Pride Month carries a lot of weight for the LGBTQIA+ community—it is a time for love, celebration, and joy. It is also a time for reflection, amplification, and, most notably, protest, because Pride has and always will be an act of protest. Pride Month is an ongoing tribute to the 1969 Stonewall Riot, which was started by transgender women of color and sparked the modern LGBTQIA+ movement.
In 2015, when the United States legalized same-sex marriage, many of my peers who are allies of the community celebrated and said, “at last, we won.” While that day was a great victory for many in the community, in the year 2021, our LGBTQIA+ friends, family, and peers—especially transgender folks—have found themselves in the crosshairs of more than 250 anti-LGBTQ+ laws proposed all across the nation.
For Hue, WP Engine’s LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group, this message to the transgender community was not missed. The mission of Hue is to provide a safe, open environment to promote, educate and advocate for LGBTQIA+ people and allies at WP Engine, and we wanted it to be abundantly clear that all people, including our transgender peers, are welcome at this company.
The driving force behind Hue’s Second Annual Pride Week, which was held June 14 through 18, was discussion around these laws and how we as a company can take action to better support the LGBTQIA+ community.
Omaha employees enjoying some summer tie dye projects
To start off the Pride Month celebrations, Hue chose Black and Pink, ILGA-Europe, and Equality Australia as the beneficiaries of our Pride Month Fundraiser. WP Engine has generously offered to match employee donations, and we exceeded $2,000 before the donation match as of June 23! Funds are still rolling in, and any employees that would like to make a contribution can do so by visiting one of the three organizations’ donation pages and self-reporting their donation here.
We kicked off Pride Week with a bang—or a slam—with a Pride-themed poetry slam. We had four poets perform virtually from London, Limerick, Brooklyn, and Omaha. Prachee shared a passionate poem about queerness in India at a time where it was illegal. Joanna shared an emotional poem about allowing herself to feel pride in her authentic self. Ariel’s beautiful poems focused on the transness and Stonewall. And lastly, our WP Engine Limerick employee Darren O’Dwyer shared a truly heartfelt poem about his uncle Ed’s journey as he left his home behind to find acceptance, pride, and family in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Tuesday, we started the first of a three part series: our nonprofit showcases. We invited Mental Health and Wellness Manager of Black and Pink, Ace Devlin, to speak about mental health, the LGBTQIA+ community and how it ties into the work of Black and Pink. One of the attendees provided this feedback on the session:
“[I enjoyed] being able to put a face to the organization we’re supporting and build greater empathy with Black and Pink and the people they serve. I appreciated gaining a better understanding of minority stress, risk of harm, and the snowball of criminalization that people have to endure as a result.”
As a break from educational content, we took some time to celebrate on Wednesday by hosting a Pride Week dance party! At the beginning of June, we asked everyone to contribute to a Hue 2021 Pride Playlist on Spotify, and because many of our team members have been fortunate enough to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, we were able to host in-person dance parties (complete with tie-dyeing, of course!) in the Austin and Omaha areas. We were so glad to get back together and do something creative!
The world is much more beautiful when we paint (or tie dye) with every color of the rainbow!
After a much needed dance break, we resumed our programming with the keynote event “State of Trans Rights in the US,” hosted by Casey Pick. Casey is a Senior Fellow for Advocacy and Government Affairs at the Trevor Project, and we were so fortunate to have an expert in this area give an overview of the triumphs and challenges the transgender community is experiencing right now in the United States.
Over 100 people tuned in to hear the hard truth: We have work to do, and the data proves it. Casey shared that with 100+ anti-trans bills proposed in 2021 across the United States that target a range of issues including medical treatment and athletics, action is more essential now than it has ever been.
Attendees participated in a Q&A session with Casey, and most of the questions focused around action. When it comes to educating and creating allies, Casey reminded us, “it’s important to know that there are people out there who just don’t know much about trans people or trans issues, [and] I’m not writing anyone off. It is important that allies speak out on these issues, and provide better information.”
For anyone interested in following along with legislation related to the community, Casey suggests following state and local LGBTQIA+ networks and organizations like the ACLU. Those that want to stay in the loop on laws being proposed can also sign up for action alerts from Trevor Project.
Austin employees were so excited to see one another in person
The feedback from the keynote had a near-tangible buzz around it—many felt inspired to get involved, were thankful to have a space to ask an expert top-of-mind questions, and appreciated getting a scope of what is really happening across the country.
To harness that energy, we compiled resources for creating postcards, provided a list of currently proposed bills in the regions where our team members live, and uncovered avenues for them to contact their lawmakers! These resources came in handy, as our final event of Pride Week was a call to action: Write to your lawmakers about bills you care about.
Our other main call to action is to support, and when able, give to LGBTQIA+ organizations impacting your community, so during the week of June 21st, we hosted our two international Pride Month Fundraising partners: Equality Australia and ILGA-Europe.
Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia, touched on a number of key issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community, including how COVID-19 impacted mental health, religious freedom bills, marriage equality, and so much more. Our Australian teammates said, “it was excellent and extremely insightful to get Aussie-specific details on the tireless work and efforts being done.”
ILGA-Europe Partnership Manager, Anna Shepherd, spoke on LGBTQIA+ rights within the EU and UK, specifically covering the regions where WP Engine has offices: Ireland, UK, and Poland. By getting down to specifics, we were able to share information essential to those who want to be better allies and stay in the loop on progress within their country.
The talks from both of these organizations, along with Black and Pink and the Trevor Project, held one common thread: There is work to be done.
While Pride Month comes to a close and the dust (or perhaps glitter?) settles, it’s more important than ever that the momentum doesn’t stop. Pride month ends in June, but being part of the LGBTQIA+ community does not. With the sheer amount of anti-LGBTQIA+ laws being proposed, we can’t stop once July 1st rolls around.
Being an ally is being a part of the celebration and uplifting queer and trans voices, while also making strides to educate yourself and advocate for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people.
WP Engine proudly stands in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community. Internally, WP Engine works closely with the Hue Employee Resource Group to ensure queer and transgender employees feel included. Externally, we continue to build partnerships with important organizations like Texas Competes and Nebraska Competes, two coalitions in the United States dedicated to advocating for nondiscrimination laws in each state.
For Hue, our mission is to promote, educate, and advocate for LGBTQIA+ people and allies all year round, and we are looking forward to continuing the work both in and outside of WP Engine!