By Lyric Esparza
Attending a Pride Month event in Seattle feels like coming home – a home filled with glitter, dancing, and drag queens that ooze confidence. Seattle’s LGBTQ community is one of its warmest groups – a place where the nonconventional, misunderstood and outliers are not only accepted but celebrated with gusto. The graciousness of this community doesn’t stop at members who identify as LGBTQ but extends to the supporters of their community, their allies.
In late June, 1969, New York’s Greenwich Village was rocked by riots after police assaults against LGBTQ people at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan were made known. By 1970, organizations in New York and Los Angeles marked the anniversary of the riots with parades and celebrations supporting LGBTQ rights. Four years later, Seattle’s very first Pride celebrations were created. June 24-30th, 1974 was our first Gay Pride Week: 200 people attended a picnic at Occidental Park next to a stage with controversial banners that read “Proud To Be Gay” and “Proud To Be Lesbian.” As Greg Lange, a King County archivist wrote, it was the “first event in the region in which the gay community as a whole [came] out of its collective closet.”
The LGBTQ community has fought for decades for the right to celebrate themselves openly and without consequence. Seattle’s 2017 Pride Parade teemed with an air of unity that emanated throughout Fourth Avenue – a stance for visibility, acceptance, and unification.
People dressed as butterflies breezed by the crowd followed by sashaying, winged women on stilts. Company after company marched in unison, holding signs that spoke of acceptance and love. One company in particular – Comcast NBCUniversal – has set an industry standard with its decades of initiatives and passion for LGBTQ inclusion.
Walter Neary, Senior Director of Communications for the Comcast Washington Market, spoke of the fact that that NBC founded one of the first Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for LGBTQ people in 1986. The group, called OUT at Comcast, was a space for LGBTQ employees to be unabashedly themselves. Since then, the group has grown exponentially. In 2016, their international faction was relaunched, garnering employee involvement in places like Singapore, London, and Sydney. In 2016, more than 2,100 Comcast NBC Universal employees, family and friends marched in Pride Parades across the country.
Now, Comcast NBCUniversal runs over twenty diversity and inclusion programs. In the past they have partnered with PFLAG to run their Straight For Equality ally training, teaching employees how to advocate for and support those who identify as LGBTQ. Last year, Comcast NBC Universal hosted a “Closet to Corner Office” event, which “featured a panel of corporate executives who shared their professional and personal journeys, and the impact sexual orientation and gender identity has had on them in the workplace.”
At the parade, a large group of Comcast employees were marching. They’d decorated an Xfinity van like a unicorn, with rainbows and stars shooting from it’s sides and a glittery gold skirt at it’s hem.
Jennifer Martinez and Anthony Piedmonte, two project managers at Comcast holding leadership positions in the employee resource group Out at Comcast discussed the importance of Comcast having a presence at the event
“I think it’s important for every company to show solidarity,” Piedmonte said.
Martinez added, “I’m not a member of the LGBTQ community, but I think it is important for us to be here, to be allies. The gap between heterosexual people and the LGBTQ is too wide.”
“It’s incredibly important that I can walk into work and be treated like everyone else.” Piedmonte said with a smile, adorned in rainbow colored beads.
Dyana Langley-Robinson, another project manager at the parade, oversees the women’s network ERG. She discussed what it is like to work in a company that cultivates diversity. Comcast NBCUniversal partners with numerous external organizations to recruit talent, such as the Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and Lesbians Who Tech.
“Women in tech need to come together. We need to fight for unity and empowerment just like we do for the LGBTQ community.” Langley-Robinson said.
Attending Pride in 2017 casts a light on the LGBTQ rights movement in the past. It reminds us of the pioneers – as made evident in the group of marchers holding a sign that simply read “Stonewall” – and shows us the faces of the next generation, smiling and waving rainbow flags, growing up in a world that is safer for the LGBTQ community.