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#ItStartsWithConversation: On Acceptance, Love, Identity, and Activism

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#itstartswithconversation: on acceptance, love, identity, and activism

From the joyous to the difficult, conversations are a reminder of who we are, how far we’ve come — and how far we have to go.

In celebration of Pride Month, we’re passing the mic to four Highspot employees to share conversations that have changed the course of their story, and may inspire you, too.

“Surround yourself with people who will accept you for who you are.”

sammy hendrickFor many kids, P.E. class is kind of traumatising — and especially so if you’re gay. I felt extremely self conscious. There was one guy that I liked and I was terrified of looking at him, of him thinking I was looking at him. One day after school, I visited a close family friend who was like a grandmother to me. She asked me the typical questions — how’s school, and so on. Without thinking, I told her about my dilemma, but I flipped the story. I said that there was a boy who kept looking at me in P.E. Without missing a beat, she said, “He’s complimenting you; he thinks you’re very attractive.”

It wasn’t until I was older that I realised that she knew I was speaking about myself. And that her response — that the way I felt was okay — was her way of accepting me, even when I didn’t accept myself. That conversation spun me around — it was an important step in learning to validate myself.

For anyone one else going through a similar experience, I encourage you to surround yourself with people who will accept you for who you are. As I’ve gotten older, that group has expanded from my family friend, to organisations like the Seattle Men’s Chorus. Building that support system, that chosen family, is so important.

–Sammy Hendrick, Software Development Engineer

“Listen to your heart.”

carli lisonbeeI come from a religious background that isn’t always welcoming of the LBTQ community. So you can imagine how it felt when I fell in love with someone of the same sex. It was really confusing to me and unfortunately, she didn’t feel the same way. But that experience got me thinking about who am I attracted to and where do I stand as a person within my faith.

Eventually, I connected with a girl who understood where I was coming from. I remember thinking that if this was wrong, God would tell me. I met up with the girl and it was butterflies — love at first sight.

On the drive home, I called my best friend and broke down in tears. I asked her how such a happy experience could be wrong? I cried the whole way and she told me to follow your heart, follow what’s good, and be true to yourself. So I did: The girl I met on the app is now my fiancé.

It was difficult challenging my faith. But that conversation with my best friend let me know that it’s okay, that it’s right to listen to your heart and the good things happening in your soul.

–Carli Lisonbee, Account Development Representative

“What you feel is the truth.”

I’ve known my best friend since we were thirteen. We’ve seen each other through a lot in life and now we’re both married to wonderful guys. Two or three years ago, she realised she was bi, and we talked a lot about her journey to discover that. Over the course of many conversations, I came to understand that you don’t have to leave or open your relationship to date people with more than one gender identity just to be valid as bi.

It was these conversations that sparked my own journey. It took until I was thirty to acknowledge that I’m bi and have been for ages. My upbringing meant it took a long time to acknowledge that piece of myself. But hearing other people’s stories made me more comfortable with exploring my identity, even while in a loving, straight-passing relationship. And I realised that your identity is up to you; nobody hands you a membership card when you count as queer enough. There is no bouncer at the door of the LGBTQIA+ community checking your ID to make sure you’re allowed in. Your identity is your own. I was struck by how my husband and my friends were not only understanding, but celebrated with me.

For anyone exploring their identity, look for voices in the community you think you might be part of. I’ve found a few wonderful groups of people with similar stories to chat with. Connect with those people directly and build a support system. And – always acknowledge that your gender identity and your sexuality are your own. Nobody can tell you you are or are not something; it’s up to you to decide. What you feel is the truth.

–Katie Michie, Sr. Services Executive

“Make your actions match your words.”

When I was a kid, my dad had a series of severe heart attacks in his early thirties. He was hospitalised for the rest of his life due to brain damage, which impacted our family in many ways. Yet my mom would tell us to be thankful because, “We could always have it worse.”

As a young kid, trying to wrap my head around that was hard. But as I grew up, I began to witness what “worse” looked like in the form of racism, sexism, through the stories of people I met who had experienced war and political upheaval in other countries, and now, as a nonbinary person, through anti-Trans legislation. What my mom said kept ringing in the back of my head. It could always be worse. But did it have to be?

I started taking action – standing up for the people around me, getting involved in movements, and using my platform to help others. I hope that we can all inspire others with our actions, and use our individual skills to make a positive impact on the world. Make your actions match your words – find a cause that you care about and follow through. Because yes, things could always be worse. But it’s time we all help build a world where they aren’t.

–Steff McCusker, Sr. Quality Assurance Engineer

It Starts with Conversation

What conversations have impacted your life? Share your story with us on social media using the hashtag #ItStartsWithConversation – and be sure to check back for more stories from our Highspot team.

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