What inspired you to become the Co-Chair of Berkeley Lab’s Lambda Alliance Employee Resource Group?
My main hobby is volunteering for purpose driven activities, both at work and home. When the former co-lead retired, I happily stepped up.
What role do ERGs, and in particular the Lambda Alliance, have at Berkeley Lab?
ERGs are the voice of the communities that they represent. Often, the leadership of an organization will make assumptions about what each community needs. I am grateful that the leadership here recognizes that the needs of each community can only be understood by letting the community have a voice. For the Lambda Alliance, we are the visible presence for a community that is often invisible. We give voice to people who may not feel safe showing up as their true selves.
What are the main initiatives that Berkeley Lab’s Lambda Alliance is currently working on?
We are about to relaunch our Gender transition Guidelines to now be Gender Identity and Transition Guidelines. The new guidelines are more inclusive of people who are non-binary here at the Lab and has separate pieces for both employee and supervisor. We hope to have both employees and supervisors reach out to us for support. We hope people learn that a person’s experience transitioning is unique and very personal, so don’t make assumptions.
We are also continuing the Pronoun Project, encouraging people to use their pronouns. However, we don’t want to force people to share if they are not comfortable. But when we give opportunity for sharing, it prevents misgendering. I think our biggest initiative, beyond the relaunch, is education to prevent misgendering or outing. Misgendering is when someone accidentally or sometimes intentionally uses a pronoun that the person doesn’t identify with. This can be embarrassing and even painful. It is even worse when it continues to happen and causes distrust on working teams. Outing is where someone decides to share another person’s identity as LGBTQ+. This is even more harmful for a person who is transitioning. Usually, the person doing it thinks they are being helpful But being very personal information, it is only for each individual to decide how their story is told. Meaning, unless someone asks you to tell other people, don’t.
What are the biggest issues that you think the Lambda community faces in the near-term and long-term future? Both at the Lab and in general?
We are very fortunate to be where we are, both in California and with the Lab leadership supporting us. We are very grateful. The key issues are trying to reach the 700 supervisors here at the Lab who have very diverse teams, but may never have had training on working through unfamiliar situations. We have many events coming up, including having Julia Serrano, who is a Bay Area author whose books on her own experience during her transition has become a valuable resource for others going through their own transition journey. She is also a former employee of UCB and biologist, who got her PhD at Columbia. Lastly, though this is a welcoming place, understand that many of your colleagues are careful about what they disclose personally. This can be emotionally exhausting, not being able to come to work as your authentic self. We will continue to make each space more psychologically safe. Happy Pride!