June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. In partnership with Viasat’s Pride Alliance Employee Resource Group, Viasat is celebrating the month by uplifting LGBTQIA+ voices, celebrating its culture and supporting LGBTQIA+ rights. As part of that, we’ve asked Pride Alliance members to talk about the importance of connection in their lives.
Ash Stephens | Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Coordinator
As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, maintaining connections throughout the pandemic was not just about having virtual fun or joking about one day seeing each other in person again. These connections have been a lifeline for myself and for so many of my friends.
After being in lockdown, having hours of sitting with yourself alone and outside the public eye, I realized that there were so many pressures I put onto myself as a queer person: how I presented myself, how I acted in public or with friends or at work, etc. But the question that stopped me in my tracks was — did that make me happy?
Staying connected through social media like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Discord channels allowed me to reexamine what made me happy as a person. The biggest turning point for me was realizing that I didn’t feel comfortable existing within the gender binary, and I had friends and a community who were there to guide me through my journey as I discovered what being non-binary meant for me. These connections validated my experience, reminded me that I wasn’t alone and that there were people out there with a story like my own.
All I want now is to be a part of that connection for someone else who might not have the support or privilege that I do, and tell them they have a place where they can feel safe.
Sometimes, connection is everything.
Kristin Walsh | Deputy General Manager Viasat Duluth
My LGBTQ community is very small, and being forced apart during COVID was extremely difficult. The two women – a lesbian couple – I am most connected with (my “adopted moms”) are much older than me and have been very concerned and cautious
throughout the pandemic. Finally, after over a year apart, we were able to get together with masks in a socially distanced environment, and I realized how much I missed my connection to other gay women. We have gradually increased our interactions and I have been reminded of how different and comfortable it feels to be in the presence of other members of the LGBTQ community.
Pride Month offers an opportunity to reflect, and this is one connection for which I feel incredibly fortunate.
Blake Petrea | Global Trade Analyst
During this Pride Month, and as a member of the LGBTQ community, I would like to recognize the connections I have made that have led with love, kindness, and support. I am beyond grateful to work in an environment — and most importantly with people — that allow me to flourish and express my identity and relationships without hesitation. Viasat, and my entire Global Trade family, have been incredibly supportive during my time here. To feel accepted is a central element to success, and I feel that acceptance here at Viasat.
Lusi Balzano | Test Equipment Administrator
Reconnecting with Pride means a lot to me. To many of us, myself included, being able to reconnect with friends is the same as reconnecting with family. Because let’s face it: to so many of us, that is our only family. And being forced — for their safety and my own — to be apart was like losing family again.
But now things are finally getting back on track and events are picking back up. And we’re still here, and we’re still living loud and proud as ourselves — just in time to celebrate a whole month of being ourselves, and taking Pride in who we are.
We all faced a lot of challenges, and while we were alone physically, we weren’t alone in spirit. So many of us adapted to the restrictions in safe and meaningful ways, and I can only hope we’ll see the continuance of these new skills going further, especially for people who aren’t as abled, and could benefit from the tele-setups.
Granted, I will miss the masks. It was definitely a fantastic tool of fashion and passability (as problematic as the concept of passing may be), but while wearing it, I didn’t have to shave twice a day or fear being accosted by a random stranger who was upset with me for simply existing in a space. You could say that the mask offered double protection for this transwoman. It offered safety from spreading the virus and safety from the people who make Pride a necessity.