by Teddy Witherington, Chief Marketing Officer, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates | For me, one of the tragedies of our movement is that the very thing we offer to the rest of society – the ability to create community across barriers – is so often sabotaged from within. LGBT Pride is defined by the unique experiences of the full spectrum of our communities, so when we’re tempted to define Pride in our own terms we, by definition, attempt to limit the limitless: we disrespect our glorious differences and impose our self-hood.
A community that receives disproportionate criticism is the one that is made up of those who identify with their employers. The first Pride events took place in 1970. It wasn’t long – 1972 – before cries of commercialization arose. This is no recent phenomenon, no product of our age, but a necessary product of our richness as a community – one without borders: no borders to membership, identification and freedom. It is the price, and a price worth paying, to embrace our diversity.
Those who would decry the participation of sponsors in LGBT pride events ignore the fact that the workplace is society’s melting pot. Ideas that influence the values and beliefs of all are the raw material of the conversations in boardrooms and at water coolers across the nation. Workplace Equality, inclusion, marriage equality, benefits diversity programs, immigration and parenting are the topics that swirl in cafeterias, and HR departments. These conversations, one mind and one heart at a time, are the stuff of societal change.
So, the next time you see the folks on the Parade proudly flying the flag of their employee resource group, applaud them – loudly – for the part they are playing in creating a more inclusive society and allow yourself to embrace the spirit of Pride; it’s a wonderful feeling.
Note: Teddy Witherington served as Executive Director of San Francisco Pride 1997-2006 and as the Co-President of InterPride (the global association of pride organizations) 1997-2000 and 2002-2003.