June marks Pride Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals in history worldwide. Akron Children’s supports and encourages all employees, patients and their families to be their authentic selves. To celebrate, we asked several employees to share what Pride Month means to them and how others can be stronger allies.
What’s your job title and how long have you worked at Akron Children’s?
I am a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Akron Children’s Hospital, and I’ve been with this facility for about 2.5 years.
As part of the LGBTQ+ community, what does Pride Month mean to you?
Pride is a protest. It’s a movement. Pride is a collective of strength, of confidence, of purpose.
I was raised in an extremely conservative environment, from my family upbringing to the community in which I lived. Knowing from a very early age just who I was and who I knew my true self to be, it was devastating to see the stigma attached to the queer population. As I grew up, I learned how to be ashamed. I learned how to be afraid of my true self. I struggled through mental health issues, suicidal ideations, body dysmorphia – you name it; these were all ghosts that haunted me, as I tried to reconcile who I felt I was expected to be with who I so desperately wanted to be. I wasn’t able to find that voice until age 29 with the help of my now-husband, Daniel.
Pride is the remedy to the poison that is shame. Pride and the LGBTQIA community were the fabulous, freeing and restorative antidotes to the debilitating weight of fear of ignominy and disappointment. I was living for the expectations of others when, thankfully, my glorious queer family showed me how to capture my own light and use it to illuminate the world around me.
How do you celebrate and recognize Pride Month?
While I live my Pride year-round, I find that Pride Month offers a unique time to highlight my queer brothers, sisters and non-binary royalty, our incredible contributions to all facets of society, the beauty of this family and the ways we inspire others to seek their own truth. But while we celebrate, we remember why we still need Pride. In 2022 alone, we’ve seen 200+ pieces of legislation introduced nationwide that seeks to silence and erase the queer community. While we’ve made amazing progress in this nation, we have so much work left to do. I still live in a country where my marriage to my incredible husband is a topic of debate every election cycle, where violence against the LGBTQIA community is still prevalent, and where I am seen by some as incapable of being a father to my amazing 8-year-old son because of my queerness. This year we’ve seen an uptick in violence and violent rhetoric against the queer community, as states seek sweeping bans in schools to erase our history and our existence in books, conversation and curriculums. As much as I hold disdain for social media, I find myself utilizing it more to educate and bring awareness of our legal and societal battles.
What is your involvement with the LGBTQ+ Employees and Allies Employee Resource Group (ERG), and how has it shaped your experience at Akron Children’s?
I was so excited to learn we had this ERG. We’re finding amazing opportunities to be a collective voice of support and engagement in our hospital and in our community. From the privilege of doing this interview to volunteering with different Pride events around the state, we’re seeking tangible ways we can be visible and effective in our messaging and support. I can only imagine how different my adolescence could have been if I had had effective and visible queer advocacy in my hometown.
How can others be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community?
First, recognize and acknowledge any privilege you may hold as an ally. As a cisgendered white male, I recognize my privilege even in the LGBTQIA community. But as I work to advance the causes of other identities within the LGBTQIA family, I share my experiences as my own. I don’t attempt to take the narrative from anyone living their truth. I can amplify and bring attention to their stories. Allies should seek to do the same. Our queer experiences are not yours. But you can absolutely join the chorus of voices in support of our love, our struggles and our purpose.
Second, don’t allow your support as an ally be an ornament for the month of June. Pride is not meant to be an exploitation of the queer community to make a profit but rather a celebration of the love we seek to inspire in this world. So, don’t discard your public support when the celebration comes to an end. When conversation turns to denigrating our family, speak out against it. When communities and legislators seek to erase or silence us, speak out against that hate. Vote for measures protecting and preserving our experiences and our existence.
Lastly, be willing to learn. Ask questions. Be willing to sit with us in our struggles and stand with us in our marches. Some of what we had to unlearn about ourselves, you have to unlearn, as well. Be genuine in your quests for how to be a better ally and be willing to share with others as you learn.