Our identities inform our beliefs and values. How does a gay identity inform leadership potential? I share why Pride, while complicated, matters to me.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City and I plan on attending the March this year. This feels important to me because I am reminded that our legacy is always built on those before me. In their memory, I have to share my pride.
My Complicated Relationship With Pride
It hasn’t always been easy to be an openly gay, Latino in the US. Add the stress of working in higher education. I’ve had SSAOs comment on my sexual orientation and my ethnicity, as if I could choose which one to only openly proclaim. Colleagues of mine have shirked weekend and chaperone responsibilities because of their family and children, before gay marriage was the law of the land. Students have called me gay slurs to my face. I’ve been mistaken for the service and administrative assistant staff before introducing myself with a title. When I got married, I wondered if I was supposed to use the neutral ‘partner’ moniker to identify my husband, like allies had used before. The list could go on.
And yet there is much to be proud about. Over 50 years ago, I likely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to serve openly with my gay identity intact. Given the laws as a suspected homosexual, I likely would have been jailed or working low paying jobs that ‘allowed’ me to work. So while my identity hasn’t always been accepted in the workplace, it is mine to proclaim as loud as I want.
Except that being so out and proud has put an unintended target on me. Still. Did you know that it is still legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity? Or that you can be killed for being openly gay in countries where it is an executable crime?
So my feeling of pride is complicated.
Like Avril says, why do I have to make things so complicated? Can’t pride be easy to define?
Connecting Pride with Leadership
I am okay with the complicated feeling, however. It means I am thoughtful about the struggles I and other faces. Plus it means I recognize when my privilege is getting in the way of my understanding of our shared identities.
In many ways, my intersecting identities have always been intertwined. I can’t think of my gay identity without looking at the Mexican American identity that is core to who I am. And being Mexican American is tied to the gender expectations of being a man in our Latino community. To comment on one of these is to comment on all of them. It’s why I identify as a gay man rather than queer, to highlight that I embrace my male identity. And that this male body looks Mexican, which has also landed a few slurs my way at work, too.
So what does this have to do with Pride?
Because I believe that leadership is an expression of our values, we must explore what forms our values. My values were formed from the struggles I have personally experienced. What I keep learning stems from this and from those who have struggled before and around me. Listening to the stories of those with different struggles keeps me grounded in understanding that the world needs to accommodate us all.
My evolving values include those who seek to change the world, even when their work and approach makes me uncomfortable. I am aware that my privilege should not get in the way of progress. In particular, my privileges from my one-up identities, like being cis-gendered and able-bodied.
And finally, my values must be flexible to include the powerless and voiceless, as I learn about their stories and challenges that must be faced. Whatever privilege afforded to me I must use to educate others to be part of the change. In particular those with whom I share something in common, like LGBT asylum seekers from Latin American countries. Or those with whom I likely have nothing in common, like trans and non-binary folks, to gain access to the same power and privilege that I do.
Reflect on Your Pride
My feelings of pride is complicated, but I believe that only makes me want to explore it more. Tell others about it. Share the good times and success. And above all, use my pride to change the world.
Let’s be honest. This pride is born out of struggle. And while I understand the struggle, I am living for the day when we no longer need to create pride from struggle. Instead, our pride stems from our ability to live with others to create a welcoming world.
I hope this pride season helps you reflect on why you have Pride. And I hope you discover how you can use it to change your world!
Oh captain, my captain, you’re right that our thoughts and beliefs can change the world!