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Submitted by NSM Philadelphia, PA ATP, Crystal Lee

June is Pride Month, a month-long awareness initiative and celebration of the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) community. NSM is excited to recognize Pride month and honor what it means to our team members. Throughout the month we will include personal stories from employees discussing what Pride means to them. This week’s story features Philadelphia, PA ATP Crystal Lee.

Pride is something that is supposed to be celebrated in regard to how far the LGBTQ community has come over the years. It is supposed to be a safe haven, a place for us to feel how normal we are in society. When I was younger, you were afraid to go out. You were so quiet, and everything was done on the down low. We used to have secret handshakes and the way we looked at each other and nods. Over the past 40 years since I came out, I’ve seen a change in acceptance, in inclusion, and what diversity truly means for LGBTQ people. We’re able to flourish now because we’re not specifically lumped into one area of life. You don’t just have your work life and your private life; we’re able to have both. We’re able to have families. I have a daughter and two grandchildren. My partner and I have been together for 27 years. We’re able to be open and out with it.

In some ways, I do think we have it easier nowadays, but I don’t want us to forget our history. I’m hoping that when they’re teaching history in schools and colleges, whether it’s women’s studies or LGBTQ studies, they can teach the history so that we remember that the LGBTQ community wasn’t always safe. In Philadelphia, we had a group called the Lambda Angels, and they would walk you to your car because otherwise you would get beat up. I can’t even imagine that! That’s how far we’ve come. But we also still have a long way to go. In Pennsylvania, there is still a law that a restaurant can ask a person who is gay or lesbian to leave. Now it’s never happened to me, but it shows that there are still places to reach for higher change. You can still lose your job in Pennsylvania—it’s an “at-will, at-work” state, and if you’re fired for being gay, that’s OK. You can lose your house in the sense that if you’re renting and your landlord finds out you’re gay and doesn’t want to rent to a gay person, they can evict you. So, we still have a long way to go, but I think we have gotten past the fear of not standing up for ourselves.

Before it was quiet, and we would have these once-a-year huge parades. Now you go to the parades and only 50% of the people are gay. It’s so family- and community-supported that people just want to go celebrate with you, so I feel like it’s not the LGBTQ community against society, but true inclusion, bringing society in to celebrate everything together. 

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