For Pride Month 2023, we spoke to #IAmRemarkable facilitators invested in elevating queer stories and nurturing LGBTQIA+ empowerment. For the now 500,000+ participants of #IAmRemarkable worldwide, having this intentional space to share stories and empower each other is an essential platform – all made possible by #IAmRemarkable facilitators.
We asked three facilitators about their Pride journey, how #IAmRemarkable has helped them share their story and empower others to do the same.
Being authentically yourself
Rakshet Sachdev works in external partnership relations and R&D project management for a consumer goods company. As someone with Indian heritage, living in Bangkok, Thailand, and working with companies across the world – Rakshet understands the nuance of intersectional diversity. To him, Pride is important because it empowers queer people to be authentically themselves. When speaking about why he feels sharing his story and queer identity on social media is important, in spite of potential criticism from people in his network, he says: “Because it's authentically who I am. If you're not going to accept me, it's not my problem. I think that was the journey that took the longest, to say: ‘this is me.’”
I think that was the journey that took the longest, to say: ‘this is me'.
But Pride also reminds Rakshet that there’s still work to do to make queer people feel comfortable in their professional lives. “[At work], we're expanding a lot more into markets in conservative areas, so we want people in those areas to feel confident enough to join our network or openly speak up. Though within their country, their identity might not be fully legal, within the confines of the company, they know they're safe.”
Rakshet became an #IAmRemarkable facilitator in 2021. Soon after taking a workshop and becoming a facilitator, he realized how much it could help the people he worked with. He expressed that #IAmRemarkable has helped him bring his true self to other participants, and in turn encouraged them to be open in the same way. “Something that I've learned from #IAmRemarkable is that we need to give someone the space to be able to share their thoughts. It’s about giving them the time to be understood, and properly hear what they have to say, rather than just listening with a deaf ear.”
The importance of educating others
For Elliot Ibáñez, fostering safe and inclusive spaces for intersectional queerness is a fundamental goal for the future. Elliot is a Manager for HP in Guadalajara, Mexico. Although some parts of Mexico are more open and accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community, Elliot expresses there are still some conservative and religious people who may create a non-inclusive environment for LGBTQIA+ people. After overcoming sexual violence when they were younger, Elliot was determined to help other queer people feel comfortable enough to share their story and become empowered in welcoming spaces. Equally, after realizing they were non-binary, Elliot wants to encourage people to look beyond gender conformity when addressing LGBTQIA+ experiences. “When I started to get rid of all these social boundaries of gender, that was real life. I don't feel like a man or a woman. I am a non-binary person.”
Inspired to educate others, in 2021, Elliot became an #IAmRemarkable facilitator. They are also a leader of the HP Pride Impact Network in their country, and it’s these initiatives that helped them realize the value their leadership can bring. Elliot understands the importance of having an inclusive and empathetic community. "The safe space of #IAmRemarkable is a privilege. The fight is not over. We need to continue to work so everyone has the same access to the same space." But they’re still proud of the work they’ve achieved thus far. “I feel very proud of being able to share my knowledge and to lead these kinds of initiatives in my country.”
To someone struggling with limiting beliefs, Elliot would encourage them to see the value in themselves – big or small. “Just know, whatever we do is valuable. Whatever we have to offer in other people's lives, it's valuable. Even if it's a small thing like saying ‘good morning’, or something more complicated, it's all valuable if it's changing and positively impacting other people.”
When I started to get rid of all these social boundaries of gender, that was real life. I don't feel like a man or a woman. I am a non-binary person.
Validating queer existence
Being from and currently based in Louisiana, Ashley Mudd’s relationship with queer expression has changed a lot within her life, even just professionally:
“Coming from someone who worked in a job where I couldn't be out, I couldn't talk about my life at work… to now, where I'm almost paid to be visibly queer.”
Ashley is the program director of Reaching Out MBA, an organization that focuses on educating, inspiring and connecting students & alumni from the LGBTQIA+ community. Ashley became an #IAmRemarkable facilitator in 2021 to bring her story to others, but also be an intentional ear for others looking to share theirs.
I really do believe the stories that we tell inform the future that's possible.
To Ashley, Pride is a reminder of how important creating safe spaces in the workplace is. When reflecting on facilitating #IAmRemarkable, there was a specific moment that stuck out to Ashley as a testimony to the power workshops have in helping people open up:
“I remember passing by when a participant stood up and said, ‘I am remarkable because I started a million dollar business’, and she said that was the first time she ever said that out loud. She knew that it was true, but that she never felt like it was okay to own that. It was really interesting to see how her energy shifted when she said it out loud. I really enjoyed being in that room and seeing so many personal connections happen.”
Now, Ashley can reflect on her journey, as well as the journey that came before, to recognize her own accomplishments, out loud:
“I’m very proud of what everyone has done before me and to know each of those experiences have led to where I am now. It really allows me to continue to chart paths for other folks – for queer people who live in the South of the United States.”
Inspiring self-pride, together
Pride is an opportunity to affirm, dignify and celebrate LGBTQIA+ people, and remind us of the strides to be made for increasing visibility of the queer experience – which is something that’s done by sharing stories with each other. Rakshet, Elliot, and Ashley help facilitate the proud expression of individuality by creating community. The safe space they’ve fostered through #IAmRemarkable supports anyone brave enough to share their story and anyone willing to listen with intent. Their leadership reminds us to vocalize our self-pride in the present, to inspire more inclusive spaces for the future – at work and beyond.