If you ask a group of individuals “what is Pride month” – you’ll likely hear a litany of answers. You may hear that Pride is a month-long celebration paying tribute to the stonewall riots of 1969. You may also hear that it’s a devil worshiping heathenistic holiday created by the “groomers” of the world. The answers vary greatly from individual to individual and demonstrate the need for Pride Month.
Second reference above is a perfect example of why we have a pride month – to overcome hatred, bigotry, and the treatment of individuals as modern-day Lepers. I personally believe Pride Month to be a time where many commemorate years of struggle for civil rights and the continued pursuit of equal treatment under the law for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, as well as pay tribute to the accomplishments of LGBTQIA individuals. Many uninformed individuals will state that LGBTQIA+ individuals have the same equities as other Americans. To that I ask you “Have you been denied food at a restaurant, denied the ability to shop in a store, or told by TSA that “you aren’t a real person”. If you said no to any of these questions – then you should keep reading.
So, why do we have Pride Month? To answer this, I want to start with a story. For those that don’t know – I’m a trans femme individual. For 30 years many of you knew me as “Billy – with the Y”. What you didn’t know is that I had prayed every night that God would give me a different body. That I might wake up not having to screen every word that came out of my mouth. That I might now try suicide for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th time. I knew who I was for as far back as my mind travels – I also knew I wasn’t to speak about it.
You see, I had no idea that there was a support group. I thought I was the crazy kid that was doomed to be miserable forever. Pride wasn’t a thing in my little NC town – and it certainly wasn’t something I was exposed to it at my religious school upbringing. Don’t’ get me wrong, this isn’t a stab at any individual or group – it’s just a fact. I didn’t know about pride. It took joining student housing – to actually see just how powerful and supportive a group of individuals could be – to bring me enough comfort and strength to present my true self to the world. The catalyst for that comfort – our residents.
A recent Newsweek article (https://www.newsweek.com/nearly-40-percent-us-gen-zs-30-percent-christians-identify-lgbtq-poll-shows-1641085 ) reports that 39% of Gen Z identifies as LGBTQIA+. That number is actually believed to be on the lower end of the spectrum (See what I did?). The valentine project, a research study based in the UK, interviewed more than 1,000 people between ages 13 and 26 in the U.S. and UK. The research found that 57% of respondents feel they don't fit into the traditional definition of heterosexuality. That means more than half of the young people polled are not straight.
By now you’re probably going “OK, so our students think it’s cool to be different – why does that matter to me”. The answer is multi-faceted. For starters – kindness is free and contagious. Being kind to someone is not an automatic acceptance of ones beliefs. You can like Duke (even though I think they are absolutely horrible) and still be my (UNC loving) friend.
Secondly, businesses that take a stance on social issues, such as the betterment and equality of all individuals, are going to be the businesses that Gen Z support. McKinsey and Company, a consulting group founded in 1926 by University of Chicago graduate James McKinsey, studied the effect of social justice in the consumables field. “Gen Z consumers are mostly well educated about brands and the realities behind them. When they are not, they know how to access information and develop a point of view quickly. If a brand advertises diversity but lacks diversity within its own ranks, for example, that contradiction will be noticed. In fact, members of the other generations we surveyed share this mind-set. Seventy percent of our respondents say they try to purchase products from companies they consider ethical. Eighty percent say they remember at least one scandal or controversy involving a company. About 65 percent try to learn the origins of anything they buy—where it is made, what it is made from, and how it is made. About 80 percent refuse to buy goods from companies involved in scandals.”
What does this mean? It means the communities that stand up for change, and act on said promises, will be the ones that 70% of students pick over a quiet community.
Think the buck stops at leasing? Wrong. I once worked for a group that banned participation on social issues. The result – teams became so upset (Particularly during the BLM and Pride movements) that they wanted to quit. Monster.com reports that 83% of Gen Z candidates said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer. Gen Z currently makes up just shy of 30% of the US workforce. These numbers mean that for every 100 applicants in the workplace – a non-inclusive environment would lose 24.9 of applicants without even an interview.
In closing, the world has a lot of battles going on. At the end of the day – our youth are determined to make a positive impact on DEI. Businesses that adapt will be met with open arms – businesses that don’t will be met with a dwindling customer base. Pride is not about fancy costumes, parties or rainbows. Pride is about reflecting on our past, focusing on our future, and opening the door to new individuals seeking support, or education, or a desire to fight for equality and inclusion. A culture war is brewing, but it will be our residents that fight for equality and representation. I encourage each of you to get involved in your communities. Build an environment of support for all, and ask questions. No one will judge anyone for trying to make a difference.
So with that said, please feel free to post your questions below (or message me) and I will do my best to answer them. In the interim, feel free to take a look at the article below for a quick beginners guide to the LGBTQIA+ group.