About a month after I started working at the American Red Cross in Portland, Oregon, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida took place. I was on my way to Atlanta, Georgia, for a workforce engagement conference when I heard the news. I, like many of our brothers and sisters, felt this attack personally. Before this conference, I had not realized how many LGBT members composed the American Red Cross workforce. We banded together at that conference and found solace in our shared mission. Our many allies across the organization were also left speechless, and the conference proceedings opened with a moment of silence and we shared updates on the status of our (American Red Cross) response to the shootings.
Like any other large organization, there is a long and established whisper about the LGBT composition at the American Red Cross. We have a history in donations before regulations. We have a history in volunteering without being recognized as part of the community. Deciding to join the LGBT steering committee was a no-brainer for me, it felt necessary and right.
I recently tabled at my first Pride event for the American Red Cross in Ashland, Oregon. There was opposition to the American Red Cross being allowed to table at the event over the FDA regulation. There was some skepticism by a few event goers that the American Red Cross might not have a place in our community. These feelings were understandable and it was difficult for me to maintain composure. While tabling this event, I was also deploying our fleet of Emergency Response Vehicles and the first wave of volunteers for Hurricane Matthew. A young woman and her mother came up to the table and were thrilled that we were the first presence in the long row of tables after the Pride parade. The mother was there to support her daughter and had recently retired as a nurse. They were both pleased to hear about the LGBT steering committee and the existence of an LGBT presence in the American Red Cross volunteer and employee workforce. I gave the mother an American Red Cross pride pin and she wore it proudly while registering to become part of our Disaster Health Services team.
My American Red Cross story is still at the beginning. Despite being 135 years old, I feel like the American Red Cross is also at the beginning. I feel like I am a part of something, I feel like we are a part of something.