The other day, I went with my Jacqueline and her mother to the 2019 Boston Pride Parade. We marched on behalf of the Upham’s Corner Health Center, who delivers community health care services in Boston. I marched because my son, Vince, is trans and gay(the parade marked his 17th birthday), and because I feel that it’s important to promote the rights of people around the topics of their gender and who they choose to love (between consenting adults, obviously).
I thought my mindset at the event was “Hey, good job, gay and trans and bi and other people! I’m marching to say I’m an ally.” And while that’s true, there was so much more. So much. I came away changed.
What I Learned on the Boston Pride March
First, I realized quickly that one of the core elements of this march is just for people to see each other and be seen. I know that sounds stupid. It’s a parade. But I mean seen and acknowledged. Some people are fortunate to have loving families and coworkers who fully support them. But so many more feel alone, feel invisible, feel like they have to hide. So here comes an event like Pride that says, “Let’s keep marching. You deserve to feel seen and understood.”
That “being seen” realization went so much deeper. All along the route there were people wearing “Mom Hugs” and “Dad Hugs” shirts, because sometimes parents can’t handle the reality of their children and that child (no matter their age) suddenly finds themselves without parental affection. I realized just how little affection people of any sexuality and gender get these days. I went for some of those hugs, and I get plenty of affection.
We Have to Better Understand This
When my oldest said “I’m gay,” I said that’s great. Your partner (no matter the gender) has to love you and treat you well. About a year later, he tells me he’s trans and gay. Okay, that one takes a bit more work because there are legal and biological ramifications to be considered, but I was just as supportive because whatever gender someone says they are, wouldn’t my roles be the same? Aren’t I supposed to love and support my children, no matter their gender? Of course I am.
Now think about work and school and life. My son goes to a tiny little hippie school so when he came out as trans, it wasn’t that big a deal. Go a half mile in any direction and you’ll see all kinds of people who don’t understand what it means, what it means to them, how they should respond, and so on.
What I’ve learned for me is that someone’s gender identity and gender expression has little or nothing to do with me. I find both binary genders play no role in whether or not someone can do their job or be good or bad people. I find that gender and sexual preference is really your own business and not mine.
Representation and Acknowledgement is VITAL
But that said, and this is so important, everyone alive wants to be respected and represented as who they are without compromise or shame. If someone says they’re gay, bi, poly, trans, or any of the many other ways people can now express their sexual and gender expressions, they want you to know and acknowledge and understand how they want to be identified.
THAT PART IS THE HARDEST PART FOR THE “STRAIGHT” PEOPLE.
It’s somehow difficult for us to make the change from “looks like a guy so must be a guy” to “I’m Chris. My pronouns are he/him. How about you?”
This upsets people. It feels like “too much” to some people. It feels somehow offensive to some others. But that’s what needs to change. That’s where a lot of us need to grow. That’s where “the way we used to do it” no longer covers it.
I Marched So Even More Can March
It’s “easy” for me to march. I’m straight, white, and privileged. I marched because I want to bolster the ranks of those who don’t always feel safe, those who don’t always feel seen, and those who don’t often enough feel loved and accepted. I marched because the LGBTQ+ community is part of our community.
And like you and everyone else, I might get some of this wrong, say something that doesn’t line up the way everyone wishes I’d talk about it. I’m always open to learn. But I’ll tell you why I’m out here. It’s because there’s so much value in all these people who get pushed to the corners and I want them at the picnic. If you met some of the great people I met at the march, you’d want them at the picnic, too!
I work with executives and leadership teams to deliver the results you say you value in your corporate culture statements. Let’s improve collaboration and creativity and bring some of that value to your company. REACH OUT.