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Pride Month perspectives on BJC’s inclusive atmosphere

Attending their first PrideFest as an employee of BJC, Everett wasn’t sure what to expect. Upon arriving at the BJC tent, they were given a free T-shirt and began to customize it into a tank top to cope with the hot summer temperatures.

“I watched for that telltale sign of nope, leave now, they're not going to be OK with this,” said Everett. “And what I got was an `Oh, nice. Like, that totally fits your vibe now. I can see how that's your shirt now.’ It was as simple as knowing I could make it mine and still participate.”

As part of Pride Month, several SPECTRA Connection group members volunteered to share their perspectives on inclusiveness at BJC — whether at a unique event or just simple everyday acceptance throughout the year. The group, whose name stands for Support, Pride, Equality, Camaraderie, Trust, Respect and Alliance, focuses on volunteerism and training BJC team members to better support the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.

A sampling of their responses is included below:

Do you have advice for team members of the LGBTQ community who might be new or uncomfortable and trying to find where they fit in? Are there any resources or suggestions that you can provide?

TARA: I haven't found a single area that doesn't accept me for who I am. And I just want them to realize that it is a safe space here.

DEBORAH: Never diminish yourself no matter where you are. At BJC, everything that I have seen, heard and felt thus far has been supportive. My job is to ensure that you know and feel your value. BJC is a supportive environment, and you really have the opportunity to be yourself and be comfortable in yourself here. If ever you feel that it’s not possible, then you should raise your hand.

CLAY: SPECTRA is very vocal about coming to them with concerns or for support. I would say reach out to your local chapter. There was a time when I was wanting to seek more leadership opportunities within the organization, and I was able to reach out to people who were in SPECTRA and network with them. They really helped me feel validated and secure with the questions I had.

CARA: My advice would be to dive into the resources available through SPECTRA. Remember that we’re all on our own journey. Just because you feel like in this moment, nobody understands, this company is big enough that there’s somebody out there who does.

ALLEN: I would say the first step is to become comfortable in your role. Live out loud. Find a mentor. I've been a member of SPECTRA, and I signed up again. There are many social and networking opportunities available within BJC and social media. There are groups for every dynamic. Get involved.

What is your advice for finding your people who make you feel supported? Do you have any anecdotes about finding community?

TAIRA: Let people in so they get to know you for who you are and get to have a little light into how to move and interact with you and not offend you in any way — because your feelings do matter. BJC is a family. It is a family that is very accepting and it’s just a place that you will love to be because you can be who you want to be and be yourself without judgment.

TARA: Surround yourself with positive personalities, and the ones that are negative, I'm not saying just let it go. But you know, pick your battles. You don't want to give people more power over you by being super upset.

EVERETT: I don't know what every person's team looks like, but I will say that being real about what I was experiencing with my team, my direct leads, my direct team support really allowed them to shine and really allowed them to show me the culture that existed already.

MICHAEL: I've always been able to have open discussions with people and everyone's always been very accepting. So, it's not just my community; we are community as a whole and I've always felt very accepted.

DEBORAH: If you’re looking to connect, look for an organization, a community group, a volunteer opportunity — just lean into that and meet your neighbors and find that sense of community. For me at BJC, one of the coolest things I’ve experienced was the diversity and inclusion group at our hospital and the awesome group of people who are just getting started and about to do amazing work.

What would you say to friends and family members who might be considering joining BJC?

JOANN: It's just a really cool place to work and I feel like it doesn't matter if you're different, if you identify as straight or a member of the LGBTQ+ community. When you have different types of people, you have diversity of opinions and diverse perspectives. It just helps build stronger teams and it makes the organization overall more successful.

MICHAEL: If they're LGBTQ+, I would say you're going to find acceptance here. You're going to find an environment with room to grow and people who encourage you to do so. I have found it a great place to work.

CARA: I have worked for a variety of places, even at other companies within the health care and mental health care fields, and this is by far the best place I've worked. Aside from all of the HR benefits and the size of the company, the acceptance is wonderful. I was able to fill out a form and change my name, inform my colleagues, and immediately they switched to using my chosen name and my pronouns. If you're looking and you're wondering if it's the right place for you, it definitely is. It’s a welcoming environment, it has tons of resources and support within the organization, and you also get access to incredible medical care from both BJC and Washington University doctors.

ALLEN: I encourage people to apply to BJC all the time. There are employment opportunities for every education and skill level, so you’ll find something. Take the interview, and then you'll end up working here for the next 30 years. It was good to come back home to Barnes-Jewish because I knew I didn't have to worry about who I was. BJC is a champion among St. Louis employers, and hospitals nationwide, supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. It's not only supportive — you're encouraged to be yourself.

Are you aware of BJC's involvement in PrideFest, and do you have experiences you can share?

JOANN: For most of my 20s, I've attended PrideFest, and I've always seen the BJC booth. There are a lot of tents and booths at the event, so there's a lot of noise to cut through, but the BJC tent has always stood out to me because of the signature blue color and welcoming people.

What makes you feel the most supported and seen among co-workers, friends, family members, etc.?

MICHAEL: We throw baby showers and wedding showers for our co-workers. I've never been married, but there was another guy on my unit who got engaged to his now-husband, and the unit threw him a wedding shower, like “Congratulations on saying yes!” and stuff like that. And it was just like being a part of the community.

DEBORAH: My wife and I met when we were 14 years old and became best friends. As a married couple, it is absolutely lovely to have friends and family not only accept our marriage but to celebrate it with us.

TARA: I think my co-workers love my wife (Martie) more than they love me. She makes pasta and sends it to work for different people. We're a family in this office, and they have just absolutely included my wife and that family, no questions asked whatsoever.

TAIRA: What makes me feel supported is knowing that my personal life isn't looked upon in a bad way. It is, you know, recognized and it is looked at as equal and normal to anybody else’s life.

CLAY: Our role here can be pretty challenging mentally. Having co-workers who will text you after work and say, “Hey, you had a really rough day, and that’s valid,” has been nice. I feel happy being here and having that support. It definitely makes for a safe space.

EVERETT: Spaces that make me feel the most supported and, ultimately, the safest and seen are those where feedback is welcomed, regardless of the potential impact. So even if there's that potential to ruffle feathers, it's still celebrated and encouraged.

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