At EF Education First, we learn from each other through collaboration and open conversations around the office, on campus, on the road, and virtually. I regularly have moments of connection, learning, and understanding with colleagues across the organization and around the world, even in a hybrid environment.
I recently attended a virtual panel discussion that reminded me why I am proud to work and learn alongside my fellow EFers. The discussion, hosted by LGBTQ+ @EF, was called “Beyond the Rainbow: A Panel on Queer Intersectionality.”
Team members from Austin, Boston, Denver, and Toronto shared how their queer identities go beyond their gender and sexual identities. Together we used this space to form community and learn from one another, and I left the session with joy and newly gained insights into others’ lived experiences.
In honor of Pride Month I want to share the common themes that arose from listening to my colleagues share their stories:
Queer identities are intersectional identities
The LGBTQ+ community is not a monolith. Each individual’s queer identities are impacted by their other identity markers — and vice versa. During the discussion, my colleagues shared how their gender and sexual identities intersected with their racial and ethnic identities, disability, and class. To put it simply –– identities are complex. Developing more language to describe complex ideas moves us closer to better understanding each other.
Coming out is a never-ending process
This concept of “coming out” is not one moment but a continuous process that LGBTQ+ community members do throughout their lives. And it is not done lightly — sometimes it’s quite calculative. Do I share with my manager I have a boyfriend if they ask about me having a girlfriend, or will they see me differently now? Do I correct my colleague for misgendering me, or will I come across as being difficult to work with?
Being “out” is not a luxury all members of the LGBTQ+ community have. Because of discrimination and prejudice, queer people must often navigate not knowing how they will be received if they are their authentic selves. That’s why it’s important not to make assumptions when meeting others. Recognize the power of words and use inclusive language to create spaces that are supportive for all.
It takes a community
I’m a firm believer that we do nothing in life alone. That is why community is so important, not just in queer life, but for everyone. Whether it’s your family (biological or chosen), coworkers, or friends –– surrounding oneself with support and understanding is crucial to take on each day and thrive. That said, finding community is one thing — fostering it is another and requires collective effort. In the workplace, we all must work to create spaces that further acceptance.
Queer joy is inspiring
When people can be their whole selves, they can celebrate who they are. However, when your identity has been historically marginalized it can be difficult to own your confidence. But doing so is incredibly empowering and a joyous act of self-love!
Ren M., Group Traveler Support Specialist with EF Go Ahead Tours, said it best, “Being queer gave me a second chance at life. My identity has brought me the joy and lightness of heart I had been missing while growing up. It was the best thing that has ever happened to me and allowed me to truly start living my life.”
These insights remind me why I am so proud to be queer. It also reminds me of the importance of trying to understand one another — because we open ourselves to be more inclusive when we see the world from another’s perspective. So whether it’s Pride or any other day of the year, let’s continue to work towards creating a more understanding and better world for all.