

Taking Pride at Work

I would have never imagined myself writing a Pride blog post for an organization I worked for and have it published. I’ve never hidden who I was in a professional setting but never went out of my way to tell people I’m gay until recently. My time at Future State has been a game-changer personally and professionally.

Future State is deeply committed to social justice and the cultural norms established by its leaders are taken to heart by team members. I believe this inclusive environment has enabled all at Future State to feel more comfortable as unique individuals, who can genuinely show up for our clients. We bring our full selves – our experience, perspectives, passion, humanness, and individuality, and we’re empowered to lead with our hearts, work in a way that matters to us while delivering real impact.

Organizational transformation is a continual process. The approach needs to be people-oriented and include different perspectives from stakeholders across the organization. It needs to be human-centered.

I’ve thought a lot about my process, my life story and the transformation work we do to help clients become more connected. I know this organization has and continues to build a diverse, inclusive, and equitable place where all belong. And I realize how grateful and proud I am. I realize how grateful and proud I am of it all.

Happy Pride, in solidarity!