June 15, 2023

By Eric House

Pride Month is an annual commemoration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community in the United States. Beginning after the Stonewall Riots, a series of gay liberation protests in 1969, Pride Month brings together members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community for a month of celebration, education, and advocacy.

World Learning’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA+) committee held its monthly community hour centered on LGBTQ+ pride. This event is part of an ongoing series to bring World Learning staff together to connect with and learn from one another on DEIA+ topics.

The community hour started with guest speaker Brian Mateo, an associate dean of civic engagement at Bard College. Mateo, who promotes civic engagement activities at Bard’s international campuses and Early Colleges, spoke about the importance of experiential learning, supporting LGBTQ+ students and professionals, and LGBTQ+ rights in the U.S. and abroad.

Following Mateo, the agenda was opened for participants to discuss current issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and the importance of intentional allyship. Participants shared how they are celebrating Pride Month, with many planning on attending Pride activities and parades to raise more awareness for LGBTQ+ rights.

“[Pride] is an opportunity for members of LGBTQ+ communities and allies to celebrate authenticity, diversity, inclusion, and progress,” said Baylee Easterday, senior program associate for IVLP. “On the other hand, Pride is a solemn reminder of the ongoing efforts worldwide to restrict the rights of members of our communities.”

Having a designated space to celebrate identity and to make a concerted effort to learn and grow is incredibly important.

“Pride to me is an opportunity for LGBTQ+ people to take ownership of our identities publicly and confidently, showcasing our diversity and demonstrating our common humanity,” said Tim Rivera, senior advisor for innovation at World Learning. “It’s also an important chance to demonstrate support to and solidarity with those who may not be able to be their authentic selves.”

Community hours are one way to demonstrate support for LGBTQ+ individuals—as well as other colleagues—by providing a smaller communal forum in the workplace to discuss and learn about a range of topics. Past community hours have focused on Black History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, mental health awareness, and more.

“Anytime we can come together and share our experiences and insights and ideas, we make progress in forming supportive networks, raising each other up, and being more inclusive in a very practical way,” said Rae, senior vice president of legal affairs at World Learning. Easterday agrees.

“Community hours are important because they allow us to learn from one another and encourage us to celebrate differences,” said Easterday, who has planned and facilitated five community hours this year alone. “Having a designated space to celebrate identity and to make a concerted effort to learn and grow is incredibly important.”

It’s humbling and inspirational how much this community has accomplished and how we show up for one another.

At this month’s community hour, participants shared what sparks their “queer joy,” or moments that inspire delight for those within or in support of the LGBTQ+ community. For some, queer joy came from seeing their loved ones live authentically and freely, while for others it came from being offered mentorship and support from fellow LGBTQ+ staff members.

For many, the hour itself sparked queer joy as it offered a sense of unbound support that is central to Pride itself.

“When I think about Pride, I feel proud of the courage in our community; the courage to come out, the courage to speak up, the courage to show up in spaces we aren’t always sure about and be our whole selves without any trace of shame in who we are; courage to advocate for ourselves and our collective liberation,” Rae said. “It’s humbling and inspirational how much this community has accomplished and how we show up for one another. That’s Pride to me! We deserve to celebrate ourselves!”