Holding Space for Important Conversations on Pride
One of our core values at Yardzen is Goodness, plain and simple. Our hope is to create a community of honest, kind, and friendly people that feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. Part of that means we challenge ourselves to learn from each other every day, and we encourage our team to express ideas freely and bring their unique perspectives to work. The second piece is building a diverse and inclusive organization and committing to providing the best quality of life to all of our employees.
During Pride Month, and every day, we stand in support with our LGBTQIA+ team members, clients, and partners. Pride is a beautiful and important celebration and also a time to advocate for the equity of the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s also about having important conversations and understanding one another’s experiences – the cornerstone of building a culture of inclusivity. A diverse workforce is the best kind of workforce and it’s the only we can truly reflect the communities and homeowners that we serve.
In the spirit of creating meaningful conversation, we turn to our Yardzen team to discuss some of their own personal journeys and perspectives on Pride and to bring light to topics that are important to furthering equity and inclusion.
Brando Thandi (He/Him)
Designer Operations Manager | Based in San Jose, CA
Q: In the past 10 years we’ve seen an increased interest from large corporations in showing their public support for Pride Month. While the presence of this support has been a positive step, a new discussion about “Rainbow Washing,” has emerged. Can you explain what that means and how we can avoid it?
A: Every June, we see countless rainbow logos and limited edition Pride merchandise. While it’s a great step forward for human rights to see Pride so mainstream, it’s important to understand if a company’s interest in Pride is grounded in activism or simply a cash grab.
The term “Rainbow Washing” refers to the use of rainbow colors as a visual indicator of support for the LGBTQIA+ community. Consumers have been trained to assume that a rainbow logo means that an organization supports Pride, but many times it’s simply a marketing trend to drive up sales. Misuse of the Pride flag and other imagery damages the community and undermines the significance of these icons. I encourage everyone to be mindful of this performative behavior and take time to research companies that you support to ensure they’re truly fighting against inequality. If you’re looking for ways to support Pride this June, I advocate looking past the rainbow and seeking out queer-owned businesses and corporations that support human rights 12 months out of the year, not just in June.
Juniper Arsenault (She/Her)
Training Specialist | Based in Eureka, CA
Photo Credit: Audrey Darke Photography
Q: What has your experience been in changing your gender pronouns? How can we make gender pronouns part of our every day in order to build a more inclusive workplace?
A: For me, the process of telling everyone my pronouns, and correcting those who misgender me, has been really scary. I’m naturally more introverted so putting myself out there in any way, is an anxiety point. When I got to a point in my life where I could look inward, figure out who I am, and who I want to be, it was obvious to me that I needed to live as my authentic self if I wanted to be truly happy. Well, when your true self is different from the person everyone told you that you are, it comes with a certain level of discomfort – especially when you have to tell the people that you know and love that the person they perceive you to be isn’t who you really are. You end up having to reintroduce yourself to literally everyone you previously knew!
This is where having a support system is so incredibly important. There are times that I really don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to correct people that misgender me, but my wife being the super extroverted person she is, is never afraid to step in and correct people that mess up. It’s nice to be able to exist so effortlessly when we’re together because I know going into any situation, that should conflict arise, she is going to lead the charge in prioritizing my safety and comfort. I’d say this is the greatest gift you could give to the people in your life as you support them through their transition. It’s important to be vocal in your support, but it’s also important to not make a big deal about it if you mess up and need to be corrected. If you know someone that reintroduces themself with a name and pronouns that are different from how you previously knew them, the best thing you can do is practice, practice, practice! But don’t just practice reciting the right name and pronouns when you’re in person, work on reframing how you have ever thought of them. Retelling stories of your loved ones and taking the time and effort to say their correct name and pronouns is a really great way to rewire your brain and be supportive.
What about if you don’t know what pronouns to use for someone you’re just meeting? I’ve found that a great way to approach these situations is to introduce yourself with your pronouns to create a safe space for those around you to do so as well. “Hello! My name is Juniper, my pronouns are she/her, nice to meet you! How should I refer to you?” Something like this, when practiced habitually, not only creates a safe environment for people to define themselves for you (instead of you defining them before you’ve even met), but it also encourages and normalizes the conversation. Pronoun pins are a super helpful option, as is including your pronouns in email signatures! As a final note I’d say the best thing you can do for the trans people in your life is, when you mess up, correct yourself with a “thank you” and move on without making a big deal about it.
Natalie Collar (She/Her)
Account Development Associate | Based in Boulder, CO
Q: What does it mean for people in the LGBTQ+ community to have a “chosen family”?
A: The concept of a “chosen family” isn’t a novel one, but for the LGBTQ+ community, their chosen family is often their only family. Nearly 40% of the LGBTQ+ community are rejected by their families after coming out and expressing their true sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In other words, there are no family reunions, no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day celebrations, no invitations to weddings or family vacations. All of it gone, in a matter of seconds. This is a big reason why some folks never come out to their families.
This lack of acceptance causes all kinds of mental and emotional challenges for this community, and alternative sources of support and love are sought out via the chosen family. In many cases, chosen families are all that members of the LGBTQ+ community have for emotional support. Those friends, co-workers, neighbors, therapists, etc. show up for them in all the ways their family does not, supporting their hobbies, relationships, life goals, and so much more that people with supportive families may take for granted.
Do you have people you consider to be a part of your chosen family? Do you know anyone in the LGBTQ+ community who considers you a member of their chosen family? I encourage you all to continue accepting and supporting the LGBTQ+ people you know and love–it’s so valuable to us and sometimes all we have.
We are incredibly grateful for our Yardzen community and the diverse identities, experiences, and points of view that enable us to carry out our mission. We are nothing without this honest and open group of people and we remain committed to holding space for these important conversations during Pride Month and every day.
At Yardzen, we want to build diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into everything that we do as we continue to grow. We believe that diversity helps us build the highest-performing, most resilient, most relatable, and inspiring team that Yardzen strives to have.
Our mission is to help improve our clients’ quality of life by helping them spend more time in their outdoor spaces. To improve our clients’ quality of life, we must remain committed to providing the best quality of life to all of our employees. An equal quality of life for all comes from an effort in building a diverse and inclusive organization that is representative of the world that we want to create.