By Joe Stanieich-Burke, LGBTQ+ Advocate and FIRST Supporter
The global FIRST community is made up of diverse voices, perspectives, and minds. Within the FIRST community, there’s not only a place for every student, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, disability, or background, but there’s an opportunity to grow and shine collectively as we embrace our differences and use them as advantages to think differently about the world around us.
As we celebrate Pride Month this year, it’s important for FIRST teams, mentors, coaches, volunteers, and employees to step back and look at how the outside world directly affects our friends, teammates, coworkers, and family. As a global community, when one of us endures hardship or injustices, we all feel it.
Here are a few simple ways we can celebrate Pride Month by taking action to protect the wellbeing, rights, and livelihood of our LGBTQ+ FIRST community:
Ask friends and loved ones how they’re doing (and speak out!)
There’s no better time than now to ask how your LGBTQ+ friends, teammates, and peers are doing. In a quiet, safe, and welcoming space, ask them if they feel safe at school. Do they feel appropriately represented and included on the team? And speak out when needed! Microaggressions and hate can come in various shapes and forms. Sometimes disguised as a harmless, well-intended joke, microaggressions and homophobia can be dangerous and hurtful. Be perceptive and make sure that any injustices against an LGBTQ+ friend or peer is met with gentle, but strong opposition and support.
Proactively share your pronouns
This is not only an easy and helpful way to display and communicate your preferred pronouns, but it also tells those in the LGBTQ+ community that you are an ally and they’re safe to be their authentic selves around you. It’s a small gesture that can make a big impact as LGBTQ+ folks navigate the world around them searching for safe spaces.
Wear your Pride on your sleeve (literally!)
You don’t have to be a member of the LGBTQ community to display your Pride! By wearing Pride buttons, shirts, stickers, etc., you can easily foster an environment of acceptance!
Call your government officials
Whether it’s your town, city, school board, state, or federal legislators, speak directly to the people that oversee the laws that can victimize those in the LGBTQ+ community. Your voice is a powerful tool for change!
And finally, celebrate Pride!
Speak with your coaches, mentors, or LGBTQ+ teammates and ask how you can attend or help organize events to celebrate Pride throughout June. Take this opportunity to learn about the gay liberation movement and historical context of Pride or find ways to celebrate or acknowledge the many LGBTQ+ inventors, scientists, and engineers! Just remember that LGBTQ+ acceptance, support, and pride doesn’t end July 1st. Continue spreading love and fostering inclusivity throughout your life, school, and FIRST teams!
If you or someone you know has experienced one-time or ongoing issues such as suspected abuse, bullying, harassment, discrimination, questionable behavior or comments by peers and/or adults, or if you or someone you know is dealing with sensitive issues that cannot be resolved at a community level, please follow this link to report the issue to the FIRST Youth Protection Program.
If you or someone you know is in need of support relating to LGBTQ+ issues, please visit The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project can connect you with a trained counselor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, from anywhere in the United States, or you can join their network to get connected with other LGBTQ+ young people. It is 100% confidential, and 100% free.