Every year during Pride, I like to take a moment to reflect on myself, my life, and more importantly, the moments in the past year when I hid the fact that I am gay or otherwise shrunk myself for the sake of others. Once I’ve reflected, I then commit to ensuring those moments become more and more infrequent over the next year.
It isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Pride isn’t a one-day thing. We’re not queer for just one day or month; instead, we live our truth 365 days a year. This means that every day we decide how authentic and open we’re going to be in any given situation. It can be difficult, but the more authentic we are, the more our community can flourish.
By showing up as our true selves, we become teachers in life. We teach others that it’s okay for them to be themselves, and we educate them about our community.
Now, the idea that as queer people, we also must educate our peers can be exhausting. It can be, but “being the teacher” can be as simple as living authentically and leading by example. (A quick example of one thing I do is add my pronouns to my email signature or Zoom name, regardless of the situation I’m in. For me, it’s an easy and quick way to normalize the use of pronouns in my workplace.)
And by showing up as your authentic self, you not only encourage, but create a space for, others to let their light shine bright, even if just to you. In the workplace, especially a new workplace, where people aren’t sure how they can show up, it makes a world of difference.
It’s crucial, though, for everyone to define what it means to “be the teacher” for themselves. This allows us to set boundaries on what we can or cannot take on, while, as a community, recognizing that it’s our responsibility to come together and support each other in carrying the charge of education when possible.
However, teaching requires engagement with a willing audience, and the first step to learning is an openness to acquire new information.
In the beginning, you might feel like you’re failing, but that’s okay. It’s okay to fail because every person has experienced failure at some point. (And as a queer community, we must give those learning the grace to fail, because they won’t grow without it.)
And as Brené Brown once said, we must “lean into the discomfort of the work” when addressing difficult situations. And it holds true here because opening yourself up to learning can be hard and uncomfortable. But it’s necessary.
We all have the opportunity to learn something new every day, and it could be challenging to confront preconceived notions you may not even know you have. But, in the end, it can go a long way toward creating a world where everyone feels welcomed, safe, and able to be their most authentic selves.