Celebrating Pride Month with inspiring stories by commercetoolers.
I distinctly remember the anxiety I felt about attending my first office holiday party. I was a fall intern at a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. and I wanted to make a good impression so that I would be invited to participate in the spring session. In a meeting leading up to the holiday party, the team ─ all well-established, connected, and respected individuals in the government affairs space ─ discussed bringing their spouses and encouraged the interns to bring their partners as well.
I was terrified at the thought. I hadn’t come out, or rather felt the need to, to anyone on the team ─ much less the company. It wasn’t that my girlfriend at the time was a secret. I was more afraid that my team would look at me differently, or judge her for being masculine presenting. At the time, it had only been one year since same sex marriage became legal in D.C., only a few months since the end of the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy which prevented gay, lesbian and bisexual people from serving openly, and two months since a major U.S. political party publicly supported same-sex marriage on a national platform.
While all of those major strides captured headlines and hearts, that didn’t alleviate my concerns about discrimination. In fact, it wasn’t until 2020 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the landmark Civil Rights Act protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination. In the end, I finally asked my manager if it would be okay and to my surprise and relief ─ she not only accepted me and Jaz, but she invited me to be an intern for the spring semester!
As we’re halfway through Pride month, my story is only one of many that I hope you read this month. Below, check out the stories of my colleagues across the globe, and happy Pride!
I am the parent of two transgender kids. My youngest is bold and confident in their identity as genderqueer. They are the type to tell the whole world who they are and dare anyone to disagree. That external confidence is wound tightly around internal discord. They dream of a world that accepts them, but understands that we are far from that reality.
In early 2022, my eldest came out to us as transgender. Almost immediately, a reserved and distant child transformed back to the vibrant person we knew her to be in her younger years. She had been conflicted for years and didn’t know what to call it. Thankfully, she eventually felt comfort in sharing her true self.
I attended the Durham Pride parade with my daughter last year and some fellow commercetoolers. I cannot overstate how important that parade was to her. I cannot overstate how much feeling represented and accepted means to both of my kids. The parade was filled with joy and acceptance, and represented a hopeful contrast to the political environment in the United States –– some of which led to multiple conversations where my kids asked, “why does the world hate me?”
To me, Pride month is about awareness and acceptance. It’s about furthering the conversation and, hopefully, reaching out to those who feel isolated and internally conflicted like my kids did. I want to reinforce to those that are suffering that they are loved and accepted for who they are. In the end, that is all anyone really wants.
Last year, myself and three other commercetoolers joined the city of Durham, North Carolina in celebrating Pride by marching in the annual parade. It was the first time I had ever celebrated my queerness, and the first time I had ever marched in a Pride Parade. I felt seen and accepted in a way that I had never felt in my 38 years of living.
I’m still educating myself on the struggles of those who came before me, and I never want to forget the root of Pride month as we know it. It isn't about parties, clubs, loud music, or alcohol. It's about people who had had enough of being treated like animals for something that is so very natural. It's about people who decided to define themselves instead of allowing others to define them. It's about the lives that were lost.
I can't wait to march again with my allies and fellow LGBTQIA+ community members, and I am so grateful to work at a company that provides space for this.
I come from a conservative background. As such, I was at the receiving end of a lot of backlash from my family and broader society when I came out with my girlfriend in high school. It was truly a tough time for me. I was put in a position where I had to choose between my family and my girlfriend. That is a choice that no one deserves to make.
Part of what motivated me to migrate to Europe was the freedom to be who I am without judgment. It’s impossible to overstate what it felt like to be able to express myself and have no one bat an eyelid. My experience has driven me to always celebrate Pride whenever I can whether it's running an empowerment workshop for LGBTQ+ folks, or driving the Pride celebration in the company I work for. When I attended a Pride parade last year, my heart was full with gratitude. If only teenage me could see where I am now. Although I am still not public about my sexuality because of my community back home, I am hopeful. No matter how hard it will be, we’re not going anywhere until equity is achieved, and all of us can be loved for who we are.
commercetools is a proud supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and Pride initiatives across the globe. This year, we're sponsoring Munich’s Christopher Street Day Parade on June 24th, Durham’s Pride Parade on September 23rd, and hosting the next The Toolbox episode on June 28th at 4pm CET / 10am ET featuring contributors to this article and other commercetools employees. Follow us on LinkedIn to participate!