Tillman Scholars work hard to make an impact on their communities, country, and world. June is Pride Month, and several scholars are working to foster positive change within the LGBTQIA+ community. These four Tillman Scholars reflected on what Pride Month means to them.
“As an educator, my most important job is ensuring that my students are seen, heard, and safe. After all, being a teenager is hard, and being an LGBTQIA+ teenager without any support can be entirely overwhelming. LGBTQIA+ communities have overcome so much in the last few years, and I’m proud young people have much needed representation in the media. But, we can’t lose sight of the fact that over 85% of queer youth (2019) actively experience discrimination in their school environments. Until that number is zero, we all have more work to do.”
“Pride Month is a time to reflect for all those who have come before us and paved the way for the LGBTQIA+ community, but is also a time for us to recognize the work still ahead of us. For decades, the community has experienced horrible health disparities that have cost many lives. As a future physician, and part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I find it imperative that the community is able to build lasting patient-physician relationships in which they feel heard, represented, and cared for, both mentally and physically.”
“During a time when unification amongst U.S. citizens seems to be scarce, the importance of representation across sectors is vital in protecting and advocating for those within the LGBTQIA+ community. As someone who served under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT), I know first-hand how detrimental policies can be that exclude, diminish, and prevent all humans the same opportunities within the workplace.
Advocacy and allyship for those of us within the LGBTQIA+ community goes beyond Pride month or performative social media engagements; representation is the key to actual progress. If we do not have a seat at the table, equality for all humans will continue to be stifled and our voices, stories, and experiences will remain in the shadows.
After leaving the military and moving forward in my career, I intend on continuing to advocate for internal institutional impact through organizational policy change, hiring practices, education, and most importantly, ensuring those within the LGBTQIA+ are represented.”
“Pride month is special for my work as a literacy scholar and as an educator. In my role as the Summer Learning Curriculum Specialist for the Free Library of Philadelphia, I am part of a team that serves and supports students’ academic and social growth during summer break. In our summer programs, we identify literacy resources that reflect our students’ cultures and experiences. This includes choosing children’s books that illustrate the origins of Pride, celebrate family diversity, and challenge gender binaries.”