We thought we'd end our working week with a blog for you to read over the weekend, the latest instalment in our #BeTheRippleBlogs series. This piece is an honest message from Dr Shannon Wong Lerner.
Shannon and I worked together in South Korea around 16 years ago and have remained friends ever since. She has 20+ years of academic and industry experience across several Fortune 50 or Fortune 500 companies, engineering and Ivy League universities, non-profit organizations, and U.S. and international government entities. Her unique positioning as a Ph.D. and longterm communication coach and consultant allows her to have the expertise to assess needs for skill-building and/or advising. As a bi-racial, gay entrepreneur and diversity & inclusion communication specialist, she supports people as POC, WOC, non-native English speakers, people with disabilities, allies, and LGBTQIA+ talent. As someone who value life-work balance, she supports clients to work toward mindfulness and relaxation in their day-to-day interactions and work tasks.
Over to Shannon:
2020 marks a tumultuous year of disaster and trauma: an unforeseen pandemic, George Floyd's murder, and the extreme violence against people of color and queer people of color. As a result, many of us have responded by participating in anti-racism protests, social media campaigns, scholarly projects, and better hiring practices. With these acts, in our own unique way, we may hope to revitalize the spirit of social change. Black Lives Matter has spoken and the mainstream and working world are starting to listen and act.
Nationwide and worldwide, powerful leaders and professionals of all kinds are discussing how they might support anti-racist efforts. At the forefront, we are learning about intersectionality to better understand prejudice and discrimination based not solely on race, but in combination with gender, queerness, nationality, religion, age, and/or disability, to name just a few. Other wins? Attempts to inflict further harm upon LBGTQIA+ workers were squashed by the Supreme Court on June 15, 2020, a historical win for queer activists. The 1964 Civil Rights Act now protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from job discrimination. And PRIDE 2020 has included conversations to address anti-racism and the ways in which some of us–including black and brown trans women and men, but also non-binary and/or gender-queer individuals–have been left out of queer history. I am thinking about Stonewall, for example.
Among these landmark events stands the seemingly commonplace act of hanging up a rainbow flag for PRIDE. Today, I tell my personal story to my online community–Queer Home Meditation–about hanging up my first rainbow PRIDE flag. This is my first PRIDE as a newly out queer / gay / lesbian bi-racial woman. Hanging up the flag was scary and made me feel very vulnerable as newly queer. But it also made me feel proud that I had the chutzpah to come out in my own stomping grounds. I am now risking the same vulnerability publicly on my professional platforms such as LinkedIn. I have been slowly coming out the last few months beginning with private social media profiles and communities on Facebook and Instagram. I feel that giving back to my community will help me get through this.
I started Queer Home Meditation to support LGBTQIA+ individuals. I especially wanted to support queer people of color now whose feelings of stress, trauma, and fear have intensified because of the increased violence against us. These feelings include the stress and triggers that many of us have felt during COVID-19. I also started Queer Home Meditation to find community and to build relationships with other queer people and allies. I hope to do the same on LinkedIn. As a professional platform welcoming the perspectives of POC, WOC, and LGBTQIA+ members, I consider my article about coming out to be highly relevant and completely appropriate. We are finally learning models of business and success that start with treating ourselves and others as whole people. A whole-person approach necessitates loving ourselves and celebrating our and others' diversity. We should keep in mind not just who we are when we're at work in our roles. But we should also think about who we are as diverse people in and outside of work. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I begin my journey of self-love, diversity and inclusion with who I am at home.
In support and solidarity, Dr. Shannon Wong Lerner, Founder of Wong Lerner Coaching
A Love Letter to My First 🌈 Rainbow Flag
I hung my first Rainbow flag this June for PRIDE. I have shared before that when I started to come out, that I didn't realize how difficult it was going to be. I was so eager to get out there and to live as my true self and to love freely. Then COVID-19 happened. I was stuck in quarantine in my house. Luckily, I could leave my house through the Queer Home Meditation group and start sharing my practice with all of you.
When I decided to hang this oversized rainbow flag–that is as tall as me–I thought, "Maybe I'm overcompensating to make up for lost time?" I know today that I am done hiding in the shadows. I am finished with feeling ashamed for who I am and whom I love. It's one of the most OUT things that I have done in my neighborhood. It feels so good to see the flag each time I drive up to my house or walk through the door. I don't care if it is too big. My feelings lately have overwhelmed my senses and others at times. The flag is perfect.
As PRIDE comes and goes, perhaps for many of you it is just the same rituals each year. Going to PRIDE in your city. Or hanging the same flag. Like an agnostic putting up a Xmas tree or the menorah each December. But we must remember that for some of us–including me–PRIDE is about being brand new in all of this. It's special. I see all of its colors and I think of who I might become and how happy I am now. I think about growing into myself. It represents the new, out me in all of my colors and beauty.
I've spent a lot of time in my life feeling ugly. Feeling not good enough. Feeling out of place. Some of this coming out narrative is cliché. I know this. Or you've heard it so many times, it's lost its meaning. I could have sat at home crying and continued to feel this way. Because I couldn't go out and I felt I couldn't adjust on my own. Or as an extrovert, I felt lonely and awkward in my coming out. So I could have just decided to stay closeted. To stay at home alone with a box of tissues watching the L-Word, for example. Thankfully I chose not to do this!
I am so happy to have supportive friends, a lovely, warm, and encouraging partner, the Queer Home Meditation community, and my parents–all of whom have shared this journey with me. I felt the courage to transition Wong Lerner Coaching–my communication coaching and consulting business–to better support and celebrate diversity and inclusion, POC, non-native speakers, people with disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
With all of these changes, I confirm that which I always knew about how humanity works. I really do believe that we have all we need within ourselves to heal. And that PRIDE starts with self-love, self-care, and allowing for stillness in your life. I hope we can continue to breathe together. To meditate. To be kind to ourselves and others. I want to continue to grow on my own and with you by my side. In practice with meditation but also breathing into the selves whom we know we truly are and have always been. And to imagine how we might become more ourselves to do more good out in the world and in our communities.
Happy PRIDE everyone. I am so grateful for all of you.
Let's take this one breath at a time. Om, Dr. Shannon, Breath Diva 💓
*This article was originally posted as a Facebook post for the group Queer Home Meditation to celebrate PRIDE 2020.
Thank you so much to Shannon for sharing this brave and honest piece.
Self-acceptance can often be a real challenge and a positive start is self-care, self-love and allowing for stillness in our lives.
Changing our workplaces and wider society takes a commitment from every one of us to #BeTheRipple that will join with others and become a wave of kindness, of acceptance and of allowing people to be who they are without fear of being discriminated against. Together we are stronger and can create a huge and powerful wave of change.
If you would like to submit a blog for this series, please send your work via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a good weekend and see you next week for another instalment of the #BeTheRippleBlogs.
#Kindness #BeTheRippleBlogs #BeKind #racism #workplace #bullying #BLM #BlackLivesMatter #PRIDE #GLBTQIA+ #diversityandinclusion #diversity #selflove #selfcare #meditation #selfcompassion #discrimination