Creating Community, Connections, and Chosen Family With Booz Allen for Pride 2021
“This Pride month is about legacy. It’s about the sheer gift of existence and survival when sometimes you’re going up against a society that would prefer that you’re not you. It’s about gratitude for the strides we've made towards equality and paying it forward.”
- Booz Allen Associate and GLOBE+ Co-Chair Dominique Chamely
“We are who we are, we’re here, and we’re bringing our full selves not just to the parade but to work, too.”
- Booz Allen Associate and GLOBE+ Co-Chair Taylor Montgomery
Booz Allen Associates Dominique Chamely and Taylor Montgomery both worked as community organizers before joining the firm. Today, as the world emerges from an uncommonly challenging year, they’re building community inside and outside of Booz Allen as co-chairs of GLOBE+, the firm’s LGBTQ+ business resource group (BRG).
Here Chamely and Montgomery talk about the firm’s activities for Pride Month, the BRG’s goals for the year ahead, and what Pride means in 2021.
“Come as you are, you are welcome here”
Pride Month every June commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising and how members of the LGBTQ+ community have come together and supported each other since then, through the AIDS epidemic, battles for equality and acceptance, and beyond.
After the challenges and isolation of an uncommonly tumultuous year, Booz Allen’s Pride theme for 2021 is Pride Springs Forth. While many activities are still virtual due to COVID-19, GLOBE+’s core focus is connection, “helping people reconnect and rebuild their sense of community post-COVID,” Chamely said.
- A storytelling workshop
- An intersectionality roundtable
- Online mindfulness, workout, and wellness sessions
- Regional and firm-wide social events
- The “Whatever Makes You Happy” Hour, which Chamely calls “a tongue-in- cheek way to say come as you are, you’re welcome here”
“There’s a sense of emergence, of coming out in all ways this month—coming out from our homes and reemerging into the world as we are,” Montgomery said.
“We’ve made progress worth celebrating once again this month, and we should take joy in the prospect of building on that journey for an even greater good,” said Booz Allen Senior Vice President and GLOBE+ Executive Sponsor Linda Asher.
The importance of mental health and chosen family
Montgomery noted that Pride Month follows Mental Health Awareness Month in May. “They’re right next to each other and tied together,” he said.
The history of stigma, shame, discrimination, and violence toward LGBTQ+ people make mental health resources particularly critical for the LGBTQ+ community, he and Chamely explained. For example, LGB adults are twice as likely and transgender adults four times as likely to experience a mental health condition, and LGBTQ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness due to family rejection. Studies indicate that 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+.
Chosen family—a community of choice—is a lifeline as well. “Made visible by shows like “Queer as Folk,” and “Pose,’ the queer community has a legacy of looking out for each other,” Chamely said. “It was and is a necessity, not a luxury--coming out didn’t come with an expectation of familial support. Our community came together to navigate a world that didn’t welcome us as we are. It’s been a long road, and we owe the rights we have today to our queer ancestors who paved a path."
Chamely talked about how the BRG is focusing its communications and events around the idea of chosen family, celebrating the strength and resilience of bonds formed among members of the LGBTQ+ community seeking to affirm, uplift, and support one another.
And chosen family can include families of origin, many of whom extend their support beyond their own children. In pre-COVID-19 days, when Pride Parades were in-person events, Montgomery’s mother and stepmother would join him to march, giving hugs and extending support to anyone who wanted a “mom hug”.
“They love me unconditionally, and they’ve come to understand that not everyone has that,” Montgomery said.
“Everybody deserves the opportunity to be supported and have the chance to grow into their authentic selves, no matter what your community of origin is like,” Chamely said. “You should always have the opportunity to create a community of choice.”
Visibility, accountability, and becoming stronger together
For over 20 years, GLOBE+ has furthered such a philosophy of inclusion and acceptance, inside and outside of Booz Allen, playing a pivotal role in the firm receiving such honors as being named a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality by Human Rights Campaign for 11 consecutive years; a Forbes 2021 Top Employer for Diversity; and added to the Diversity Best Practices Inclusion Index, among other prestigious, inclusion-focused awards.
“There’s been some discourse with the corporatization of Pride Month. Corporate rainbows and t-shirts are great, but what are companies doing outside of June?” At GLOBE+, Montgomery said, “We see our jobs as being visible, but we’re also holding the firm accountable for the promises we are making to our community.”
For LGBTQ+ employees at Booz Allen, Chamely said, “if a resource isn’t meeting the needs you have, we have the opportunity to work with senior leadership on how that can be addressed.”
“There are no shortcuts to being your full self. Each person has to do their work, and we can provide resources for what folks are facing along the way,” she said, citing how GLOBE+ through its seven committees work to facilitate a growing range of volunteering, recruiting, professional development, and advocacy activities, often in partnership with Booz Allen’s other BRGs and employee networks.
Chamely calls the BRG’s strategy in the years ahead “a community-centered, capacity-building model with an intersectionality focus.”
“We’re always stronger together,” she said.