Celebrating Pride Month: An Interview with Rachel Suddeth

min read
Celebrating Pride Month: An Interview with Rachel Suddeth

Happy Pride month 2022! Invoca is honored to continue our tradition of celebrating Pride month with company events and widespread support of the LGBTQ+ community both inside and outside of the organization.

We sat down (virtually) with a member of Invoca’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG), Rachel Suddeth, to ask her a few questions about Pride. Rachel is a senior software engineer I at Invoca and an active member of the LGBTQ+ ERG.

Rachel (right) hanging with her daughter. Someone needs to refill their drink!

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, how can those be a better ally to other marginalized groups within the LGBTQ+ community?

I think the best thing we can do is listen to others, and respect and validate their needs, their experiences, and their identities as they see them. Everything else pretty much falls under that. Some examples:

  • If someone tells you they still see the word “queer” as a pejorative, then you don’t talk about us as being queer when you talk to them.
  • If you don’t understand why someone feels like they’re part of the community, you don’t say something like, “Oh you’re not really marginalized.” You might ask, “what is it like to be [insert their stated sexuality/asexuality here]”? But also respect if they don’t really want to talk about it.
  • Respect people’s pronouns, or lack thereof. If you make a mistake with them, correct yourself and just move on. Comments like “it’s so hard to remember”, or even apologies can come off like you think they’re burdening you with their pronouns.
  • When someone tells you of a bad experience they’ve had, reactions like “that’s terrible” are natural, but not very helpful.That statement is mostly about how it affects you.  Asking “How are you? Are you okay? How can I help?” or offering a hug (if they like hugs) show concern about how it affects them.

For someone who isn't out yet, what advice would you give them in order for them to be their authentic self?

Tough question. One thing is to recognize that there is more to you than your sexuality/gender. You may have talents or passions that you do feel safe talking about or engaging in. For me, being a singer, a dancer, a parent, a programmer, and a crafter are all part of what makes up my authentic self.

In terms of coming partly out, my experience has been to find a safe person to talk to about it. Someone you can trust not to out you others. This could be a close friend. It might be someone who is out and willing to answer questions so that you can feel them out and decide whether they’re safe to talk to. For me, it was someone I met at church who was openly gay and also befriended me.

Once you’ve been able to talk freely with one person, it’s a bit easier to seek out a safe community of people. With the internet and more support groups available, it’s easier than it used to be to find a group that’s part of the LTBTQ+ community. But for me, it turned out to be a crafting group that my first person was part of.

How can you utilize resource groups to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community and its allies — both internally and externally?

If you don’t feel comfortable talking, you can always listen. There’s a lot to learn from the experience of others. Having that opportunity to offer support, as well as ask questions in an environment where some people will be okay with answering them, can make you feel that you are part of a community.

And of course, you can ask for support. An experience I’ve had that was just awesome was admitting that I didn’t quite feel part of the group, and having others tell me that I am part of the community, and that I am welcome.

How do you think we can build an atmosphere of inclusion at Invoca?

I truly think we are doing that. Just having the ERG is amazing. We need to make sure people know what resources are available during the hiring process. We can also make sure people are aware that there are ways to optionally specify our pronouns in slack, pingboard, etc., where we have personal profiles. Having the people and culture team highlight days/events, etc. that are important to the community is also great. I have found some groups/sessions for LGBTQ+ support through the EAP. And I understand we’re planning on offering educational sessions as well.

What can companies do outside of Pride month to support the LGBTQ+ community?

There are always opportunities for making donations to organizations that support the LGBTQ+ community in some way. Other than that, I look at the things we are doing here at Invoca — any company can do these things to support the community all year long. 

Invoca is hiring! Check out our open positions here.

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