June 28, 2023

Every June, we take the time to recognize and celebrate all versions of love. Pride Month is about bringing awareness to the larger LGBTQ+ community in the United States. At The New England Center for Children (NECC), the Pride Alliance Employee Resource Group (ERG), is dedicated to creating a space that values safety and transparency and fosters support and allyship for NECC’s LGBTQ+ community.

As June ends, Pride Alliance ERG co-leads Kiah Lyons and Kaya Chokshi-Fox reflect on Pride Month and how the ERG has helped embrace and progress the organization’s LGBTQ+ initiatives.

How would you define Pride Month and its significance in the LGBTQIA+ community?

Kaya: Pride month is a celebration of self! It is a reminder for us, our community, and the rest of the world that we are proud to be who we are! Pride can be a time of mixed emotions, depending on where in your journey you are. It is about a show of support and love, especially in times of fear and hate. Perhaps most importantly, Pride is in remembrance of all those who have fought and died for our community to be able to openly exist in this country.

Kiah: Pride month, for me, is about having the freedom and the safe space/environment to express myself, my identity, my sexuality, in whatever way is most empowering to me. It’s so significant to feel safe as a queer individual in the workplace and in our organization when fewer and fewer places, laws, and legislature are failing to recognize LGBTQ+ rights as human rights.

How can employers create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for LGBTQIA+ employees, not just during Pride Month but throughout the year?

Kaya: Making space for LGBTQ+ employees is incredibly important. Creating psychological safety by providing a space for people to express concerns, questions, and ideas is the first step in building a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

Kiah: It’s important for organizations to focus on their LGBTQ+ employees’ mental health. Imagine the stress from work, school, and home, AND you’re living in a country where your rights are constantly in question in the legislature. Organizations need to create what might be the only safe environment your LGBTQ+ employees have. Focus on creating opportunities to uplift and care for your employees’ mental health. Ask yourself as an organization, “Do my organization’s administrative and executive decisions ensure a safe and uplifting environment for diverse groups including the LGBTQ+ community?” I think many organizations offer support at face value, but when it comes to important administrative decisions, some of those decisions come at the cost of inclusivity, equity, accessibility, and diversity.

How does the Pride Alliance ERG foster inclusivity at NECC?

Kaya: We are creating that space! We want fellow staff to have a voice in our organization, one that actually makes a difference when it is heard.

Kiah: I’m very proud of our Pride Alliance ERG! Our ERGs rules ensure we are all on the same page in regard to respecting each other, our identities, and our ideas.  I have already learned so much from our Pride Alliance ERG members!

What are some important ways in which allies can show their support for the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month and beyond?

Kaya: Ask! Everyone feels supported differently, and self-identity can be tough. For some, the simple act of asking how you can support them is validating.

Kiah: Allyship is so important for the LGBTQ+ community! My first request would be that allies put on their listening ears before anything. It’s important to not just hear, but to listen to us first, especially if you do not share this particular life experience. My second request for allies is to ask questions on how to help. If you’re not sure how to be an ally to someone, ask! Not everyone needs the same type of allyship, so don’t assume! Listen first, ask second. 

What advice would you give to individuals who are struggling with their own identity?

Kaya: Take your time. And know that things might change in ways you never expected. Identity can be fluid, and that is okay. You are valid and you deserve to feel safe, supported, and respected.

Kiah: My advice to anyone struggling with their identity is to make choices that impress your 8-year-old self and your 80-year-old self. Your 80-year-old self has experienced it all already, has the largest scope of perspective, and knows what was actually important in your life. Your 8-year-old self has no idea the difficult path ahead, but your 8-year-old self knows who you wanted to be before that path started to wear you down. Bring those two versions of yourself together and make choices that all three of you will be proud of. You matter. You belong. It’s not easy, but you CAN do it, and it’s worth doing authentically.

For more information about or to join the Pride Alliance ERG, email [email protected] or [email protected].