Pride 2021 - What Does it Mean to Embrace Queer Culture?

Pride Slice

The outpouring of corporate Pride Month good vibes and high fives is in full swing. Instead of just extolling our virtue as a queer-supportive company, I reached out to the team to get their feedback.

I wanted them to answer a question: What have you noticed or learned working in a company that embraces queer culture?

The answers are as varied as the people. For some, like me, there’s a focus on missteps and learning to do better. For others, they describe finding connection in the vulnerable space of sharing, honesty, and learning.

Our company isn’t just focused on Pride for a month - it’s a core value of the company and something we work on together. My coworker Clare sums up my thoughts on this well:

We’re not perfect. But perfect is the enemy of the good. And when I see the conversations people are having and articles people are posting and the space people are trying to make, not just for celebrations like Pride, but moments of sadness and anger and frustration, I take comfort in the fact that we are all trying to be good.
Clare Raspopow

Clare Raspopow

I spent half a decade of my life working at a large, sprawling, often labyrinthine institution. Like many institutions, as the norms of society began to shift, they made a point of publicizing the efforts they were making towards Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Training sessions were available and in some cases mandatory. Banners were printed. Policy emails were sent. But talk is only a small part of the equation.

Training sessions aren’t very effective if it’s the same 10 people showing up or, in the case of those mandatory sessions, the audience views the facilitator as an opponent, not an educator. (It’s telling that in my entire tenure there, I never once saw a member of management at one of these sessions) A “preferred pronoun policy” loses its meaning if someone rolls their eyes as they use someone’s pronouns. A banner is pointless unless your management and HR teams don’t try to gaslight you into believing that the “joke” that Patty said at the meeting wasn’t really a big deal.

Which brings me to silverorange. I’m relatively new here, but the difference is palpable. The education sessions feel different, because everyone actually wants to be there (and I do mean everyone - our management is as actively engaged as the rest). Conversations about 2SLGBTQ+ issues are commonplace and everyday, like they should be. My coworkers are proud of their places in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. We all still mess up, but when you do it’s acknowledged, you move forward, and you try to improve.

We’re not perfect. But perfect is the enemy of the good. And when I see the conversations people are having and articles people are posting and the space people are trying to make, not just for celebrations like Pride, but moments of sadness and anger and frustration, I take comfort in the fact that we are all trying to be good.

Kristen Ford

Kristen Ford

It’s really easy to be jaded nowadays. Coming out in 2008, a lot of the heavy lifting had already been done and I naively assumed it would only get better from there. But time and time again, I’ve been reminded that society’s acceptance of queer people is tenuous at best. The mariage pour tous protests in my wife’s home country. Bathroom bills. The Pulse nightclub shooting. The endless number of murdered black transwomen that don’t even garner a news article.

When I was younger, Pride was a joyous event with chosen family. But as I started to look outside my bubble and heard more stories, it took on a different tone. I told myself I needed to be better, to do better. So Pride started having caveats. Pride was less joyful. And Pride was just another event on an endless checklist. I focused so much on how much better things could be, that I forgot to slow down and appreciate what’s already there.

Getting opportunities to share such an important side of myself at work has helped me reconnect with Pride. By seeing my coworkers learn, I’m remembering how mind-blowing it was to discover these things for the first time. I’m passing along the resources that I wish I had when I was younger. My posts and comments are met with curiosity and appreciation and the labour isn’t taken for granted! I can also be honest with them about the evolving language and politics that I struggle with too. Especially in years like this one, where it’s hard to find reasons to celebrate, I’m pretty grateful that I get to look at Pride with fresh eyes instead of jaded ones.

Kelly Burke

Kelly Burke

Silverorange has evolved into a workplace whose guiding principles encompass diversity and inclusion. This intentional shift a few years back has improved so many things in subtle and larger ways for everyone.

My teenagers have stated that they point out silverorange to their friends as an example of companies that DO exist that welcome inclusivity. They have said to me how great they think it is that we are explicitly respectful of people’s pronouns. The kids lead by example themselves as their friends shift names and pronouns they just accept each other as they are. They at times are exasperated when teachers deadname their pals and say, “jeez, it’s not so hard! He goes by “he” and his name is Tom.”

And they are correct. Using the correct pronouns is not difficult, neither is respecting fluidity in their gender expression. Sure, I screw up correct pronouns sometimes, but we talked about this as a company and chose guidance on how to do better (correct yourself, keep going, make it automatic for next time). It validates our 2SLGBTQ+ community members and expresses that they are surrounded by people who respect them and care about getting it right. If I could share anything with folks unfamiliar with these adjustments, it’s that it is way more important for the person to feel comfortable than your own comfort level with the change. It’s an easy step forward to demonstrate respect. I had very limited understanding or connection to the 2SLGBTQ+ community for the first 40 years of my life, and I have much to learn. Pride month for me is a time to recommit to a personal pledge I’ve made to do my own work, and hopefully continue to foster an environment of empathy for all current and future team members.

Kendra Kohler

Kendra Kohler

I grew up in a small town during the 90s and early 2000s. Queer culture wasn’t something we really discussed except for when we casually dropped in homophobic language/slangs to regular conversation. I didn’t know that some of the things I said were harmful to others and I was missing out on a really special community.

Since then, I’ve seen friends and members of our town come out. I’ve moved to the city, made queer friends and experienced a lot more of their culture.

However, it wasn’t until I started working at silverorange that I realized how sheltered I had been. There’ve been so many discussions that have opened my eyes to the struggles that queer people are still dealing with today. I’ve barely scratched the surface and want to learn as much as I can to be a better ally.

To all the queer people out there, thank you! The world is so much richer and beautiful because you’re in it.

Jayme Fall

Jayme Fall

Growing up on PEI, between my family and circle of friends I never really had much exposure to the queer community. Sure, we knew one or two people who were “different”, but never thought much about it and never truly understood the struggles. I went on to spend a majority of my adult life working at small companies dominated by straight males where the subject matter was rarely introduced, and if it were it was in a toxic light.

When I started at silverorange, it was really the first time in my life that I had any significant exposure to the queer community, ideas, and working directly with queer co-workers. The supportive nature of the work environment made it very easy for me to learn and discuss some of these difficult topics, and, while I still have much to learn about the community I feel like I have come a very long way, and have silverorange to thank for that.

Nick Burka

Nick Burka

I’m the type of person who really wants to support people. I often do so by launching myself into problem solving mode to help them “fix” things. An eye opening thing for me were all of the nuances of queer culture that kept making me stick my foot in my mouth or hurt the person I was trying to support.

For instance, my friend (and silverorange CEO) Isa asked me what I thought of them participating in a conference. I immediately lept in and said “OF COURSE! Why are you even worrying about it?” meaning to push them forward. In reality, I wasn’t taking into consideration the minefield that a trans person is potentially walking into in a situation like that. It’s been extremely humbling and fulfilling to work to change that gung-ho attitude. Now I try to pause, ask questions, check-in, and do my best to slow down, learn, and empathize with my colleagues before offering support.

Nikita Campbell

Nikita Campbell

While growing up, I’ve had quite a few friends that are members of the queer community. It has always just been a normal part of life. However as I got older, I quickly realized that it was not the same for other people, and it wasn’t part of their normalcy.

In past employment, I have had coworkers make rude comments or ask outrageously innapproperiate questions when I’ve talked about stories involving my queer friends. I always chalked it up as them simply being uneducated about the subject. However, it really made me feel uncomfortable that they would ask these ridiculous questions, and made it feel like it was not a safe place to talk about everyday life that involved loved ones who were members of the LGBTQ community. I felt defensive and offended over the questions I would receive about people I care about, which really put it into perspective about how members of the LGBTQ community must feel in many day to day interactions with some people.

Then I started working at silverorange, and it has been SUCH a breath of fresh air. Everyone is accepting of everyone, no one judges anyone, and no one asks inappropriate questions. Silverorange is a safe and respectful space for anyone and everyone, and I truly feel like the world needs more companies like ours. When I think of silverorange, this quote always comes to mind, because I feel like it is so fitting to our company. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Camila Rivera

Camila Rivera

I just started working at silverorange a couple of months ago. Since I applied, I realized how the company encourages inclusivity. From the first email that I got from our CEO, I noticed that all members were introduced by their pronouns. English is my second language and I was afraid of making a mistake that could hurt someone. Fortunately, I realized that being a company that supports the LGBTQ community, means also that they are willing to teach you and happy to help you in case you have any doubts.

Today I feel that I belong to a company that not just says that it supports LGBTQ people but also is reflected in its actions and its team members. I’m happy to belong to a company with a diverse workforce, which is driven by respect and is patient to include and teach anyone eager to learn to be more inclusive. Silverorange is an example of awareness of something that is still urgent to address in our society, the basic right to be true to our true self, without judgments, should be recognized at every level of our society.

Rob Campbell

Rob Campbell

I’m new to silverorange and I’m still getting acquainted with everyone. Being fully remote, during the aft-end of a global pandemic, I haven’t had the luxury of meeting everyone in person yet. Online, everyone’s been great, welcoming and frankly, delightful. It’s so refreshing being among a diverse team of excellent individuals.

I’ve always considered myself an ally for 2SLGBTQIA+ people. It’s a tough road and I recognize that, even if I don’t count myself within those abbreviations, I have a number of queer friends and acquaintances.

I know how that sounds: “White cisgendered straight guy has gay friend.” It could be a story from The Onion and I would read it and make fun of the person who said that. Except it’s true.

I enjoy learning from and supporting everyone if I can, where I can. I’m not always good at it and have made mistakes, gaffes and embarrassing missteps along the way and try my best to learn from them.

So, for Pride Month, I’m trying to be more open, more understanding and a better ally to my queer friends and colleagues. I appreciate you. The world is a better place because of you. Thank you for all that you do and for just being you. Happy Pride!

Steven Garrity

Steven Garrity

What I’ve appreciated most about the changes toward inclusiveness in our company over the past few years is the conversations.

While it’s most important that we work to create a safe and comfortable environment for everyone, I feel like the queer members of our team have actually created a safe space for me, a cisgender straight man, to learn and ask questions.

Should we update our logo with a pride-flag variation, or does that just look like an empty corporate gesture? What more concrete actions can we take? Beyond the answers to these questions, these conversations and even the discussions and feedback around this blog post have been rewarding.

I’ve also learned that there aren’t single right answers for many of my questions. As the acronym implies, the Two-Spirit/LGBTQ+ community is rich and diverse. No one person or group can be expected to be the arbiter of which terms and symbols are right for everyone.

To my friends who have helped me along when they’re already shouldering a lot — thank you.

Isa Grant

Isa Grant

When I sat down to write a post about Pride for silverorange I quickly became overwhelmed. Like many a queer person, I have very complicated feelings about how corporations embrace Pride each year, as well as how it affects and represents me personally. As a visibly queer person who also happens to be CEO of a mid-sized business, I want to be able to both celebrate the ways in which silverorange cares, and be open and honest about how it isn’t enough. And I’m not nearly a good enough writer to do that.

So when Nick and Steven cautiously sent me early drafts of their contributions to this post, asking if it was fair for them to speak about queerness at silverorange, I teared up.

Often the work of trying to weave more queer awareness into a company that is predominately cis and straight seems to be the work of making a better space for myself, as well as other current and future queer team members. The fact that it’s also created a safer space for the rest of the team to not only support, but actively engage in an ongoing process of asking questions, learning, and understanding aspects of 2SLGBT+ perspective in the world is incredibly heart-warming.

Thank you, to those who wrote entries above, but also to everyone else at silverorange, for truly caring enough to want to learn and do better on social issues, including queerness.

A few years ago I wrote that queerness is joyous. I stand by that whole-heartedly. Happy Pride everyone, this June, and every day of the year.