Having grown up in a small, tight-knit conservative community, there were not a lot of opportunities available for people to express themselves, especially when it came to their sexual orientation – and most of those opportunities came with inevitable drawbacks. Most people frowned upon deviations from the norm, and talking about sex in general was seen as ‘taboo’, so for those who were part of the LGBTQ community, you were faced with a double dose of stigma for something that was just a part of who you were. I have seen friends and family be forced to suppress a significant part of their personality and their life, doing a great deal of emotional and psychological harm to themselves, just in the name of trying to ‘fit into the norm’ and be accepted by the people in their life who did not understand, or did not want to understand. And I’ve seen the sadness, loneliness, and destruction that that can lead to – people who spent years, even decades, of their life being afraid of rejection or being ostracized by those they were otherwise close. Just for being different, they were forced to either live a lie or were only able to express who they really were in private or with a handful of trusted individuals. Even in their work lives, their sexuality would be seen as aberrant, and I remember being told more than once that ‘a business isn’t going to hire you if they know you’re LGBTQ – that’s the kind of thing you have to keep to yourself.’ And nobody should have to live their life feeling that way.
Pride Month as a whole has been a great step in trying to change the narrative on sexuality and societal acceptance – by encouraging, supporting, and recognizing people for what they are and who they want to be, we can hopefully get to a place where nobody is afraid of loving who they love. This is why the Pride Month events at Lerners were genuinely heartening for me – to see such a well-established and respected business law firm reach out to those employees and say ‘we recognize who you are, and we accept you’…it sends a powerful message, and an encouraging one. Even something as simple as letting a male employee wear some fun rainbow eye-shadow to work in support of Pride was something I never thought would be as welcomed as it was – but the outpouring of kindness and comradery not only gives me hope for the future, but sets Lerners apart as an exemplar of tolerance and inclusion that most workplaces should strive for.
- Aaron (co-op student)