“The first pride was a riot”. It’s a sobering reminder that the events roiling our country right now are not unique but are very much the language of the unheard, the undervalued, and the unseen. Pride Month’s origins are rooted in the Stonewall Uprising of June 29, 1969, where patrons of the legendary gay nightclub, the Stonewall Inn, fought back during a police raid after being subjected to countless instances of police harassment and violence. What’s often forgotten when viewing Pride as a celebration in a more recent context, is the instrumental role that Queer and Trans people of color (QTPOC) had in the role of fighting for LGBTQ+ rights and societal liberation. Folx like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy held pivotal roles before and after Stonewall, demonstrating how marginalized people have long led the fight for Civil Rights, LGBTQ+ Rights, and racial equity.
This has been highlighted as the protest against racial violence towards Black Americans coincides with Pride Month. QTPOC activists are urging and demanding that in this fight, we must recognize that ALL Black lives matter, regardless of their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. QTPOC are one of the most marginalized groups in the fight for racial equity, battling multiple fronts of racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and they are often not represented in tech spaces or in outreach efforts by corporate organizations. In a study of Black LGBTQ+ individuals, only 3% believed that corporations do a good job of reaching their community. However, when companies make their alliances known, 74% of those respondents felt more positive towards those companies, indicating that organizations willing to make their stance known in the fight for racial equity and LGBTQ+ equality are more likely to receive support from these marginalized groups.
This stark chasm between negative and positive sentiments toward corporate organizations highlights the immense work that must be done to show these groups that they are seen, and they are valued. Making space for individuals of intersectional identities is critical as they’re often one of a few, or the only individual, that can represent this incredibly layered and complex existence inside an organization. Here at WillowTree, we’re honored to have members of our organization who can provide this valued perspective, but we have a responsibility to elevate their voices, stand next to them during this national reckoning, and ensure they always have a home at WillowTree.
We recently hosted a seminar presented by “SafeCville” that introduced concepts that we believe are very important to creating an inclusive and compassionate environment for our LGBTQ+ team members. The webinar included empathy-building exercises that introduced the team to some of the heartbreaking challenges and roadblocks that most LGBTQ+ people encounter in their lifetimes. Among the concepts highlighted was the need to normalize team members introducing themselves with their preferred pronouns, so our trans and non-binary team members aren’t the only ones doing so. The webinar gave our organization resources and the motivation to begin the work of unlearning biases, the need for empathy in understanding the struggles LGBTQ+ people face daily, and why the fight for equity is the job of everyone.
During and beyond Pride, we’ll be ensuring that we integrate our focus on fighting for racial equity and LGBTQ+ liberation through unlearning biases and community advocacy. We’re partnering with our employee resource groups to ensure we’re taking a holistic approach when making policy changes around recruiting, office culture, and community outreach. In showing our commitment to the communities we call home, we’re enhancing the resources we provide to organizations that support the most vulnerable and at-risk.
WillowTree believes that LGBTQ+ Black lives matter, and we understand that the journey before us requires a radical embracing of our differences and a resolve to build a community based on the voices of many. Intersectional author and activist Audre Lorde summarized it best saying:
"Without community, there is no liberation… but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”