In 1999, I watched a show that touted a brand-new way to discover volunteer opportunities — on the internet! I found a volunteer opportunity as a Disaster Action Team member with the American Red Cross and started in January of 2000. It was the fit I was looking for — a way to help people who needed it right in my community.
As the years went by I found serving as part of the disaster leadership team rewarding and started to see my future as a Red Cross employee. At the same time, I realized that someone I had been friends with for over a year was the one. Tammy and I had just started dating when I joined the Red Cross as an employee in September 2004. I served as a Mass Care Lead, supporting sheltering efforts and bulk distribution as well as providing resources and guidance on our service delivery work. Tammy was the first woman I seriously dated and while I was fine with that, I was not sure how to deal with the rest of the world and their opinions.
Throughout personal life-changing events, my colleagues at the Red Cross have always been exceptionally supportive, giving me a sense of inclusion and, most importantly, belonging.
When Tammy and I decided to grow our family, we took advantage of the Red Cross domestic partner benefits —it was particularly helpful as we welcomed our first child and Tammy took time off from work to be with her.
Before we welcomed our first daughter, my colleagues hosted a huge baby shower for us, inviting Tammy to come to the office. They pulled off a tremendous surprise complete with a presentation that included awesome baby photos of me and Tammy. And, they hosted another shower in 2012 for our second child.
When Washington, D.C. passed marriage equality in 2010, I was overwhelmed by the joy and support my colleagues showed. So many people wanted to know how Tammy and I felt and when our ceremony would be. Since the beginning and throughout my career at the Red Cross, Tammy, Dana and Liam have been part of the Red Cross family, brought into the fold just like any other family.
I remember shortly after Gail McGovern joined the Red Cross in 2008 as President and CEO, I connected with her at a town hall and gave her feedback on the benefits for same-sex partners. I told her how appreciative I was to be a part of such a great organization, one that valued diverse perspectives and supported me and my family. Over the years, Gail has asked me about my wife and our kids. Gail also served as executive champion of the Pride Team Member Resource Group (TMRG) for several years, showing up for our community in numerous ways.
I’ve been part of the Pride TMRG since nearly its beginning. This year is the group’s 10-year anniversary celebrating another year of support, inclusivity and community for our volunteers, employees and the people we serve. Pride TMRG is a supportive environment where individuals exchange information and ideas, discuss the unique issues facing LGBTQ+ people and allies, and offer opportunities to learn about, understand and engage the LGBTQ+ community.
Beyond the message of support from our senior leadership for the LGBTQ+ community, I have been embraced by my colleagues — across the organization, the country and around the world. We all deserve to have such support.
My message to others is this: May each of you find joy and confidence in who you are; may we all continue to work to make the world a place where we can be our true selves.