The Stonewall Riots began on June 28th, 1969 when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village. The raid sparked a riot as police roughly handled employees and patrons of the bar, leading to six days of protests. The Stonewall Riots were a catalyst for the gay rights movement, eventually leading to the celebration of Pride Month each June.
The purpose is to bring awareness and actively work toward equal opportunity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, and intersex (LGBTQAI+) community.
Earlier this month, I connected with the Franchise Owner of NextHome Realty Center in Cypress, Texas, Jeff Riley (he/him), on the importance of Pride Month and what it really means to him.
“Pride Month is a short period of time when we should celebrate our differences, be proud of our uniqueness, and appreciate all of the colors of culture, race, and religion,” shared Jeff.
“For many people, Pride Month is about being part of the LGBTQAI+ community and standing up for gay rights,” he added. “For me, pride is about human rights, and we should be proud to be who we are exactly as we are.”
His words affected me greatly because in business the one thing you pursue is different. Different means you stand out above the others to show your unique value and differentiation. It shows you there is another way. Different could actually be better and create more success through the diversity of being or doing things differently.
It amazes me how we as humans seek different and new things, ideas, products, and ways of making things more productive, easier, and overall better. However, when it comes to differences in the areas of race, religion, politics, love, and more, we fear difference.
As Matthew Stein (he/him), Contract Administrator with NextHome’s corporate office points out, “Pride Month is a huge opportunity for education.”
“This is the time of year when we are nearly impossible to ignore. Hulu has a huge banner featuring LGBTQIA+ films and TV shows. Websites feature stories and news about members of my community. Companies do wonderful things like NextHome is doing now, featuring employees who celebrate their pride. With so much in the forefront, people who may be ignorant of my culture are given many opportunities to learn. Ignorance breeds fear, and it is a natural response to fight against the things we are afraid of. Pride is a time when we hope the fear can be put aside and we can celebrate our differences.”
What an amazing opportunity for all companies, communities, and people to come together and find understanding and acceptance together. Matthew also pointed out that while so many, like NextHome, are making strides forward, we are very far from being done. To know that we have created an open and safe space for our members nationwide as well as corporate employees to be who they are is vital to the culture we have and continue to build.
Nadia Castillo (she/her), Senior Member Services Specialist at NextHome’s corporate office, shared a powerful message as well.
“Representation on a general level means a lot to individuals, including myself to be seen in different facets of life. I personally want to be valued as a person, respected, and recognized in stories be it in TV, film, and/or literature. Some companies could be less wishy-washy and actually make a safe space, judgment-free environment, and let stories of all cultural backgrounds have a voice, as we are not a monolithic group.”
Michael Armado (he/him), Graphic Designer at NextHome’s corporate office, shared his perspective on Pride Month.
“Visibility is a big factor. I think there are more actors, musicians, and athletes who are coming out. The LGBTQ+ community just wants the same rights as everybody else. We just want a seat at the table where everyone is welcome.”
The conversations this month will stay with me longer than others I have initiated for previous articles as many of the folks within the LGBTQAI+ community are also part of other classes of minority groups that continue to fight for equality to this day. The common sentiment among everyone I spoke with was, “while we have made great strides, we have a long road still ahead of us.”
Jeff did an excellent job of bringing this point home for me.
“This long road is for so many different demographics. The most positive change, for the better, that I am just now starting to notice is that more and more children are able to feel more comfortable in their skin around each other. However, the generations before them still demonstrate an intolerable amount of ignorance. I say ignorance, as a matter of fact, not criticism. Guilty at times myself, I strongly believe that prejudice of all kinds stems from ignorance or to put it nicely, a lack of understanding of other people not like us.”
Jeff added, “I think the largest way it has impacted my life is always feeling like I am someone that must disclose who they are, but must do it in a way that does not offend someone else such as many members of organized religion or certain political views. Real change will take hold when this topic no longer needs a Pride Month because we should carry the Pride of Humanity year round and embrace our differences.”
“Too many people, in all walks of life, miss out on some incredible opportunities and relationships due to prejudices,” Jeff shared. “Most people, who look deep inside themselves, learn that they don’t even really believe these prejudices, they were just taught to oppose differences. Many times in my life, I have met so many people who have very negative things to say about anyone else, but end up being great friends in the end because when we are who we are, rather than a label that defines us, then and only then can bonds form.”
Today more than ever we need to embrace different and challenge ourselves to fill the gaps within our communities and businesses and to give everyone the opportunity to engage and push us forward.
Being part of the real estate industry, our entire purpose is to build communities by helping all people buy and sell their next home. This is literally what every REALTOR® and agent does regardless of a person’s race, color, sexual orientation, religion, or financial standing. As the person leading NextHome’s growth, knowing that we represent some of the highest percentages of diverse owners in the business not only makes me, selfishly, feel my own sense of pride but more importantly tells me that we are doing something right in every community around the country our brand resides.
To create the change you must lead change and be willing to ignore those who see change as scary or impossible. To know that our company makes it safe for our members and staff to be their authentic selves in a safe and open environment without fear of recourse is at the core of what our mission statement reads: “Enriching lives by helping people find their next home.”
I believe that we are doing that here at NextHome and the sense of pride is what gives hope to keep doing more.