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Celebrating Pride Month

Mark LaVoie ,  Mikey Chiong,  Grant Waldvogel

During the month of June, we honored Pride Month with our loved ones, colleagues, clients and communities. This tradition has been celebrated for decades as a way to raise LGBTQ+ voices and experiences—and draw attention to critical issues that the community continues to face.

In recognition of the month, Mark LaVoie, Mikey Chiong and Grant Waldvogel each shared a defining moment in their LGBTQ+ journey.

Mark LaVoie, Senior Vice President

Coming out isn’t one moment. You do it dozens of times with different people. A true defining moment for me was the first time I felt prideful about being gay. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage. I was at work. It must have been around noon and I was sitting in my office and watching the news unfold.

I was so overwhelmed by joy that I asked my boss if I could leave the office to celebrate. They agreed and I went to the epicenter of the day’s celebrations, Stonewall. I was meeting a friend but spent most of the day by myself surrounded by inspirational people making speeches, celebrating and sharing their stories. It was a day filled with a million moments of pride and joy—and that was the first time that I truly felt that way about being gay.

Mikey Chiong, Associate Vice President

If I had to pinpoint the most important moment that defined me as a queer person, it would be coming out to my parents.

Why? Well, I grew up in a fairly conservative Catholic household, so I’ve always been cautious about coming out to my parents. That, plus the fact that society strongly enforces codes of behavior regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and most people receive the message that they must be heterosexual and act according to society’s definition of their gender – made coming out to them even more difficult and nerve-wracking.

While I had accepted that I was gay and came out to friends in high school, I decided to hold off on coming out to my parents until a later age. When I finally got around to it, my dad already suspected and was fully supportive. My mom, however, took a bit more time to come around, mainly for fear of how the world would treat me. While it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, coming out to my parents was also the most liberating and freeing process. I felt like I could finally be authentic and true to who I am and feel pride in being part of a community.

Grant Waldvogel, Account Executive

Some people have a singular moment, but it’s hard for me to point to any one transforming instant. There have been so many things that have led up to me coming into my own as a Queer person, but as I reflect, one memory does come to mind.

As Queer people we're linked together by a mutual understanding of our internal battles over our sense of self. My first time finding that in the community was with a passing stranger in Chicago as a teenager. I was coming back from a summer class I was taking, and I remember making brief eye contact with a passerby who gave me a quick nod and grin. 

While it didn't mean much to me at the time, and I hardly remember the person or what they looked like, I'll always remember the feeling of my identity being reinforced and recognized by a total stranger. I know it sounds silly but for so many Queer people finding mutual, and sometimes unspoken, understanding and kindness can be a pivotal moment in building their identity, at least it always will be for me.

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