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Shining a Light on Five Team Members Who Shared Their Stories During Pride Month 2021

Pride 2021 has been a powerful month at ER. The DEI Committee has provided many resources for education and allyship for team members committed to understanding and lifting up all marginalized groups. We are very pleased to shine a light on five team members who agreed to talk about their own Queer or Trans experience and what this month of celebration means to them. 

Amy Cornelius  

Pronouns: They/Them
Creative Asset Account Manger, Talent & Rights, Chicago, IL 

Please share a bit about yourself.

I am queer and non-binary and my pronouns are they/them. Non-binary means that I do not fall into either the male or female gender category.  I know using they/them pronouns can be difficult at first, but for me, I always appreciate when people make the effort, even if they have to correct themselves or slip-up sometimes.

Who or what was your biggest influence growing up and what did they teach you?

Definitely my parents. My mom was sick for much of my childhood, and she taught me to see the hope and potential in each day. She also taught me that kindness costs nothing and is almost always worth extending to people. My dad taught me that life is better with a sense of humor and that it’s ok to be who I am. My dad actually took me to my first LGBTQ event – we went to see The Windy City Gay Chorus at a church in Chicago. I think about my dad anytime I pass that church and how instrumental his support was, and still is, for me. It was more than just saying “I’ll love you no matter what” (which is important too). It meant a lot to me that he was willing to step out with me and show me ways to connect with the LGBTQ+ community.

What does Pride mean to you and how do you honor yourself and your community this month?  

Pride means feeling a sense of belonging and solidarity with my community. Pride is definitely a time to celebrate, but for me it’s also a time to reflect. When I walk in my neighborhood with my wife and see other people flying Pride flags, I think about how different my world is now from when I first came out. I also think about how there are areas of this country or the world where it may not be safe for people to fly their Pride flags. I think about how far we’ve come, how far we have to go, and who we need to fight for. This year has been an especially rough year for trans folks – there are a number of laws being proposed and passed that severely impact the rights and dignity of trans people. These members of my community are especially on my mind this year and I plan on making a donation to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund in honor of Pride.

What does being a good ally look like to you?

I think being a good ally, first and foremost, looks like speaking up when someone says something homophobic or makes generalizations/untrue statements about LGBTQ+ folks. This is not always easy, especially because people who say such things may be friends or family and you may not think they really mean any harm, but it’s never a joke to us if it’s coming at our expense and it can even make us concerned for our safety. Speaking up not only communicates that whatever was said is not ok, but also clearly tells any LGBTQ+ people around that you are an ally. It does not have to be a huge confrontation. You can simply say, “I don’t think that’s funny” or “please don’t use that word.” There are so many wonderful ways to be an ally, but in my view, it has to start with addressing homophobic/discimintory remarks among your peers and in your community. 

Brendan Gill

Pronouns: He/Him
Business Development Director, New York, NY

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I met my husband in college and this year marks 18 years together, 10 married. We live outside NYC in a small village called Bronxville. On the weekends you will likely find us either volunteering or hiking one of the local nature preserves on the Hudson.

Describe what you most want people to know about you?

Finding the right balance between work and personal time is key. Always remember to laugh, love, and live. One of my passions is travel. In the last 10 years I’ve made it to Cuba, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Italy, France, England, Spain, Morocco, St. Lucia, Mexico, and Germany. Next up on the list is Costa Rica. I’ve heard many great things and look forward to exploring this beautiful country.

What does Pride mean to you?

I recently read the following on Shine: “The legacy of pride is one of bold, unapologetic, self-celebration. It’s a way of proclaiming to yourself and to the world, I deserve to take up space on this grand planet, just as I am.” It takes a lot of courage to show up, masks off, in the world—to speak and live your truth. It requires that we be vulnerable. It requires that we do the internal work to know ourselves first. The journey to authentic living can be a rocky and uncomfortable path, but it’s such a worthy endeavor.

Who or what was your biggest influence growing up and what did they teach you?

My biggest influence growing up was my sister. She taught me strength, perseverance, and love. You never give up and always keep trying. Don’t be afraid to fail!

What does being a good ally look like to you?

Being an ally is more than being sympathetic towards those who experience discrimination. It is more than simply believing in equality. Being an ally means being willing to act with and for others in pursuit of ending oppression and creating equality.

Linda Codega

Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs
Features Editor,
Queer & Trans Subcommittee Lead, ER DEI Committee

What does Pride mean to you?

As Pride month comes around I’m reminded to honor and hold close my community, my queerness, my friends, and my family; found, chosen, bloody, and resistant. Pride is, for me, about remembering that loving yourself must always come first, and then loving others, and then loving the world. When I watch or attend the parades, parties, dances, or protests at Pride, I know it is a clarion for kindness, compassion, understanding, and perseverance. Pride is a celebration of queerness and our lineage of resistance. Pride is about how, despite everything, the queer community chooses to love, to live, to be our most authentic selves, no matter what.

What do you most want people to know about you?

That I’m a very happy queer and nonbinary trans person! That I love hiking and sailing and reading science fiction and fantasy, and that I occasionally write it too. Also, that I think everything could be made into a game.

What stereotypes or misconceptions do you want to address or dispel about queer and trans experiences?

Ideally, all of them! I want to specifically point out that trans people don’t have to appear a certain way or look a certain way in order to be trans or nonbinary. Trans women don’t need to be feminine to be women, trans men don’t need to be masculine to be men, and nonbinary people don’t need to be androgynous to be nonbinary. Embracing who you are, how you interact with gender, and questioning your identity is enough to be transgender – there’s no barrier for entry, whether people assume that’s surgical, sartorial, or even a part of sexuality. Trans-ness is beyond all that.

Are there any resources you’d recommend to team members who want to learn more?

First, some primers on trans identity. Planned Parenthood has a truly excellent breakdown of sex and gender, including a massive section on trans identities and understandings. I think reading is a great place to stay up to date on queer news, gossip, and struggles. There are very few truly great portrayals of trans identity on screen, but luckily there are tons of books out there that explore trans-ness from a lot of different angles. I’ll go an odd route and share some of my favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy novels that have nonbinary main characters! The Murderbot Series by Martha Wells, A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers, and The Tensorate Series by Neon Yang. Fantasy novels helped me realize that I can be whoever I want to be, without compromise. Maybe they’ll do the same for somebody else.

Brian Hamilton

Pronouns: He/Him
Director, Client Success, New York, NY 

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?  

Prejudice — how we as a society are so quick to judge someone based on appearance, color, or economic/social status. It’s so ingrained in the fabric of this country that most don’t realize their non-verbal cues speak their bias which leads to embarrassment, hurt, and anger by the receiving party.  

Tell us about some of the advocacy you are doing this month.

I am honored to be managing a campaign to raise money and awareness for an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization, The Trevor Project. I’ve been donating to their efforts to call attention to mental health and prevention of harmful outlooks that damage our LGBTQ youth. This year I decided to show my support on a public platform to demonstrate the pride I feel for myself and others who are fighting a similar battle.

What is your most treasured possession?

My peace. It has taken me a lifetime to find it and I now wholeheartedly value it and will do everything to keep it. And that includes removing anything and anyone who threatens it. 

Who/what inspires you? 

I’m inspired by anyone who wakes up each day and faces adversity with all the fear, anxiety, and anguish that it comes with but still perseveres to get through the day. They are the strongest and should be the most admired individuals on the planet. Until you know what it feels like to show up and perform your responsibilities with this storm of emotion and conflict going on internally, you will never know what true strength is!

What is your favorite quote?

“He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right” — Confucius

Vanessa McEnery

Pronouns: She/Her
Talent Account Manager, New York, NY
Queer & Trans Subcommittee Lead, ER DEI Committee

Who had a major influence on you and how?

It may sound cliche, but my mother certainly was my biggest influence growing up.  Of all the things she taught me, two things really stuck out.  It’s ok to be myself no matter what other people think, and  treat all people the same regardless of our differences (either in demographics or life experiences).

What do you most want people to know about you?

While my work in various types of activism officially started when I was 17 years old, I’ve always been passionate about justice, equality and inclusion for oppressed people.  Some random fun facts: I began reading at age 3 and learned to sew at age 4. I worked to bring part of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt to Mobile, Alabama & spoke before the City Council on the subject of LGBTQ+ rights.  

What does Pride mean to you? 

For me, Pride has always been a time of both celebration & protest. I celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, all the diversity within that community and all the contributions that Queer & Trans people have made. But I realize that it was the protests of those LGBTQ+ people who came before me that have allowed me to be out and proud. I feel that protests are a necessary part of Pride. We would not have gotten this far if it were not for events like the Stonewall Riots and the Compton Cafeteria sit-in. Pride marches and rallies were born out of protest and in some places, Pride is the only time that people see sizable groups of queer and trans people openly representing their community.  

What are your top three book and film recommendations?

As someone who is continually reading & watching films, choosing a top three can be difficult.  A more recent book that I would recommend is “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia because I love a good gothic ghost story especially when it’s told from a different point of view (in this case post-revolutionary Mexico). A current documentary that I have not been able to stop recommending since it came out this month on Hulu is “Changing the Game” about high school trans athletes. And now that it’s summer in the US, this is the time of year that I go back to one of my favorite summertime movies “Jaws”.  It’s a fun film & marks the beginning of the summer blockbuster film phenomenon, plus the Peter Benchley book is a great trashy beach read.