During Pride Month, Inspire highlights the stories of our team members as we celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community.
Today, we spoke with Ben Golden, Director of Change Management, Culture, and Employment Brand. Ben has been part of the Inspire family since November 2020. He is also a member of Inspire’s Pride Business Resource Group (BRG), which is dedicated to creating a safe space for LGBTQIA+ team members and allies while maintaining diversity in thoughts and ideas across Inspire Brands.
Why is being a member of the Pride BRG important to you?
I feel a responsibility to be a visible part of our community and demonstrate that Inspire is a welcoming and safe place to be your authentic self. Within the LGBTQIA+ community there are numerous individual journeys that people take toward feeling fully comfortable and embraced. One of our core behaviors at Inspire is to be an Ally to our team members. If I can be an example to someone struggling with their sexuality or questioning whether they can open up and be themselves then I feel like I’ve been an Ally.
Separately, the larger point to make is that I’m fortunate to work for a company that enthusiastically embraces a business resource group for the LGBTQIA+ community and provides a great level of autonomy for those of us involved to make it an impactful group.
What are your goals as a member of this BRG?
The primary goal is to create an environment where we support and learn from each other throughout the year while also educating the broader community. The other goal is to reinforce the idea that you don’t have “to be to belong”. As with all our BRGs, anyone can join whether that’s to be an Ally or as a team member who directly identifies with the community.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
Pride Month to me is mainly a time of thought and reflection where we have an elevated focus on the issues and challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ community, while also celebrating how far we’ve come and our achievements.
How are you celebrating Pride Month?
To me this is a bit of an interesting question. Mainly because I feel like I celebrate every day simply by openly being who I am. Personally, I reflect on a time when I was afraid of the stigma attached to admitting I was gay. I think of all those wasted years and missed opportunities to have conversations with the people closest to me. I think of how far I’ve come with that journey and I’m proud of not only my community, but how much I’ve grown.
How can others help forge a more inclusive and equal community?
I didn’t grow up knowing a gay person which, knowing what I knew about myself, was very isolating. In hindsight it turns out I didn’t have to know another gay person to not feel isolated. My mother passed away when I was 19, and in a way that was rather sudden. I didn’t have the courage to tell her who I was and before I knew it she was gone.
I learned from my high school homeroom teacher about 13 years after my mom passed that she knew the entire time. The summer before my freshman year I met my soon-to-be homeroom teacher to schedule classes. My mom waited for me to leave the classroom and stayed behind to chat, telling my teacher that I was gay and to watch over me in case I was bullied. I wish I had known that before she passed. My mom was a true Ally.
I tell this story only to demonstrate the importance of communication and openness. We both were hiding something. For me my sexuality, for my mom it was the severity of her illness. In the context where you don’t have “to be to belong”, let those people in your life know that you are a person who can be trusted, a person who embraces differences and respects individuality.
This story is part of an ongoing series.