As a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, Mike Hoover feels a sense of pride every month, but June, he says, is special.
“It raises even more awareness and visibility, which are extremely important to this oftentimes underrepresented and marginalized group of people.”
The first Pride March took place in New York City on June 28, 1970, on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which were a monumental turning point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Today, millions of people participate in the annual celebration that recognizes the achievements of those that paved the way for civil rights.
“It’s an opportunity to recognize our achievements, but also, to look to our future,” Mike says. A future that, he hopes, encompasses allyship, authenticity and love.
Love is love
For Mike, who is Vice President of Systems Integration – Loan Services & Vendor Management at GM Financial, and many others, being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community isn’t always an easy journey. Access to equal rights is just one example.
He and his husband, Chris, who live in Texas, got married in Seattle in 2014. In 2015, Mike went in for a routine outpatient medical procedure and ended up in a medically induced coma for 10 days.
That experience opened Mike’s eyes.
“If we didn’t have a marriage certificate, Chris wouldn’t have been considered family and wouldn’t have been able to be at my bedside during that hospital stay,” he says. “These are things most people don’t have to think or worry about.”
Time to speak up
Being a better ally is important when it comes to the workplace. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community can sometimes struggle with unsupportive co-workers or not feeling accepted.
“Coming out, especially at work, can be a very difficult and sometimes traumatic experience,” Mike says. “Negative comments can have long-term detrimental impacts on LGBTQIA+ individuals of all ages.”
In fact, Mike shares that he’s been in conversations where comments and jokes about LGBTQIA+ have been made. “It’s hurtful,” he admits.
But positive experiences can often outweigh the negative ones. While he first started working at GM Financial, Mike needed to disclose his and Chris’ relationship, as they both worked for the company.
“I was extremely nervous. But my manager didn’t hesitate when I told him that Chris and I were in a relationship. His compassion, empathy and understanding in that moment showed me more about allyship than any words could have.”
He continues, “I have never forgotten that experience, and it gave me courage and strength to share my authentic self with others. I’ve never told him what an impact he’s had on me both professionally and personally.”
That’s why Mike believes that allies have some of the most impactful and influential voices to fight homophobia, transphobia and the unequal treatment of all people.
“Allies can provide support, compassion and strength,” Mike says. “So, speak up. You never know who you may be helping.”
GM Financial highlights our individual differences through diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts. By encouraging team members to support each other and be their most authentic selves at work, we're able to celebrate many different cultures, backgrounds, experiences and heritages.
Some people might be unsure how to best support their LGBTQIA+ friends, family or co-workers, but Mike offers a simple piece of advice.
“Treat everyone with dignity and respect. If you see someone struggling, offer help instead of looking the other way,” he says. “Every journey is different, so be patient and understanding.”
This Pride Month, take some time to learn more about those around you. Maybe read about Pride Month’s history or study some of the prolific advocates in the LGBTQIA+ community. Talk with others and learn their experiences, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
In the end, Mike hopes people take away one key objective from Pride Month: be authentic.
“Always, always, always be your authentic self,” he says. “Don’t let others define who you will or should be. Take pride in who you are as an individual.”
*LGBTQIA+ is an inclusive term that includes people of all genders and sexualities. It stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, intersex and asexual/ally. The “+” is an acknowledgment that there are non-cisgender and non-straight identities that aren’t included in the acronym.