An LGBT Pride Month Event with US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Senator Tammy Baldwin

US Senator Tammy Baldwin and US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on the stage at the US Department of Labor's 2016 LGBT Pride Event.

US Senator Tammy Baldwin and US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on the stage at the US Department of Labor’s 2016 LGBT Pride Event.

NOTE: This blog contains several links including to other previous related blogs. Please do explore them. In addition, here is a link to the video recording of this event on Youtube!

For the past two years, I have been invited to attend the US Department of Labor’s LGBT Pride Month event. Not living in Washington DC, I am not normally able to attend, but this year I was in DC for two days of business at the time of this event. What a privilege to be able to attend this event on June 28, 2016 in our nation’s capital with two outstanding high ranking US government leaders.

(NOTE: two years earlier I had attended a meeting with Secretary Perez and a dozen other “faith leaders” representing the North Carolina Council of Churches. Link to the blog about that meeting.)

The 45 minute discussion was held like a “town hall meeting” with Secretary Perez starting with a five minute address and then interviewing Senator Baldwin. In his introduction, Mr. Perez quoted author Charles Dickens about it “Being the best of times and the worst of times” eluding to the US Supreme Court ruling on marriage a year ago followed by the recent massacre at the Pulse Bar in Orlando. He also mentioned the absence of nationwide employment protections for LGBT people and said that a gay person could get married today and then go into work tomorrow and get fired. (NOTE: I actually wrote a blog with that title – link.)

This year's US Dept of Labor LGBT Pride Month poster featuring a quote from out NBA basketball player Jason Collins.  (Link to my blog about Collins' coming out as gay)

This year’s US Dept of Labor LGBT Pride Month poster featuring a quote from out NBA basketball player Jason Collins. (Link to my blog about Collins’ coming out as gay)

Mr. Perez then introduced Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first openly out LGBT US Senator. He praised her for what she has done and how she had also done it with “Midwestern kindness” in an overall caustic political climate. Here are some of the key points Senator Baldwin made her comments:

• She personally realized the importance of universal healthcare coverage for all Americans early in her life. She was raised by her grandparents, and when she suffered through a rare and long childhood serious disease, she was not covered on their insurance since she was a grandchild. Then later in college, she had many classmates who were unable to obtain health insurance.

• She shared her journey as an out lesbian politician; from her county commission to the Wisconsin state house to US House to US Senate. She spoke of the importance of working for all constituents and building relationships. She also mentioned she was very fortunate in that a few out gay politicians helped pave the way for her and served as role models.

• The day before this meeting, she was fortunate to be in Greenwich Village, New York City, where President Obama designated the Stonewall Inn (gay bar in New York City) as an historic National Monument. (National Park website information about this new National Monument.) Stonewall was the location of the 1969 rebellion against police harassment of LGBT people and considered the birthplace of the American gay rights movement. Senator Baldwin poignantly spoke of how in the gay community, bars are actually places of safety and sanctuary, especially for people rejected by their families and communities for being gay.

Living in North Carolina where our politics is quite regressive (see my recent blogs about HB2 and hate in NC, and about alternative actions to boycotting our state,) I am encouraged by these excellent diversity and inclusion embracing leaders at our national level working for the benefit of ALL Americans.

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On a personal note, once again I got hopelessly lost driving in DC and arrived a little late, missing the introduction by Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Outreach and Recruiter Director for Presidential Personnel, the White House’s first openly transgender staff member.

For LGBT Pride Month (JUNE!) – Being a REAL Ally!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Lots of Useful and Interesting Links at the bottom of the blog! Check them out.

Traditionally, June is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Pride Month commemorating the “Stonewall Rebellion” in Greenwich Village, New York in late June 1969. Led by a set of brave drag queens, patrons of the Stonewall Tavern boldly stood up to police harassment.
Ally final
To supplement the materials I provided in past years (see links at bottom of blog), this year I want to discuss the importance of “allies” for and within the LGBT community. Allies can be “heterosexual” people, LGB taking action as allies for trans folks, or LGBT acting as allies across other dimensions of diversity like age or race.

Webster’s dictionary defines an ally as “one that is associated with another as a helper.” What a great definition that goes well with the graphic I created for this blog! A true ally-helper is much more than a person who says they support someone; they go beyond that to take some kind of action to help their associates. According to Friendfactor, one of the leading non-profits in the US today working to educate and activate LGBT allies, 77% of Americans verbally state that they support LGBT inclusion, but a much smaller number, 14%, actually do something about it.

Some actions you as an ally can take:
• Support your LGBT friends by including them in your social activities and treating same-gender couples the same as your heterosexual coupled friends.
• Use inclusive, non-gender specific language like partner or spouse when describing your significant other and asking about theirs, to signal that you’re supportive.
• When you hear someone use a derogatory slur or make a stereotype about LGBT people, ask them why they think so and start a conversation about how they may feel if that slur or stereotype was made about them.
gay marriage poster
• Attend rallies and community activities advocated for LGBT equality, speak out as a straight person and even carry a sign or banner (see photo).

Finally engage with Friendfactor, contact [email protected] for more info on building an active ally program at your workplace or school. Visit for their excellent ally resources. And consider supporting or attending Friendfactor’s 1st Annual Ally Challenge Awards Dinner in San Francisco on July 26.

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Here are some additional past blogs that can serve as LGBT Pride Month Resources:

LINK: Five things to never say to gay people

LINK: Five common misconceptions about gay people

LINK: Five Heroes of the early US Gay Rights Movement

LINK: Five Ways CEOs Can Show Support for LGBT Diversity

A Guest Blog: LGBT Gay Diversity in Direct Sales

LINK: Four Quick Points around LGBT Economic Development

LINK: The Intersection of LGBT and Aging

LINK: LGBT and Housing Issues