Pride is not a one month a year deal.
June 4, 2019 | Posted by: Haystax Mortgage
First, I would like to apologize to the LGBTQ+ community, my community, for the delay in getting this message out to the world. It wasn’t for lack of effort, but the Haystax team has been busy out there supporting community and charity.
June is Pride Month and from the 1st of the month, until into September, our community around the world holds Pride Celebrations, Protests, and Community Events to not only celebrate our achievements but to give hope, and to highlight the challenges that still exist for our community in EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY around the world.
I, like many in the community, get weary of all the messages that flood the air every single June and during the respective Pride events across Canada (and around the world). We are bombarded with companies that jump on the bandwagon and wax poetic about how they support the LGBTQ+ community. They post supportive messages on social media, they put a float in a parade, they talk about how proud they are to have employees that identify as LGBTQ+… however, for the other 11 months of the year, they do little to nothing.
I am particularly feeling jaded about it this year due to a post from a company I once worked for that is “celebrating” Pride Month… but the words that they used… “This MONTH is all about inclusion, acceptance… blah blah blah”. For most people they read that and they think it is great that a company is putting this message out to the world. For many in the community, it is like they are saying that we really only matter for one month of the year. Now, I know that is not the intent, but this message – coming from this company, gets me especially angry. Let me tell you a story. (I am not naming the company for a number of reasons, the biggest is because there are people who work there that I care about.)
You see when I worked for this company I was told that the senior executive felt that I could not do my job… because I was gay. You read that correctly. Not because I was not smart, or talented, or skilled. No, I could not do my job because I was gay.
Today, this company does have a couple of community members working there, but it is still run by the same people that felt I could not do my job because of my sexual orientation. Maybe they are trying to change their stripes, but honestly, I doubt it. A social media post doesn’t really mean anything. Words only have meaning if they are supported by action, every day of the year. This is just a grab at being seen as socially enlightened, supportive, and progressive. It is a grab for market share from one of the most economically powerful consumer groups in the country.
When I came out all those years ago, I worked in an industry that is as traditional as they come. There are almost no women senior executives, all of the national brand leaders are white men, with the exception of one who’s CEO is a black man. I was the only gay man that represented a national brand, and it was hard. Really hard. The subtle dismissal, the snickers, snide comments, and the blatant in-your-face discrimination has been something that has chipped away at me for over 20 years. It has taken all that I have to keep going, stay true to my belief in myself, and persevere in the face of what for many would be intolerable and insurmountable odds.
I stuck with it because I like what I do. I like helping people build a safe and secure future for themselves. I stuck with it because I believe that change comes as much from within as from protests. I stuck with it because I believed in myself and that no-one, absolutely no-one, was going to take that away from me.
I have spent 28 years in an industry that largely does not support our community. There are no LGBTQ+ organizations, or groups, in the industry. The few of us that are a part of the community do not spend a lot of time at events because of the pervasive undercurrent of prejudice. I once tried to get support from some of our associations to create inclusive LGBTQ+ friendly spaces but was met with a lack of enthusiasm or the outright statement that “such things were not needed or appropriate”.
When I got the opportunity to start Haystax I made a decision that we would be different. We would not just offer platitudes designed to grab market share, we would live and breathe our commitment to an inclusive society where everyone feels at home. Every member of the Haystax team supports this without doubt or question because they believe in it, wholly.
We are the first financial services company on the planet to use a Drag Queen, Conni Smudge, as a brand ambassador. Our executive team is culturally diverse and consists of 4 women and two men. We actively participate in LGBTQ+ events throughout the year. We live our commitment to our community all 365 days, not just for a day or a month. We also support charity for children, cancer, as well as supporting the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. No one asked us to do this, we do it because it matters and it means something.
It has not been easy. We have been told by a some people that having Conni as our brand ambassador will scare people away from Haystax. Heck even someone that was once doing our marketing for us, who identifies as LGBTQ+, did not want to use Conni saying it would be too controversial.
Our answer is simply… “OK. If someone doesn’t want to do business with us for that reason, well, then I guess they can do business elsewhere”. We will not sacrifice our ideals to make everyone feel at home just to make a buck.
We live in a country where we have the privilege of choice. We can choose to believe the one post a year about supporting our community and inclusion, or we can do business with a company that supports our community every single day. Not just through sponsorships, but in the every day actions that they take to make our world a better, safer, more inclusive place.
As consumers we get to choose who we do business with. We can pick a company that is committed to helping each citizen in this country feel like they are truly at home, every single day. Or we can pick one that tells someone they could not do their job because they are gay, but posts something nice on social media.
It’s up to us.