Rainbow flags are waving, crosswalks are being painted in rainbow patterns and cities the nation over are holding parades and festivals to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. June is widely recognized as Pride Month, a time when the LGBTQ+ community comes together with our allies to celebrate progress and build awareness of the work that is yet to be done.
Pride began as an act of protest, with annual marches marking the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in June of 1969, and the spirit of activism is still at the heart of the celebrations. Indeed, it is our visibility this month that is intended to spark the conversations that will lead to a deeper understanding of who we are, and of the challenges we still face.
Many of the challenges faced by our community mirror those fought by other social justice movements, as they disproportionately affect people of color, recent immigrants and women. The real power of Pride is in embracing diversity of every dimension, in understanding how we are interconnected with the rest of this important work, and in finding ways to act together to create a more just world. Most banks don’t usually get involved in social justice issues but Amalgamated is different. We are the bank for a number of LGBTQ organizations and in addition to celebrating this month, we’ve also been spending some time learning about the great work that these organizations do.
Amalgamated hosted a Pride event last week, where staff heard from Yleana Roman of Immigration Equality, an organization that supports LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants through asylum-related representation and policy advocacy. The bank recently volunteered through the pro bono program Immigration Equality runs, where Amalgamated’s Assistant General Counsel, Mandy Tenner, helped a man facing persecution in his home country win his asylum case.
We also heard from Clement Lee, the supervising attorney for the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, who represents survivors of human trafficking including transgender women. Clement described the complex work of supporting some of the most marginalized people in our society, and helped enlighten us about what we can do to help.
Earlier this month, my colleagues and I attended the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund’s (TLDEF) Freedom Awards, which honors those working toward equal civil rights for all trans people. TLDEF’s signature program, the Name Change Project, works to ensure legal representation in securing a legal name change, an important step for many people seeking to make their legal identities match their lived experience.
Amalgamated is also a proud supporter of the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI), which focuses its programs on supporting LGBTQ youth and their families. Finding a safe space and supportive environment is still a challenge for many young people in this country, as LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of homelessness and suicide than their peers.
This work – uplifting our neighbors and celebrating our common humanity – is what Pride Month is all about. I hope you’ll join Amalgamated this month in supporting these and the many other organizations working to make the world a better place.
New York City holds its annual Pride Parade on June 25th this year. For more information, go to www.nycpride.org.
Have a safe and happy Pride!