Coming Out: Prosekians’ Real Stories of Pride, Perseverance & Purpose
Happy Pride Month, readers! As part of our ongoing celebrations at Prosek, two of our colleagues have taken the time to share their remarkable stories about coming out and facing continued prejudice, as well as their recommendations for giving back to the LGBTQ+ community and being a good ally.
In this piece, Amalia Lytle and Mark Snyder, both based in our NYC office, provide an eye-opening glimpse into where we stand against queer hate, and how we can all be better allies to our LGBTQ+ friends, loved ones, colleagues, and community members.
Amalia Lytle – Account Supervisor (She/Her)
On coming out: When I came out, I was fortunate to have a pretty strong sense of security: I had a great group of friends, a (mostly) supportive family, and I lived in New York City - a place known for accepting people as they are. My coming out wasn’t anxiety inducing, nor something that was putting me in an unsafe situation. Instead, it was a PowerPoint presentation – that I put together – that explained to my parents why my queerness made them “cooler by association.”
On being reminded that unjustified LGBTQ+ prejudice remains rampant: When I was harassed recently for just being me – some hateful, homophobic slurs were hurled at my partner and me – I had to come face-to-face with my privilege, and with my naive thinking that things like this “just don’t happen anymore.” Suddenly, I was forced to remember that I wasn’t protected just because I have a good community or just because I live in a progressive city. Suddenly, I had to acknowledge that LGBTQ+ humans do still experience discrimination and hate.
When I went into the Prosek office following the incident, feeling shaken and in need of support, I found Mark Snyder: someone, I learned, who understood my experience—someone who has his own stories of strength, pain, and unwavering hope to tell.
Mark Snyder, Executive Assistant to Jen Prosek, CEO and Founder (He/Him)
On coming out: I first came out to friends in 1993 and to my family in 1994 (prior to leaving for college). It was the height of the AIDS epidemic, and portrayals in popular culture (the central reference point for the Midwest, where I grew up) showed queer people as either crazed and yielding an ice pick (Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct), or isolated and alone. Many of my coming out conversations were focused on assuring my loved ones that I wouldn’t be alone, that it was, in fact, a great quality to discover about myself, AND that embracing being gay would only enable me to thrive.
On facing unwarranted hate for being queer: Slowly, over time, the mainstream representation began to match queer peoples’ realities and how we actually live our lives. It’s all been pretty fabulous, I must say. So, it’s always shocking to people when I share that the only times that I have been called a derogatory slur (to my face, at least) have been here in New York City—including one time as recent as earlier this year. Though disheartening, to say the least, I embrace these experiences because they remind me that the work of acceptance and overcoming hate is not over, and that I have to continue to fight for the rights and love of my queer siblings who aren’t as fortunate to live in this glorious city.
Amalia & Mark: Where We Stand in the Fight for Equality
On the LGBTQ+ witch hunt occurring across the U.S.: Sadly, our experience isn’t uncommon. There are probably people on your teams, in your neighborhoods, and even in your family who relate.
Today, we’re living in a country where, just a couple Sundays ago, a Texas preacher said that LGBTQ+ people should be “lined up and shot in the back of the head.” Where, just the other day, a group of men with guns stormed a children’s story time hosted by drag queen Panda Dulce. Where, in 2022, there has been more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduced than ever before (roughly 240 state bills). And while places like New York, Los Angeles or Boston seem “safer” than some of the conservative states pushing these anti-LGBTQ+ bills, the fact is, there’s still hatred and violence committed against LGBTQ+ humans in more liberal places too.
Our experiences are proof of that.
Frankly, this nationwide crusade is part of an archaic playbook by conservative politicians to demonize queer people to distract voters from an insidious agenda that will ultimately harm them. The fact that these horrific new bills are even receiving a hearing and being considered by local, state, and national governing bodies shows that the old moves still work.
On continually cultivating an atmosphere of love and acceptance: While we can’t control the hatred that the queer community is facing in our country, we do have the power to create an inclusive environment at Prosek—and in any of our workplaces. One great way to do that, whether or not you’re queer yourself, is through allyship.
Being an ally starts at the individual level: get to know your colleagues, listen and validate their experiences, and take action when you can, whether that’s educating yourself or peers, attending Pride celebrations, volunteering, or raising your voice when you see a person (queer or otherwise) being made to feel less than.
And of course: vote, vote, vote.
Ways to Give Back to the LGBTQ+ Community in NYC
Amalia: I recommend looking into the Ali Forney Center, which supports LGBTQ+ youth who are facing homelessness. LGBTQ+ youth disproportionately experience homelessness compared to their straight/cis-gender peers. In fact, research from the University of Chicago found they have 120% higher risk of experiencing homelessness.
Also, if you’re interested in learning about current legislation that’s affecting LGBTQ+ rights across the U.S., make sure to visit this ACLU page for information and updates.
Mark: I’d suggest volunteering at Green Chimneys, which provides housing and support for LGBTQ+ youth here in New York and in upstate New York, as well as Sage, which provides advocacy, support, and social opportunities for our queer elders. I’m also a big proponent of Queer Art, a nonprofit that promotes diversity within the LGBTQ+ artistic community. They give out much-needed fellowships and grants to emerging artists of color, plus they provide legal assistance and advice for artists and freelancers.
For educational purposes, there’s Lambda Legal, which does an excellent job of providing the latest and greatest on advocacy resources.