Pride Month and LGBTQ+ Allyship with Keith Nishida

June 12, 2024
By iQ Staff

Every June, we celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) pride in our communities. We spoke with Keith Nishida, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy and fundraising consultant for Okaeri, a Nikkei LGBTQ+ organization, to learn more about Pride Month and how to be an LGBTQ+ ally.

 

Peace, Love and Pride. From Keith Nishida

 

What does Pride Month mean to you?

“Pride Month” means many things to me as a proud multicultural bilingual mid-aged LGBTQ+ second-generation Japanese American. “Pride Month” may mean many things (positive AND negative) to people within the LGBTQ+ community. It’s not always rainbows and unicorns.

I put “Pride Month” in quotations because LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations happen globally during different months/weeks throughout the year. Fun Facts: Countries like Taiwan and South Africa celebrate their Pride during the month of October, and the city of Palm Springs, California, celebrates its Pride Week in November instead of June. Why? Because the LGBTQ+ community never stops acknowledging its history, sacrifices, progress and contributions as marginalized minorities. It truly is a year-round celebration of life and identity.

Pride to me is also a time of acknowledgement and assessment. An intentional moment to encourage everyone (including allies) to accept the truth and existence of LGBTQ+ individuals, instead of upholding laws and cultural norms that perpetuate disrespect and harm to the lives of everyday citizens. I see “Pride Month” as an annual time of reflection, taking inventory of individual and collective progress and setbacks made towards the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights and quality of life since last year as I celebrate with friends and colleagues, and re-commit to building a safe, affirming and liberated future for all.

 

Pride is... supporting businesses and organizations that actively create and protect safe spaces for LGBTQ+ communities and allies to experience joy. Keeping these businesses open requires strong commitment from everyone in the community, including corporations and local government. Photo from famous Moonlight Rollerway roller skating rink in Pasadena, CA. October 2023.

 

What is an LGBTQ+ ally and what is the significance of their role?

An ally is a “collaborator,” a “comrade;” someone with the courage and conviction to take initiative towards “co-creating” a safe, affirming and liberating future for LGBTQ+ individuals, especially when they are not able to advocate for themselves.

I think one of the key significant aspects of allyship is access. It is about how someone actively redirects their own privileged and earned access to resources, connections, spaces and opportunities for the benefit of often marginalized/under-served/overlooked communities. The role of an ally can unlock potential for individuals AND the collective group, whether it be in a personal or professional setting.

 

Pride is…about LGBTQ+ parents stepping up to love their children unconditionally and doing the unglamorous work of allyship, while libraries and other places of public services step up to share their resources to promote books of LGBTQ+ family acceptance instead of banning them. Monterey Park Library, June 2024.

 

Pride is…about breaking the silence of LGBTQ+ oppression across religious institutions and generations. Photo from documentary premiere event of “A Profound Silence”, created by Ichi-Mi, funded by Okaeri. Gardena Buddhist Church, April 2023.

 

How can individuals be LGBTQ+ allies during Pride Month and year-round?

Here are my steps for becoming an LGBTQ+ ally, which can be as simple as A-B-C:

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE. Realize your own privileges and where you currently are in the stages of advocacy for LGBTQ+ people. Take inventory of what you know and have yet to learn about the community you intend to support.
  2. BUILD. Expand your own knowledge base on how to better show-up as an ally and identify or create resources that help you form a plan towards how you’d like to make a positive impact. I recommend this resource for starters.
  3. COMMIT with curiosity and care. One day out of the year may be a drop in the bucket, but imagine if you diligently held yourself accountable for doing one thing every month that positively impacts the LGBTQ+ community. It’s important to note that the responsibility of teaching and guiding you towards allyship can not be all on the LGBTQ+ people you intend to uplift/advocate for. Imagine if it was Mother’s Day and she was expected to cook a feast so everyone can appreciate her motherhood.

Did you notice there is a start to this list but no “finish”? The work in allyship has no end, only a continued effort to co-create a better future!

 

Pride is…caring for the community by saving and protecting lives of those who have and are currently experiencing the impact of trauma and loss. LGBTQ+ and Asian Pacific Islander youth are more likely to attempt or die by suicide due to societal, familial, economic and political pressures. Photo from QPR Suicide Prevention training, November 2024.

 

Pride is…building friendships and coalitions cross-culturally united by a common cause for collective liberation. Much like a rainbow, Pride is about bridging differences. Photo from Chinese Rainbow Association and Okaeri marching in the LA Chinatown Lunar New Years Parade, February 2024.

 

How can corporations and businesses become LGBTQ+ allies?

I think it starts with a firm & public commitment to becoming LGBTQ+ allies, often signaled from the top executive leadership and shared across the stratified organizational structure in the form of policy reform and budget allocation. Extra points if the organization can acknowledge that one simply can not “be” an ally by self-proclamation, only by actions towards “becoming.”

This in turn holds businesses and its leadership accountable for its commitments toward creating a better future. Isn’t this the essence of every product or service offered by a business after all? To enrich its customers’ lives and better the future. We live in times where Generations Z and Alpha (who are currently ages 1-27) have immense vocal and buying power that can sway elections or “cancel” a brand/celebrity overnight. A genuine commitment by leaders will be rewarded and a “commitment” matched with incongruent actions will be met with unrewarding impact to the organization’s triple bottom line. Corporations and businesses become LGBTQ+ allies when they are ready to “show the receipts,” or track records and proof of impact. That said, I wish everyone a Happy Pride Month/Week... and may we all make intentional decisions toward a safer, brighter and liberating future for all!