June is Pride month, a time to celebrate, honour and acknowledge the history, diversity and contributions of all those who identify as members of the LGBTQ2+ community
Pride Month is marked around the world each June, as a time to celebrate those in our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or questioning, and two-spirit (LGBTQ2+) community, and to commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969 that gave way to the gay liberation movement. Ongoing demonstrations for freedom, respect, equality, and love have evolved into a month of festivals and celebrations across the globe.
During the month of June, we've been listening to members of our LGBTQ2+ community answer our call to #ShowYourPride. What emerged was a better understanding of what Pride means to them, the work that still needs to be done, and their experience in bringing their authentic selves to work at DIALOG.
....many of us who are part of an older generation, the first generation bestowed with same-sex benefits and marriage equality. We are the generation that stands on the shoulders of those who went before us: those who suffered the humiliation of being fired, getting diagnosed as mentally ill, and thrown in jail.Jeff Bohnen (he/him/his), Studio Administrator
When Jeff Bohnen, DIALOG Studio Administrator, was deciding to make a move in his career, a conversation with a friend and former DIALOGer made him feel assured as a member of the LGBTQ2+ community, he would find a sense of belonging here.
"A testimonial from a previous employee speaks very highly about the culture and work environment of a company," says Jeff. "And with Denise knowing me as well as she did, I felt pretty comfortable in the knowledge that DIALOG must be a pretty good place to work. I wasn’t wrong."
"With DIALOG, it all fell into place quite nicely for me. But there were times before DIALOG when I considered it crucial to separate work life from personal life, for fear of revealing too much."
Reflecting on the nuances specific to generational differences, Jeff highlights how the struggles of those in the LGBTQ2+ community who came before him have made it possible to experience the acceptance he has described.
"Sure, for younger generations who have felt empowered to authentically be who they are from a very early age, and for whom lines between work life and personal life often blur, it’s largely a non-issue. But it’s murkier for many of us who are part of an older generation, the first generation bestowed with same-sex benefits and marriage equality. We are the generation that stands on the shoulders of those who went before us: those who suffered the humiliation of being fired, getting diagnosed as mentally ill, and thrown in jail. Sure, the dark ages of persecution and punishment have been over in Canada for quite some time. Still, when that’s what you know as truth from the generation immediately preceding yours, it shapes a context and lived experience that makes it difficult to break out of old roles and let go of long-held insecurities about who we are allowed to be in the workplace. Or, more specifically, who we allow ourselves to be."
Nearly three years into his career at DIALOG, Jeff remarks "I benefit from the power of connection with really talented colleagues. I feel alignment with our why. I am honoured to contribute to great design. I am proud to be an employee of DIALOG, which identifies Diversity as one of our core values, and actively seeks to hear from those with different lived experiences. For me, Pride takes many forms, but few as powerful as that afforded by the opportunity to be my authentic self at a workplace that I help shape every day."
....I keep a small pride flag at my desk. Within my first week of starting here, my team was nothing but welcoming, open, and caring and embraced me for being my true, authentic self.Kyle (he/him/his), Client Services
Kyle, Client Services at DIALOG, reflects upon two trips to New York City in 2016 that were of tremendous impact.
"....going to Stonewall was especially meaning for me," Kyle describes. "Stonewall is where the modern day LGBTQ+ movement began thanks to people Marsha P. Johnson who in 1969 stood up to and resisted arrest at a time when being LGBTQ could get you arrested or thrown into a mental asylum."
"Here the stories of history from the bartender and then making friends there, just sitting in the back for three hours chatting away at the same time, taking in all the history of this historic monument."
His second visit was in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, "To see those names there in the aftermath and in that history shows that we still have a long way to go." "Homophobia and Transphobia are still blights on our society and exist within significant segments of the population today. People wonder why we have Pride Parades, it’s because of this."
While much work is required to ensure safe and accepting spaces are available to all, Kyle looks to DIALOG as one such place.
"My experience at DIALOG has been nothing but a good one," he says. "I’ve always been an open person, I don’t hide who I am, I keep a small pride flag at my desk. Within my first week of starting here, my team was nothing but welcoming, open, and caring and embraced me for being my true, authentic self. I appreciate being at a company that has a forward thinking and progressive vision especially as it pertains to their employees. I feel like I can be who I am without feeling the need to cover or hide it, and that is the mark of a company that is open and inclusive."
....I have not felt the need to partition off aspects of my life as much as I have in my other places of employment, and the guards that I did put up came down quicker than usual.Josh Stock (he/him/his), Technologist
Josh Stock, Technologist at DIALOG, draws attention to the privilege he is afforded as a member of the LGBTQ2+ community due to his race.
"Systematic racism and inequality does not yield to rainbows," Josh explains. "The community is slowly grappling with the fact that being in the overall minority of the population does not preclude the existence of minorities further within the community itself, and several of these subsets have, and continue to be, suppressed and need to be heard."
This important distinction highlights a critical piece in working toward unified equity.
With that reality at the forefront of his assessment in his own experiences, Josh is quick to point out he does not intend to speak for others, but describes his experience at DIALOG as positive.
"....I know I have not felt the need to partition off aspects of my life as much as I have in my other places of employment, and the guards that I did put up came down quicker than usual. I contrast this with some of my co-op experiences in post-secondary where I did not necessarily feel the need to put up walls around my personal life, but I utilized the mantra of “if it doesn’t come up, it doesn’t come up.”
"I have no hesitation bringing along my (now) husband to formal and informal DIALOG events open to members of the family, or mentioning his existence while chatting about what we did on the weekend together during our Monday morning team meetings. I was thrilled to have a number of DIALOGers attend my wedding (huge shout out to our HR Manager, Chrystal for being our rockstar photographer), to which the photography locations were heavily biased toward DIALOG projects!"
As we move out of June, we're reminded to keep this conversation going. Change does not come without concerted effort, and we're committed to listening, learning, and creating a safe and accepting environment for all. "This is something we cannot 'win'" Josh says, "this is something we can only 'do better' at."
Sincere thanks are extended to Jeff, Kyle, and Josh for answering the call to #ShowYourPride. We are enriched by your perspectives.