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What Pride Means to Me

What Pride Means to Me

Last year, I marched in front of millions with my company in the World Pride Parade in New York City. Last year’s parade was hosted 50 years after the Stonewall Riots that gave way to the modern day “pride” movement, making it that much more impactful. To say that the experience was incredible would be a serious understatement. As I was marching, I couldn’t help but to start reflecting on a specific childhood experience of mine that relates directly.

In order to explain, we need to back up a bit… to when I was 12 years old, living in Macon, Georgia, 20 years ago. As a young and impressionable preteen, I remember seeing my favorite characters on my favorite TV shows and movies. And, in this specific moment, I took note on how they were living their professional lives. Frasier Crane was a powerful radio host broadcasting from the top of a glamorous high rise. Elaine Benes worming her way through the corporate world by assisting the demanding yet unintentionally hilarious Mr. Pitt. Jim Carrey, playing a lawyer in Liar, Liar.

I remember thinking to myself that these career options were not in my future. Not because I wasn’t intelligent. Not because I wasn’t willing to put in the work. I simply didn’t feel as if I had a place in the corporate world because, although I wouldn’t admit it anyone, I knew I was gay. And I remember telling myself that I’d either have to hide that part of me forever to gain access to that corporate world or I’d have to find some other career option. When I made this realization, I burst into tears. I just simply couldn’t help myself. Because, in that moment, no path seemed to allow me to be me while simultaneously having the freedom to build my life on my terms. I felt incredibly isolated and alone.

With this context, I tell you: visibility and representation matters.

It matters to so many, that one of the largest tech companies marches unapologetically with their employees in front of millions worldwide. Marching helps that kid today, similar to me years ago, realize that he or she does have a place in the corporate environment. Our marching empowers them to be visible, vocal, and, most importantly, proud.

Fast forward back to that weekend and there’s no doubt about it, I was surrounded by love. There was a feeling of acceptance that enveloped me. I couldn’t tell you how many coworkers told me that they they loved me this week. I’m lucky that I work for a company where I can grow and thrive and still be me unapologetically. To the 12-year-old me: thankfully, you were wrong.

But, let me leave you with this: my childhood story is not unique. It’s an experience that thousands have gone through in the past. And, unfortunately, thousands more will have similar experiences in the future. And, let me be clear, this doesn’t just affect those in the LGBTQ+ community. No. It affects so many minority communities in this country and beyond. And that’s simply not right. You shouldn’t be held back from your full potential simply because of your age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, or disability.

No, my story is not unique. But, it’s for this reason that I believe my story is worth telling. For those struggling to be yourself, we love you. You belong.

Happy pride,

Bennett


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