How We’re Celebrating Pride Month in 2020
COVID-19 has shut down Pride events nationwide, making it harder for members of the LGBTQ+ community to let their voices be heard. So what can we do? We can listen.
As with everything else, Pride is going to look a little different this year.
In Seattle, we’re used to big, month-long celebrations all over town, with literally hundreds of thousands of people in attendance. Historically, June is around the time when us Washingtonians start to emerge from hibernation, and there’s nothing we like more than heading downtown to bask in the first few heat waves of summer while also promoting the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of LGBTQ+ folks nationwide.
Obviously, in a post-COVID-19 world, we can’t do that. But what we can do is listen. We can seek out and amplify LGBTQ+ voices online. We can donate to LGBTQ+ rights advocacy organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and the Transgender Law Center. And we can educate ourselves — about the history, about the cause, and about what it’s like to be an LGBTQ+ person in America today.
That’s why we asked Victor Anderson-Villalobos, our Director of Human Resources and Operations, to talk a bit about his experience as a gay man and a first-generation immigrant to the United States. Our hope is that this conversation will spark a dialog, within our company and within our community, about how Pride Month is more than just an excuse to romp around in the sunshine — it’s an opportunity to learn more about the oppression members of the LGBTQ+ community have dealt with in the past, and the issues they still face to this day.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Lima, Peru. I have 2 siblings, one younger sister and one older sister. My family moved to the states, Seattle to be exact, in 2001. After high school I moved to Puerto Rico to go to college. Part of that decision had to do with me wanting to live my life as a gay man and avoid coming out to my parents. I thought, if I lived far away, then I wouldn’t have to explain my sexuality to anyone.
I came back after 3 years and graduated from the University of Washington. I started working in HR almost 10 years ago, and I’ve been passionate about the role HR plays in an organization. I landed a job at WH in September of 2019. I oversee all of HR and operations — my main goal is to create the best employee experience for everyone on our team.
Going back a bit — when did you first realize you were a member of the LGBTQ+ community?
I always knew I was “different”, since I was little. I was never into sports or most of the “boy” things, especially growing up in a country where machismo is part of the culture. I was bullied from a very young age for being “effeminate,” or because I was into dancing.
What was your experience like coming out?
The very first person I came out to in my family was my younger sister, and it didn’t even phase her. I always thought the day I came out to my dad he would kick me out of the house, but he was very accepting almost immediately. My mom didn’t take it as well. It affected our relationship for a few years. We are in a much better place now, but after many tears and dealing with depression from being neglected by my own mother, it taught me a lot about what it means to be a gay person.
How did your life change after you came out?
After coming out I felt like the weight I had been carrying for years was no longer there. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I wasn’t just because society didn’t approve of my sexuality. I didn’t have to hide my true self. It took a lot to accept myself in my own skin and be comfortable in saying, this is who I am. I’m 34 years old now and I am proud of the person I have become.
Tell me about getting married.
I met my husband, Chris, 7 years ago at a bar. We had an instant connection that I can’t describe. We got married one year after we met, July 24, 2014, in Seattle. From the very beginning, I knew he was the one. We were lucky enough that gay marriage was legal in Washington and one year later it became legal in all states.
I’m curious about the history of Pride Month — what is it exactly, and why do we celebrate it?
June is considered Pride Month because during this time we celebrate all those who paved the way for the gay rights movement in America. It started in 1969 after an underground gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in New York was raided by police. Members of the LGBTQ+ community who were tired of police brutality fought back and it sparked a riot, which led to 6 days of protests. On the one-year anniversary of the riots, thousands of people marched in New York from Stonewall to Central Park, and that’s how Pride started.
Do you remember your first Pride? What was that experience like?
I went to my first Pride when I was 17. I remember it was in Capitol Hill and the parade took place on Broadway Ave, before it moved to downtown. It was a beautiful experience — everyone was their authentic self, in a place without judgement. It was one of the very first times I felt like I belonged somewhere.
Can you talk a bit about what Pride Month means to you, and why it’s important?
Pride Month means visibility. During Pride Month, we remember those who sacrificed so much to make our community what it is today. It’s a time to be thankful: thankful that I don’t have to hide who I am in public; thankful that I can hold my husband’s hand in public; thankful that we have rights, not as gay people, but as human beings.
Obviously, physical Pride Month celebrations aren’t happening this year. What can we do instead to show our support and continue the fight for gay rights?
There are a few things you can do in place of physical Pride celebrations this year. You can attend virtual pride celebrations that organizations are putting together. You can educate yourself on why we celebrate pride — Netflix has a great documentary on Marsha P Johnson, who threw the first brick at Stonewall. You can read a book based on LGBTQ+ experiences (one book that was gifted to me and helped me as a gay man is “The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World“). You can also consider donating to LGBTQ+ organizations like HRC, GLAAD, OutRight, TaskForce, etc. that focus on LGBTQ+ rights and issues.
How will you be celebrating Pride this year?
I’ll be spending Pride with my husband this year. Love always wins.
The Wheelhouse Way
We’re committed to continuing to build a culture of diversity and inclusion at Wheelhouse. If you or your organization have any tips or proven methods for us, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Also, if you are currently facing challenges with nurturing diversity and inclusion or dealing with any other People- or Culture-related issues during the Covid-19 pandemic and would like the input of our experienced HR and People professionals and other team members at Wheelhouse with expertise in these areas, please reach out! We’re leaning on values like Hospitality, Generosity and Trustworthiness during this time of crisis and we would love to connect with you or help you however we can.