Preparing for Pride 2024

CU Pride was formed in February 2020 as the first LGBTQ+ association for credit unions. The tenants of the organization are powerful:

  1. Promote the visibility and voice of LGBTQ+ individuals in the credit union industry.
  2. Provide a safe but brave place for communion and discussion.
  3. Encourage action by allies and social change agents.
  4. Foster inclusivity and consciousness through programs, education, and networking.

During the CU Pride Allies into Action educational event on May 15, I was gifted the opportunity to share some ideas around how credit unions can celebrate Pride Month from June 1 – 30, 2024. Zachary Christensen is one of the amazing leaders of CU Pride, and he guided our conversation with an expert hand. We both had several a-ha moments during the conversation, so we’re sharing in the hopes that you’ll find some valuable take-aways, too.

A bit of background to help frame my experiences. I came out in 1984, which means 2024 represents my 40th year of being out to myself. When I came out, there were very few LGBT people in the public eye, and those who were out were vocally criticized and controversial. Think Liberace and Billy Crystal’s character on Soap. Even in the bustling college town of Madison, WI, the only place to socialize was a bar that you had to enter through a scary back alley. Every one of my gay friends was beaten up at least once for simply existing. We lived with the fear of losing friends to AIDS which was ravaging communities on both coasts. Our early Pride parades were made up of a few social organizations and one or two welcoming churches, and we were so scared to march out in the open.

Flash forward to today when we live in an era of each person being able to choose their journey not just as being LGBT, but as pan-sexual, asexual, aromantic, demi-sexual, gender fluid and so many more paths that are yet to be discovered. It makes me tear up to see how far we’ve come!

Why is it important for organizations to recognize Pride? And why credit unions?

Celebrating Pride Month in the workplace is a great way to recognize and support all employees regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. By openly supporting the LGBTQ community, staff members are reminded that they can be themselves and that your credit union provides equal opportunities for all employees.

Visibility offers opportunity. With 20% of Gen Z identifying somewhere in the LGBTQ+ community, when it comes to hiring talent, providing safe and welcoming spaces is important. Chances are high that not only do you have LGBTQ+ staff, you also have staff with LGBTQ+ relatives—and you certainly have LGBTQ+ members! Pride Month is a great place to start.

For credit unions, it’s not a secret that people’s financial lives are stressful. Members may feel like they don’t have enough financial knowledge or enough money, or they’re embarrassed by a late fee or a low credit score. Financial institutions are traditionally conservative organizations. Being out in front of the narrative of offering gender affirming care loans, providing credit and debit cards with inclusive naming policies, or home loans and accounts for non-traditional families will give people a safe space to land where they know they’ll be accepted and welcomed with open arms.

Some low hanging fruit to get started

  1. Show your Pride allyship. Adding a Pride sticker or flag to the doors of all your branches—including your online branch—is the easiest way to show you’re an ally. Offering the option for branch staff to wear an outward sign of their allyship on their lanyard or their nameplate such as a rainbow ribbon is also an easy place to start.
  2. Adopt inclusive language. Be conscious of gender when addressing members and staff. For example, you can refer to your members as members, friends, or part of the family instead of saying “sir” or “ma’am.” Start your meetings with a warm, “Welcome everyone!” rather than using the antiquated “ladies and gentlemen.”
  3. Step up your personal allyship. As Lisa Koenecke says in her book “Be an Inclusion Ally: ABCs of LGBTQ+” make the shift from being a “small a ally” to a “capital A Ally.” Commit to actions that challenge discriminatory language or jokes to help everyone feel that they belong. Next time you hear something that gives you that funny feeling that it’s not right, say something. It’s like the TSA—if you see something, say something.
  4. Lead with empathy. Validating someone’s feelings—especially if they are feeling vulnerable or even potentially attacked at work—can go a long way toward helping that person feel safe and letting them know you truly care.

For organizations celebrating Pride for the first time

  1. Be kind, use empathy, and assume positive intentions. Both members of the LGBTQ community and allies need to be given grace in this space to make mistakes, to ask for help, and to be given forgiveness.
  2. If you don’t know something, ask! And do a bit of research on your own versus always relying on the same folx to be your Gay Google.
  3. Be mindful of people who aren’t “out” or don’t want the spotlight. Many LGBTQ people do not feel comfortable or safe sharing their sexuality with others. Some people may not be “out” or may be questioning their sexuality. For these reasons, avoid putting the spotlight on specific employees to share their experiences unless they volunteer to do so.
    And know that it is never ok for you to share someone’s personal journey with anyone else without their express permission. Choosing to come out can be extremely anxiety-producing. We’re risking the potential loss of friendship, judgement, and being treated differently by our co-workers and our bosses. We may even face the loss of a promotion or job. So no, it’s not ok to tell someone else’s story—ever!
  4. Be clear on your why. Why are you celebrating Pride? Why is it important to your organization, to your team, and to your members? You may get some pushback, so prepare your managers with this “Why” so they can address any concerns that may arise. And if you’re unsure where to start, consider that you’re working to create an inclusive environment where everyone belongs.
  5. Make everything you do voluntary. If you encourage staff to wear a rainbow ribbon, don’t make it mandatory. If you encourage folx to add their pronouns to their email signature or Zoom accounts, make it optional. Offer the options—and keep offering them—until it becomes commonplace. That’s our ultimate goal—to make being a member of the LGBTQ community as natural as breathing.

Building on your organizational allyship

  1. CU Pride Month activities: Encourage and allow time in people’s schedules to participate in the CU Pride Month online events planned throughout the month of June.
  2. Share stories: Host a “Pride Month Panel” with LGBTQ employees as speakers to share their stories and their journey to bringing their full selves to work.
  3. Expand your reach: If your organization has a Pride ERG, reach out to other credit unions in the area, in your chapter, and in your League to offer similar support to their employees. Cooperation among Cooperatives is the 6th cooperative principle, and this is a great place to start. Share your best practices and tips for making it as successful as possible.
  4. Engage the community: Sponsor a table or float at a local Pride event, staffing the table with volunteers that are ready to welcome the community with open arms.
  5. Review policies and products to ensure they are inclusive: For example, consider welcoming language on your applications, educate your staff on alternative families and make sure they’re ready to treat all members with respect.
  6. Review your marketing pieces—from your website to your lobby posters to ensure they’re inclusive of the wide variety of humans we have in our communities.

Taking your Pride support to the next level beyond Pride Month

  1. Donate to LGBTQ organizations. Typically, the smaller the community, the greater the need for support. If you’re not sure where to start, check with your high school counselors as they’re often tuned into the needs and support systems for marginalized communities. You might also consider national organizations like The Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign as well.
  2. Offer scholarships to the GSAs in your high schools to create an influx of younger members. Organizations with a strong social mission resonate with the next generation of members. Support them and they’ll support you!
  3. Organize volunteer days at LGBTQ organizations and events. Credit union organizations are known for supporting their local communities on various days of giving and volunteer days. Why not add to the options by supporting your local LGBTQ+ organizations as well?
  4. Plan a Pride Month reading club: Whether you read a book specifically for Pride Month or you keep the book club going year round, check out this list of “Essential LGBTQ+ Books to Read for Pride (and All Year Long).” I’ve only read about a quarter of them, so I’m going to have a busy June and beyond!
  5. Watch LGBT movies with your team: Remember the teacher wheeling in a TV on a rainy school day to watch a movie? No tests. No homework. Just the joy of an After School Special. If book clubs aren’t your style, check out one of the 67 essential LGBTQ+ films to stream this Pride Month. Some of my all-time favorites are on this list. All the feels here!
  6. Host lunch and learns with local community leaders to learn more about Pride. The best way to become a stronger ally is to educate yourself. Invite a local non-profit leader to lunch. You’ll be glad you did!
  7. Collaborate with PFLAG and SAGE organizations in your community. PFLAG is parents and friends of lesbians and gays, and SAGE is Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders. They need your financial education. You need their members. It’s a win-win!
  8. Focus on the intersectionality of your team and your community: We are all parts of so many different communities, and when we recognize that we can’t separate out any one of those pieces but choose to celebrate them all, we all benefit from belonging.

Why is support and recognition of Pride so important right now?

The political landscape is scary for people in the LGBTQ community. Trans youth and their care givers are under constant attack. Here in South Carolina, a good friend of mine is facing the prospect of moving her family to Massachusetts because a ban on gender affirming care is about to be signed into law. With a trans kid at home, my friend needs to consider the safety of her child over the home she grew up in. That’s heartbreaking to me. We celebrate Pride one month out of the year, but we need support every day.

Don’t confuse large Pride celebrations in cities like New York, Seattle, and San Francisco with the fight being over. It’s far from it. Drag celebrations are being protested and cancelled. Hate crimes against trans women of color are on the rise. LGBTQ+ books are being banned every day. Only 21 states expressly prohibit gender identity discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations under state law, leaving transgender people in many parts of the country particularly vulnerable to mistreatment. As long as there are still homophobic slurs being hurtled at us when we walk down the street, Pride Month is important.

One comment from our recent BGHH discussion made me pause. A person shared that he was a bit hesitant to join the CU Pride group since he isn’t part of the LGBTQ community. Would he be seen as trying to take over as a straight, white, cis-gender male, or would he be welcomed? We enthusiastically welcomed him and shared that it’s extremely difficult for members of a marginalized community to advocate on their own behalf. Our allies help amplify our voices and let us know that we’re not alone.

We need to use our power for good and ensure both our team members and our members feel like they belong. And we need our allies to help us get there! I’d love to hear how your credit union is celebrating Pride 2024. Reach out to me at angela@cudifference.com to add your ideas and experiences.

Angela Prestil

Angela Prestil

As Senior Consultant for CU Difference, Angela brings a distinct specialty set in the critical areas of employee engagement, leadership development, and member loyalty strategies. She has helped hundreds of ... Details