Throughout the year Out & Equal aims to elevate diverse voices, stories, lived experiences, and perspectives—in this blog and across the work we do. In this issue we sat down with Emily Shilling (she/her), President of SPARTA and Out & Equal’s 2022 Corporate Advocate of the Year Outie Award Winner.

This year, what does Pride Month mean to you?

I’m reflecting deeply on what Pride Month means for myself, and for our community. As we confront anti-LGBTQ+ legislation emerging across the country, and from around the world, and the negative effects—and resistance—they incite across society, I’m reminded of the importance of being seen and heard, and having a community that embraces, uplifts, and empowers one another, individually and as a collective.

While we find ourselves in this environment of fear and divisiveness, Pride Month calls us to leverage the longstanding strength of our collective community, while remaining firm in our commitment to driving real change and advancing equality. History has shown that, as a community, we have the ability to persevere and emerge stronger than before. Together, we will harness the power within us to rise above the bigotry, transcend barriers, and forge new paths that will leave an indelible mark on generations to come. It is what our community has always done and will always do.

As we acknowledge and celebrate Pride Month, why does recognition matter?

Recognition matters because representation matters. It simply does, both directly and indirectly. When you see and hear and express value to those who have been marginalized and overlooked, you change their lives in ways you may not even realize. That includes those you’re directly impacting, and for those who may be watching you for signs and cues of who you are recognizing, who you’re investing in, who you’re choosing for opportunities. Providing recognition to LGBTQ+ people through positive and empowering platforms, uplifts the community and helps to change hearts and minds.

I still remember receiving my Outie Award (2022 LGBTQ+ Corporate Advocate of the Year) and what that honor meant to me. With that recognition, I had the opportunity to share my story, acknowledge my community, and hopefully show young trans and queer kids that they are worthy, they are loved, and no matter what obstacles they may face, they can overcome and do incredible things. Now, more than ever before, those platforms of recognition are so important. We must do all we can to protect those spaces, tell and amplify our stories, and spotlights LGBTQ+ people as talent to be valued and sought after.

As we continue to reflect on community, recognition, and representation, tell us about the importance of Workplace Summit this year.

Even before attending myself, I’ve long known that the Workplace Summit has served as a powerful convening of Queer leaders and allies who might not otherwise connect, all coming together with a shared commitment of driving LGBTQ+ workplace equality forward. This year, it has even greater significance.

Summit has always been the place to accelerate through tough challenges, with the benefit of a network of support to a community where we leave bolstered by inspiration, information, and joyful memories with lifelong friends.

Attending Summit is, in many real and tangible ways, confronting discrimination. It always has been. And, as a member of the Out & Equal Partnership community, I know that the organization has taken unprecedented measures to ensure that Summit will once again deliver a transformation experience while proclaiming in a united fashion “WE ARE” to those who might wish us silenced or erased. 

By attending this year, we will again, as we always have done, demonstrate our resilience, strength, and unwavering commitment to forging a society that embraces diversity and equality.