June is LGBTQ Pride Month across the country, yet it’s not celebrated uniformly or safely in every community as the arc of history bends slowly towards justice. In my hometown of San Francisco and a few blocks from where my company, Two Chairs, is based, rainbow flags adorn Market Street from the historic Ferry Building to the world-renowned Castro District.
At Two Chairs, our mission is to build a world in which we all have access to exceptional mental health care. For us to be as inclusive as possible, we must reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. It’s not just the smart thing to do as a business; it’s also the right thing to do.
I’ve not always believed in diversity. In a past life, I actively fought it and, in the process, denied who I am as a gay Asian immigrant due to deep shame and self-hatred. I was raised by a domineering father who preached assimilation and conformity as a way to weave ourselves into the fabric of our adopted society. He has since changed, as did my understanding of myself and the evolving world around me, and we chose hope over fear.
Now more than ever, we need to affirm that diversity is our strength, not our weakness. I’m fortunate to work for a company that embraces me for who I am, and I bring my authentic self to work every day and my teammates are empowered to do the same. I often wish I had a Two Chairs when I was younger and struggling with my identity. I would’ve had a much easier time understanding that I could be me, and we could be us. Then we would waste less time and accomplish so much more individually and together, in all the spaces we inhabit — professional, social, and otherwise.
Striving to be true to our mission of access and excellence, we are marking Pride month in our own way at Two Chairs, and in a way that both shows our support publicly and creates space for understanding and exploration within our team.
Firstly, we are supporting a 42-year-old nonprofit based in San Francisco that runs the world’s largest and longest-running LGBTQ film festival which draws 60,000 attendees from around the world, including cast and crew. Frameline works year-round to support queer filmmaking, exhibition and distribution.
We’ve identified a few movies to watch together as a team: a documentary on the struggle of LGBTQ immigrants fleeing persecution (including death in some countries) and seeking refuge in the Bay Area while contending with byzantine and in some cases hostile asylum policies; a profile of two women who run a restaurant/lesbian bookstore in Connecticut as they share their history in the larger feminist movement; and the story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker, an American psychologist who laid the groundwork in the mid-20th century for the eventual removal of homosexuality as a classified mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association.
Additionally, various members of our team have organized social events to celebrate — I put together a trivia night at a downtown gay bar hosted by a drag queen, and the teams that our company fielded won two of the three rounds that night. Our HQ team gathered around a communal table to share our Pride-related favorite music; an idea initiated by two colleagues, Noam and Raquel, whose love of beats suggests they were DJs in a past life. On the last day of Pride month, we are throwing a potluck and Pride Parade viewing party at our newest clinic high above the Soma area of downtown for a bird’s-eye view of all the marchers and floats coming down Market Street, enveloped by two million people lining the streets.
Our commitment to diversity doesn’t end in June, as a newly organized Diversity & Inclusion Task Force made up of volunteers from all over the company begins conversations and trainings that will sustain our inclusive mission. Led by our Clinician team, and in an effort to foster inclusivity in our clinic waiting areas where we welcome clients, our Clinic Design team expanded our selection of books across our clinics, including our new Soma clinic. We now have a greater range of artists and authors with diverse lived experiences across gender, race, sexual orientation, disability and age. New authors and artists include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Audre Lorde, Mickalene Thomas, Emory Douglas and Nan Goldin.
Finally, what started out as a suggestion to put up rainbow flags in our clinics similar to the ones on the Market Street light poles, turned into a team effort to show our Pride. Drawing inspiration from the eye-catching rainbow flags, I worked with my colleagues Hadley and Amac and we gave it our own Two Chairs spin. You can find our stickers at your nearest clinic through the end of the month.
This is a company that works hard, knows how to have fun, and empowers its employees to step up and shape the culture of our community. So while there are broken systems (like mental health care) to fix, lives to better, and pride to build, we are united by a common vision to work towards these monumental changes together.