Pride: A Staff Perspective

  • June 29, 2023

Pride month means a lot to our members and staff who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and their allies. To honor their experiences, we are sharing their stories of triumphs and struggles.

Both staff members volunteered to be interviewed during our monthly Squad 74 meeting. Squad 74 is one of Credit Union ONE’s employee resource groups (ERGs) and a part of the credit union’s DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiative for our LGBTQIA+ community and allies.

Squad 74 is named after the Equality Act of 1974 which prohibited discrimination in federally programs and financial institutions based on gender, sexual orientation, and marital status. This group meets monthly to promote awareness and discussion of the issues the LGBTQIA+ community faces in the workplace and in society. The group is open to all staff.

Mary Lou:
About Mary Lou: Mary Lou has been working for Credit Union ONE for 6 years and currently works at the contact center, helping members easily find the answers to all their financial needs. Mary Lou and Molly live together with their two loving dogs, Sweet Pea, and Jack. 

Mary Lou

Q: What are your pronouns, and why do you think respecting people’s pronouns are important?
A: I actually don’t use pronouns. I feel like that is more of a younger generational norm that I only just learned about a year ago from another employee. It’s still important to respect someone’s pronoun because it’s respecting someone’s identity. When people hear pronouns, they sometimes get judgmental. People need to be open-minded. Especially the older generations, me included, who were taught not to be that way. We were taught there was only one way to love but as generations have changed, we realized that hiding isn’t the only way now.

Q: What is your story?
A: I actually didn’t come out as lesbian until I was 40 years old. I had known since grade school though that I was different. I never acted on it since I grew up religious and my mom was strict and religious. I never came out to my parents; my sister was the only one to know. I was miserable for a long time hiding who I really was. I was a very shy person back then, but now that I’m out, I feel like I have a voice. If I hadn’t come out, I wouldn’t have been able to be with Molly either. I was introduced to Molly from a co-worker. She worked at a bookstore, and I use to visit her every day after church on Sunday. It was the best part of my day. I’d also wait for her to close up the store when she worked the night shifts alone to make sure she got home safely. Eventually everything worked out and we’ve been together for 22 years. The picture is of us at our beautiful commitment ceremony for our 10-year anniversary.

Q: What do you wish people knew about the LGBTQIA+ Community/Pride Month?
A: That you can still have love and religion in your life. It was a huge blow to me to have to leave the church which I looked at as my home, but I have found a new home at a church where the pastor begins every sermon with “All are welcome”.

I also want people to know that if you’ve never experienced the struggle of trying to come out, it is very emotional. This month is about celebrating that struggle and the joy of being able to express who you really are. Also, it’s about being able to express love.

Q: Any advice for those who are struggling to find themselves?
A: Make sure you have people that will support you ahead of time. That you are sure they will be there for you. It’s not easy. My dad was my best friend and I wish I could have told him. Telling my mom, it wouldn’t have been an easy thing to do, but I regret that. Sometimes, you have to choose your battles. You have to choose to be happy. There are so many people who haven’t come out and they are unhappy. I just “winged it”. I think most people are afraid of the stereotypes, but you have to choose your happiness. I’m not about forcing people, but you have to decide for yourself if you want to be happy.

Q: What are some ways people can be better allies to the community?
A: I am absolutely amazed by the allies here at Credit Union ONE. Squad 74 is a great group where allies, and young outspoken members, like Mo, have taught me a lot of new changes happening in the community. It would be great if other places had a Squad 74 within their organization where people can feel comfortable to talk about their struggles and allies can ask questions.

The other thing is, try not to assume someone’s orientation or gender. You don’t know if someone is “out” or not, and you can make them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed by making assumptions. It’s always better to ask.

Mariah “Mo”
About Mariah: Mariah has been working for Credit Union ONE for about a year and a half. She also works at the contact center where she enjoys helping members find the answers to their questions. Mariah lives with her cat, Artemis, who loves car rides and going on walks in her sushi decorated leash.

Mo of Credit Union ONE

Q: What are your pronouns, and why do you think respecting people’s pronouns are important?
A: My pronouns are She/Her, but any are really okay. If someone is being positive, I don’t care if they get it wrong! Respecting people’s pronouns is the most basic respect you can give a human being. When you first meet someone, you introduce yourself and say who you are. Pronouns are an indication of who someone is. If you knowingly don’t use someone’s pronoun on purpose, it’s a fundamental disrespect of their Identity and a violation of basic common courtesy.

Q: What is your story?
A: I identify as an androgynous lesbian woman. I identify as a woman, but I don’t dress as the stereotypical gender norm of a woman. I’ve known since middle school that I liked girls and not guys. I grew up in a half progressive, half conservative household. My mom was accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community but my dad wasn’t. I knew that coming out would mean losing my church community, which was my most difficult hurdle, but I wasn’t willing to compromise who I am. I came out in stages. I started with people at school and slowly worked my way to telling people I was closest with. I told my closest family last because I was scared to lose them. When I told my mom, she cried for me. Not because she didn’t accept me but because at the time gay marriage wasn’t legal and the military still enforced the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. She was scared about how people would treat me.

Q: What do you wish people knew about the LGBTQIA+ Community/Pride Month?
A: I have met so many genuine people in the community and during Pride. We have all gone through so much to be here and to celebrate who we are openly. They are very honest about who they are, likes and dislikes. It’s very cathartic to be around people who don’t care about these things and just see you as a person.

Being able to freely be a part of this community and celebrate during pride month has made me stronger. Since losing 200lb I now feel comfortable dressing the way I want to. That weight loss allowed me to dissect who I am and what I want. In the LGBTQ community you get more options to explore who you really are. I have a better sense of who I am now than before.

Q: Any advice for those who are struggling to find themselves?
A: Make sure you are safe. Make sure your living arrangements and job are secure. Identify your safe people who you can go to. Don’t engage with people who try to change you.

The best part of coming out was not having to fear what people’s reactions would be anymore. Before you come out, you don’t really know who in your circle will remain after they get to know the real you. After you are out the negative people or those you were close to reveal themselves.

Q: What are some ways people can be better allies to the community?
A: Don’t be afraid to ask a question if you aren’t sure. We are more offended by people assuming things and making conclusions about us. We all want to be treated differently, there is no one size fits all when dealing with LGBTQIA+ people. Language is constantly changing and isn’t something you can pinpoint forever.

If you don’t know or have a question, just ask. The fact that someone asks me questions, I enjoy it because it means they want to be respectful. Another helpful tip, If you don’t know someone’s pronoun, just use their name.