Celebrating Community and Empowering Activism for Pride Month
This post was written by the DocuSign Pride employee resource group.
At DocuSign, we’re excitedly awaiting the day when we can gather in person to reconnect as a community. We recognize that this last year has not been easy for the LGBTQIA+ community, especially children within our trans communities. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s emphasized the importance of helping each other and standing up for what’s right.
DocuSign is a diverse team, and we embrace the differences that make us unique. Celebrating Pride Month at DocuSign is an opportunity for us to gather and learn more about the experiences of our LGBTQIA+ colleagues. “Celebrating Community and Empowering Activism in the LGBTQIA+ Community'' is our theme for the month, so we asked our Pride employee resource group (and a special guest!) to share what the words “community” and "activism" mean to them.
What do Community and Activism mean to you?
Growing up, a sense of belonging was never something I had the privilege of experiencing. Being a BIPOC LGBTQIA+ effeminate male raised in a conservative framework was extremely difficult. The messages were: “ Do not share these parts of yourselves; they must remain secret“, “ If you differ from the status quo you must be crazy “, “ Seek a doctor's help to change “, “ Change the way you walk, talk and act, to fit the narrative “, “ You can’t be Arab and gay “.
All these notions have caused a history of trauma and a cycle of shame. They impact the perceptions we have of ourselves and how we bring ourselves to the workplace. My struggle has made me more politically active and it is the reason I speak up. It is imperative that younger generations see successful individuals, respected in their fields, have their voices heard.
Community is everything: one for all and all for one. It is a place of loyalty, a refuge of compassion, a harbour of understanding. Activism is my personal contribution. It is me existing as a Gay Arab and why I am here today delivering this message. The opportunity to speak up is what makes me proud to belong to an organization like DocuSign and a part of this community.
Danielle (Dee) Mascioli
Community may have become one of the most overused words in the last few years, as technology companies try to create a sense of human connection online and market that connection to us. However, the concept of human community is as old as time and is crucial to us as a species—while we may lose sight of it sometimes, cooperation and community building is sort of our super power.
Communities can be life long institutions with engrained rules and regulations for participation; like an incorporated town, a centuries old sports organization, or a union. Community can also be ephemeral; like a weekend conference for designers, a pop up farmer’s market or strangers waiting in line for coffee. Each can be moderated or unmoderated, and either has the potential to leave long-lasting effects on the individuals participating and society as a whole.
Communities are born from a group of people with intersecting needs and wants trying to figure out how to get them for themselves and each other. The drive to build a community is equal parts selfish and selfless, and that’s kinda what I love about it. I think activism is in essence the same thing: taking action to build your idea of a better future. The combination of activism and community can be a powerful thing, as a large group working together is more powerful than a single voice.
As a genderqueer person with many intersecting identities, I have greatly benefitted from the work of older generations of activists and the communities they built to get their work done to carve out a little serenity in their lives. The visibility, shape and make up of those communities has shifted and changed throughout history, but we have always been here and have always insisted on taking up space. This work keeps me safe and lets me thrive, which I am eternally grateful for.
Community, to me, is a chosen group of people who support a common goal or belief. Inclusive engagement with the collective fosters a space to share a diversity of perspective, experience, and identities. Activism is an expression of an action that focuses on socio-political change.
Community to me is a group of people who understand me, and whose default starting point is love and care for me, not judgement. In particular, the bisexual community understands me in a way that few others do. They do not view me through the filter of the extremely widespread myths about bisexuality. Bisexual community exists only because activists have fought to create it, maintain it, and re-create it from the ashes whenever and wherever it is destroyed or damaged. I am proud to have played a role in that history.
I feel like I have been an activist my entire life. I was five years old when someone asked me if I was a “queer” and I distinctly remember thinking, “why, yes, I am”. I was an accidental activist, as my presence could set off a homophobic tirade or worse in those days when many more were closeted. There has been a lot of discovery and growth since then. I have watched the world change from a place where the LGBTQIA+ community was supposed to stay hidden in the workplace into a world full of ERG’s where the community now debates whether they want corporate support for Pride Parades… when it all started back late in 1980s we begged those same corps for the budget to support the parades which were largely self-funded at that point.
A spark of hope ignited when Levi Strauss & Co, Inc. instituted Domestic Partner benefits for it’s employees around 1989 - the first corporation to do so in the US. I set about figuring out how I could work with them. Clearly they were okay with hiring LGBTQIA+ people and I had endured much difficulty and discrimination in employment up to that point.
I moved to San Francisco and actually worked my way into a job there….that lasted 7 years. In those early years at Levi’s, I was part of a group of employees who began what I imagine was one of the first employee resource groups. The LGEA...Levi’s Lesbian/Gay Employee Association was an incredible place to me: lots of other LGBTQIA+ community employees and we were changing the workplace and workplace policies. We watched as Bay Area companies, competing for LGBTQIA+ community employees, adopted domestic partner policies and non-discrimination policies and we were so excited when we had the first group marching in a Pride Parade. Recognition from corporations was critical as we worked hard to end discrimination in the workplace.
The LGEA and similar groups that popped up at Visa and Bank of America and Wells Fargo and the Gap and PGE soon formed an umbrella organization that we called a Group of Groups...which eventually morphed into Out & Equal, a conference first and then an organization that still exists today in support of fair employment practices for the LGBTQIA+ community. I look at the work these folks continue to do and I couldn’t be prouder of my legacy of activism and looking toward the future, the work the younger members of our community continue to do that will change the world for future generations!
Robyn Ochs, Author, Activist & Public Speaker
Community, to me, is a collection of people who are committed to supporting and standing up for one another across our differences. Activism is about identifying something that is broken in our world, imagining a solution, and taking action to bring that vision into existence. Activism can take many forms: doing the work of self-education; writing or engaging in conversation with others; working to change practices, policies, or legislation. Activism can also happen through creative expression such as theater, music, or art.
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