May 17, 2023
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia
May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. This year’s theme is “Together always: united in diversity,” which reminds us to recognize the power of solidarity, community, advocacy, and allyship.
Over lunch and between bites of her sandwich, our resident Proposal Writer, Sandra (she/her), recalls realizing she was bisexual at age 12 and the experiences that led her to proudly identify with her bi and queer identities today. If the outfit of pink overalls, “too much jewelry,” and a snake ring doesn’t say queer proudly enough, she will!
We asked Sandra what it means for her to identify as a proud queer bisexual woman. We also asked how she connects and thrives at Republic, what being an ally and advocate with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community looks like, and what she’s doing to end gender-based violence, especially at this crucial point for 2SLGBTQIA+ communities worldwide. As Sandra put it, “Ending violence means actively looking to help other people. Intervene, say a thing, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable”.
Q: How do you identify?
SANDRA: I identify as bi.
Q: What does that mean to you?
SANDRA: When I was 12 and realized I wasn’t straight, there were one of three labels available: you were either gay, bi, or straight. I was like, “Okay, bi it is.” Now I’d probably identify as pansexual because for me, it’s more about the person than the body they’re in, but I still like bi. It requires less explanation.
Q: Do you identify with the word “queer”? How does that sit with you?
SANDRA: Yeah, and I like that word because it’s kind of a catch-all for the whole family. Everyone can be somewhere under that umbrella, even if you don’t have a term yet for yourself. It’s nice because if you’re still figuring out who you are and you have questions, “queer” can be used without putting yourself in a box.
Q: There’s negative rhetoric in the word “queer” historically, but we also find this in the present time. How are you reclaiming it?
SANDRA: The world has changed a lot since I was 12. Back then, you would see the odd gay character on TV or in a movie, but usually something tragic was happening to them. They were dying, or some other awful thing. At least there was representation, but now there’s so much more. You see a broader, more diverse experience.
To me, the word “queer” has this family vibe to it. By identifying as queer, I think it’s a way to signal to other folks that I’m a safe person if you’re questioning, if you are queer, if you’re not sure you’re queer, if you’re straight or an ally—the more people use “queer” in a positive way, the more it’s reclaimed.
Q: Do you have a sense of pride in being queer/a queer person?
SANDRA: I definitely do. Part of it is the sense of community. For people of a certain age, being queer often means you’ve had a challenge in your life that you’ve met, whether that was coming out or accepting yourself, whatever it might be. Today, Gen Z is so much freer and more fluid. They’re better at accepting different orientations.
Q: How do you feel as a queer person working at Republic?
SANDRA: It’s not something I think about in the context of Republic, but I think that’s because the atmosphere is so welcoming that I don’t have to think about it.
You know, being queer at Republic makes me think about our last retreat before COVID. We went to Miami, and one night the whole team went to a drag show at Palace Bar on Ocean Drive. Drag performers everywhere, a very queer environment, and everyone had a blast! Everyone was so engaged that night. That shows what the office is like: there are so many different types of people, gender expressions, sexualities.
Q: Is there anything you can think of that Republic does actively to help you thrive in the workplace as a queer individual?
SANDRA: It’s not queer-specific, but the acceptance here is huge. You can express your gender and your identity through your clothing, your appearance. I feel comfortable being myself in what I wear and how I present physically, whether I’m wearing pink overalls or a bowtie or zebra print pants. Republic encourages being who you are, expressing yourself authentically.
Q: What do you think people should do to be better advocates with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community?
SANDRA: Good question. About a month ago, I was out for lunch with a group of coworkers. One person mentioned that they think their kid might be gay when two of us were talking about being queer. They wanted to know how to support their kid, and for me, the way allies can support the queer community is the same as what I told this coworker. Be conscious of the language you’re using—rather than assuming the kid is straight by asking a little girl if there’s a boy they like, ask if there’s a boy or girl they like, or heck, even just a person they like. Why does it have to be gendered? Watch movies and shows with queer content and normalize it. It shouldn’t be any more of an event to watch a gay rom com than it is to watch a straight one.
If people want you to use a certain pronoun, use that pronoun. If you make a mistake that’s okay, it’s going to happen sometimes, but be cognizant, correct yourself, and don’t make a big deal of it.
Being interested and curious goes a long way. Make space for queer folks to talk. If you’re curious about their experiences, ask, but be prepared that not everyone will want to share. If you’re coming from a place of curiosity and want to better educate yourself it’s great to ask, but you know what’s even better? Doing your own research and educating yourself!
Q: How do you work towards ending homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and/or gender-based violence?
SANDRA: Calling out things that are wrong when I see them. Basically, having a voice and using it. I’m a queer woman, but I can be read as straight. I’m white and cisgender, which means I have all kinds of privilege. Recognizing that I have this privilege means I can sometimes say a thing when someone else can’t. It’s having uncomfortable conversations and challenging people even when it’s uncomfortable.
Also, ending violence means actively looking to help other people. There have been many times when I’ve seen a situation that I know isn’t right, and sometimes it’s tempting to say, “it’s none of my business” or “I might put myself in danger if I intervene,” but there are so many things you can do. When I can, I step in. Probably more often than I should, honestly. That said, if people don’t feel safe intervening, find someone else who can. It’s better to feel a little silly and find that someone didn’t need your help rather than doing nothing and finding out that they were in trouble. Intervene, say a thing, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.