Employee Spotlight | Celebrating Pride with Michelle Zylstra
The NFL wouldn’t be the first place I’d look to find an out gay athlete on an active roster, but Carl Nassib proved me wrong by sharing an important part of himself with the world this week. I’m so happy that he has the space and support to come out, and as a gay woman, I share Carl’s view that representation and visibility are important. Cultivating a culture that’s accepting and compassionate – his words, not mine – is what matters most.
I’ve had hard moments, but I’ve also had many wonderful ones, even if only in hindsight. For example, a previous manager at a company I no longer work for dismissed my wedding and upcoming marriage because it wasn’t legal at the time. But, in a bit of poetic justice, my wedding invitations ended up being delivered on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, expanding marriage rights and responsibilities to all Americans.
A few years ago, I travelled with some Clippers colleagues to New York for the NBA’s Women’s Leadership Conference. On our first day in town we drove past the Stonewall Inn, the gay bar that was raided in 1969, leading to riots and eventually the birth of the Pride movement. I made a comment in the car about Stonewall but didn’t think much of it after that. The very next day, a coworker mentioned that she had looked it up, inspired to learn more, and suggested we visit it that evening. So we went. Yes, going to Stonewall was incredible, but I couldn’t have imagined how I would feel: surrounded by people I greatly respect – all straight women - who were present with me, acknowledging the history of Stonewall and how far we have come in the fight for equal rights. That was allyship, and it was powerful.
It’s experiences like those that have taught me the value of having Allies – people that create spaces where everyone can show up entirely and be wholly included. Even as an out, confident woman, I’m aware I may be judged, excluded, or more, because I’m gay. But I show up, because, like Carl Nassib, I know that by just being visible I may inspire someone else to do the same.
In celebration of Pride, I challenge you to evaluate how you show up as an Ally. How would someone know you’re an Ally if you don’t tell them? Do your words and your actions align? Do you amplify voices and advocate for others, even when it’s uncomfortable? What steps have you taken to educate yourself about people and experiences that differ from yours? Last week, the NBA hosted an Ally training led by Athlete Ally. While this session was specifically focused on Allyship for the LGBTQ+ community, its lessons can be applied to all underrepresented and marginalized groups. I encourage you to watch the hour-long session here. (Password: NBAPRIDE21!)
I feel fortunate to be a part of the Clippers organization for many reasons, and during this Pride month I am especially thankful for the Allyship I have experienced. Special rainbows to my amazing HR team of Ray, Natalie and Cristina, to my LACED UP Co-Chairs Marcus Banks, Michael Boisvert and Krystle Hogan, and to Tricia Teschke and Amy Millstone. On the following pages, I am excited for you to hear from two other colleagues about their connection to the LGBTQ+ community and how and why they practice Allyship.
Happy Pride and Go Clippers!