June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month. This year people all over the world are reflecting on the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the event that is often attributed to igniting the Pride movement across the globe. In 1969, LGBTQ+ people were regularly discriminated against by the legal system and society at large. The New York Police raided the Stonewall Inn because it was known to be frequented by the LGBTQ+ community. Raids were common because homosexuality was illegal.
But this time, on June 28th, 1969, a group of brave individuals – largely comprised of transgender women of color – started an uprising by refusing to be arrested or mistreated by the police. Five days of violent protest in the name of LGBTQ+ equality ensued. The Stonewall Riots galvanized the LGBTQ+ community in their demands for fair treatment and equality across the globe. The first Pride Marches happened in the United States in 1970.
Fifty years later we are still experiencing systemic discrimination. We are still marching, and we are still demanding fair treatment and equality. LGBTQ+ protections continue to be repealed by our governments, and violence at the hands of homophobic, transphobic, and racist perpetrators — both uniformed and civilian — continue to go largely un-investigated and justice continues to not be served.
Pride is both a protest and a celebration. The protest is the ongoing fight for our rights and for our very survival. The celebration is about recognizing and honoring our incredible resilience and ability to persevere despite all of the efforts to invalidate and eradicate our very existence.
At Symantec we value all of our LGBTQ+ employees and celebrate this pride season with you. We see you, we value you, we respect you, and we believe you belong here. To help share in the celebration of Pride, several employees shared why Pride is important to them and how it has impacted their lives.
NAME: Ian Kudzinowski
LGBTQ+ SELF-IDENTITY: Gay Man
JOB TITLE: Senior Employment Coordinator, Talent Acquisition
LOCATION: Swansea, Wales, UK
When I attended a Pride celebration recently, one thing I observed was how involved everyone was – not only the LGBTQ+ community but the entire community full stop. It was so refreshing to see local shops, restaurants, businesses, and police in celebration of the event. There’s something significant about seeing groups of police officers, who are there to maintain the peace, proudly stood with stripes of color painted across their faces. Slowly, Pride feels like it’s becoming a celebration for everyone.
NAME: Rachel Armstrong
LGBTQ+ SELF-IDENTITY: Lesbian/Gay
JOB TITLE: SRE Tier 1 Project Management Specialist
LOCATION: Dublin, Ireland
I started walking the Dublin Pride parade about 20 years ago. It was tiny back then and it wasn’t unusual to get insults – or one time a milkshake – thrown at you. How things have changed! Now there are thousands of people marching in a country that has changed dramatically. About four years ago, I was marching in the parade and dancing to a samba band. An elderly lady was amazed at us all, and I heard her tell her friend, “I didn’t realize there were so many of them!”. I thought to myself, “Exactly! That’s why we do this!” Pride is about celebration, and it’s also about representation. It’s about the people with wide-eyes seeing ‘one of us’ for the first time and realizing that there are many of us, and that we’re as diverse as the country we live in.
NAME: Cass Averill
LGBTQ+ SELF-IDENTITY: Queer Transgender Man
JOB TITLE: Global Program Manager for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
LOCATION: Eugene, Oregon, United States
I grew up in rural America. The one other out LGBTQ+ person received such hate and violence that it kept me securely in the closet. When I moved to the city and went to my first pride festival I found that there was not just one other LGBTQ+ person, but hundreds. I experienced for the first time a place where I didn’t have to hide who I was. I saw what being comfortable in your skin as a queer person could look like, and I was forever changed by the knowledge that I am not alone.
NAME: Eleanore Chloe Valentine
LGBTQ+ SELF-IDENTITY: Lesbian Transgender Woman
JOB TITLE: Technical Support Engineer for Gateway Security Group
LOCATION: Draper, Utah, United States
I grew up in Utah County, Utah as a silent boy who loved soft dolls more than action figures. My family’s religious beliefs kept me away from those things and left me blinded to my feminine nature. As I grew older this turned into a lot of frustration and inexplicable cynicism, which resulted in depression. I didn’t know why I felt people wouldn’t accept me. I eventually met a girl while standing in line at a convention in Ohio who was raised with much the same oppression. She had already begun her gender transition and invited me to a Pride parade in Ohio. I have never questioned my identity since.
LGBTQ+ SELF-IDENTITY: Cisgender, Gay Man
JOB TITLE: Principal Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Specialist for the Office of DEI
LOCATION: Pune, India
I grew up in Pondicherry, a small tourist town in South India. Growing up, I did not know any other LGBTQ+ persons in my town. My access to LGBTQ+ friendly resources helped me come to terms with my sexuality in my early teenage years. My first Pride parade was in Chennai and though I was very vocal about my sexuality and out by then, being in a public space with hundreds of persons from the Queer community was overwhelming. That was the first time I realized how our lives would be different if all the public spaces are accessible for queer persons without the fear of threat and violence we face every day in our lives. In that sense, Pride parades for me are about reclaiming public spaces and showing our existence even if it is only for a few hours in a year.
NAME: Jared Karol
LGBTQ+ SELF-IDENTITY: Cisgender, Straight, Male AllyZ
JOB TITLE: Global Program Manager for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and InclusionZ
LOCATION: Oakland, California, United States
When I was fourteen my father told me he was gay. I was embarrassed and confused, and didn’t tell anyone for six years. In college, I finally told my friend Amy, and she said, “big deal.” In 2000, when I was 27, my father died of AIDS. I was just starting out on my allyship journey then. Over the past nearly twenty years I have become more and more aware of how I can use my privilege, social capital, and personal story to be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups.