June is a month ablaze with color and love, as we celebrate Pride Month across the globe. To kickstart our celebration at Ward Law LLC, we sat down for a heartfelt and enlightening conversation with our Billing Coordinator, Alisha Gasper. As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, Alisha is no stranger to the importance of this month, the conversations it sparks, and the celebrations that resonate with a history of courage, acceptance, and love. Take a look at our conversation below!
What does Pride Month mean to you personally?
I celebrate my family – I am so proud of who I am and the life that I have built for myself. I have an amazing wife and a super cool 2-year-old son who both make me incredibly happy.
Pride is also a time to celebrate who we are as a community and to educate others on LGBTQ+ history and current events. So many people have no idea what is going on in the country, let alone how we got to this point in time. For instance, according to the ACLU, there are currently a record 491 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in state legislatures across the country – not all will become law, but they are all meant to cause harm. This is another reminder to stay vigilant and to VOTE.
How do you celebrate Pride Month?
I spend time with my family and friends, we go to some parades (my son loves all the color and the energy). I try doubly as hard to support queer owned businesses (of course I support them the rest of the year, too). It is a time for the LGBTQ+ community to come together and be purely joyous in ourselves, to feed off each other’s positive energy, and to celebrate everything that makes us us.
What steps do you think need to be taken to promote greater inclusivity in the workplace?
There are many steps that can be taken to promote and create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ people. Include LGBTQ+ policies as part of your Equality and Diversity policy. Offer LGBTQ+ training to employees as part of your DE&I practices – it gives people a place to learn and ask questions in a safe environment. List your pronouns where appropriate, like your email signature. Foster a culture of being open, compassionate and accepting, understanding that identity is complex and not everyone fits into a nice, neat box.
How can allies better support their LGBTQ+ colleagues in the workplace?
One of the easiest things I would say to do is to not make any assumptions. LGTBQ+ people have to come out over and over in our lives in so many ways – if you present as a woman and wear a wedding ring, some people assume you have a husband and ask his name, not allowing for the fact that “he” might be a “she”. Do you lie? Correct them? Either way now you are put in a position to out yourself. If you are male presenting, people assume your pronouns are he/him/his but the person might prefer they/them/their – one never knows and that’s my point. Try to approach a situation using gender-neutral language when speaking to or about someone you have just met, until you ask or are told what pronouns to use, or until the person feels comfortable enough to share personal details about their life.
If you could have a conversation with your younger self, what would you tell them about the journey ahead?
Get ready lady, you’re about to make a lot of mistakes and there will be things you regret later in life. But you will embark on a soul-changing journey and find the person you are meant to be. It’s going to be exciting and heartbreaking and wild. You will make so many amazing friends but lose some others. You’ll learn what is important in life and what truly matters. More importantly, you’ll learn what doesn’t matter. You’re going to cry and laugh and scream, you’ll feel the burning heat of bigotry and misogyny, and the gentle embrace of love and acceptance and peace. You never know what life has in store but stay true to yourself and everything will turn out exactly as it should.
How do you handle moments of bias or misunderstanding about your queer identity in a professional context?
I’ve had to handle it many times over the years. Each time I start a new job, I decide what I’m comfortable revealing and want to keep private. For me, it’s hard not to talk about my personal life at work – you make friends and want to share what you did over the weekend or how your kid said a new word. I have been lucky and have not had to deal with much bias, but I have had many misunderstandings about who I am. I let it roll off me and set the person straight (so to speak); visibility is important and the more that people see LGBTQ+ people are just like them, the more “normalized” we become. The goal is to build understanding and compassion.
This Pride Month, let’s celebrate with Alisha, learn from her experiences, and work to create an environment of acceptance and love. Happy Pride!