A few years ago I was asked, along with a broad coalition of Blue Yonder associates, to lend my image and quote to a company video called “Why I DIVE In.” It spotlighted many diverse Blue Yonder team members from all backgrounds and cultures and was a pretty powerful statement to the company’s commitment to supporting its associates.
Now, during Pride 2023 I’m again asked to share my thoughts. As I brainstorm ideas, I keep coming back to that video and a comment that was made to me by a neighbor.
While we don’t share the same cultural or political views, my neighbor and I are friendly enough that we say hello when we see each other in the neighborhood, at the local gym or at community events. One day, while he and his wife were taking a walk, they stopped to say hello while I was working in the garage.
As we were chatting, he noticed a small Pride flag behind me and made what he must have thought was a lighthearted comment around how he treats everyone equally and questioned why even have a LGBTQ+ Pride flag to begin with? After all, there isn’t a Straight Pride flag is there? Not wanting to create difficulties with someone who lives a block away I mumbled something about the struggle to be accepted and quickly changed the subject.
If you would have asked me back when we made the video, I might have agreed with him given in the U.S. – and many other countries – we now have the right to marry who we love and there are many same-sex families raising children (including my own). June sees Pride logos slapped on everything, almost every film or TV series has out and well-adjusted LGBTQ+ characters, and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is an international sensation, to name a few.
But that was 2021, a world away from where we find ourselves now. Everything on the above list is now being attacked as we seem to be facing a backlash after a decade of progress. LGBTQ+ people are actively being accused of “grooming” children. A transgender woman drinks a popular beer brand, and it loses billions in revenue from an angry boycott. Retailers that have been selling Pride merchandise for years are having displays torn down. Any company seen to be supporting the LGBTQ+ community is shamed and threatened with boycotts. The state of Florida passed legislation to outlaw discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in schools (the “Don’t Say Gay” law) prompting my daughter to ask me if we lived there would she still be able to participate in the family tree project because she has two Dads. Images of angry protestors at normally calm Pride celebrations are coming in from all over the country, as well as acts of hate. The culture wars are back and nasty.
Last Friday, I was enjoying an end of week cocktail with my brother at a local upscale gay bar that caters to a mixed crowd. We were sitting at a table near the front entrance with a large window and I thought, “Is this safe? Should we move to a space farther from the entrance in case of violence?” I hadn’t had that thought in years, and now we’re questioning our own safe spaces.
So, what is the answer? DIVE IN. This world is made up of diverse groups. Some are under fire. Some are not but could be. Be an Ally. You don’t have to be a member of that particular group to join it. Broaden your support of others. Blue Yonder associate Kranthi Remala wrote a great blog about Allyship, check it out: “A Blue Yonder Associate’s Journey: Choosing Allyship Every Day.”
I know it’s cliché, but take the time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This is a great way to build empathy and to understand how words and actions impact those around us. Like my daughter feeling as though she would be in trouble because of a law that wouldn’t allow her to say she has two dads. Or our Blue Yonder associate who shared her story of transitioning earlier this year, stating she would be in violation of some state laws for simply wearing a dress.
“Diversity” and “Inclusion” are starting to become labels for negativity. Change that. Speak out. And when someone asks you why there is a need for a Pride flag use that as an opportunity to educate them. I know I will.