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June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. Around the world the LGBT community gathers annually to celebrate and honor with pride the diversity and richness we contribute to society. The tradition allows members of the LGBT community (including me) to reflect on our history and our accomplishments as a community, as well as assess how to move forward to ensure that progress continues. Memorials are held during the month for members of the community that have been lost to HIV/AIDs and hate crimes. The tradition of pride began in June of 1970 following the Stonewall riots of 1969. The riots were a sequence of protests against the police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, NYC. During that time, it was illegal for Gay Americans to congregate so raids like these were common. This began a movement towards gay liberation. Pride Month is an annual opportunity to recognize the influence LGBT people have around the world.
I came out to my parents at the young age of 22. After already experiencing discrimination from my peers and individuals in the local community, I didn’t know how my parents would react. Both of my parents were raised in conservative homes, and being of East Indian descent just added more layers of cultural expectations and pressure. To my surprise, my parents accepted me with open arms and embraced my diversity. Having lived in a large city, my parents had exposure to diversity and the opportunity to understand it. Although I continued to experience discrimination from other family members, people in my local community, and even professionals in my early business career, having the support of my parents made a big difference in how I would learn to love and accept myself. Unfortunately, this isn’t how the story goes for many LGBT youth. Homeless rates for LGBT teens are very high as they are getting kicked out of their homes for being themselves. Suicide rates are high with LGBT youth and discrimination is still an ongoing issue. Transgender individuals are experiencing high levels of discrimination as we continue to fight for their rights. Therefore, it is important to me to be involved with organizations that support the LGBT community, especially its youth.
I am proud to be a member of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which offers a wide range of services supporting the community from a young individual experiencing homelessness in LA, seeking a mentor, feeling unsafe at school, or just needing a safe place to connect with peers. The Center also provides a broad range of services to the transgender and LGBT senior community. I have been a part of their Young Professionals Council since 2015, where it has been amazing to see young professionals engage and give back to the community. I have also been a proud contributor to Trevor Live, which focuses on suicide prevention for LGBT youth and anti-bullying campaigns, and the AIDS Assistance Program – Food Samaritans which provides nutritional support to improve the quality of lives of low-income people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses.
Most of my joy and fulfillment comes from helping others. By sharing my story, I hope to encourage others to be involved and do the same. I am proud to have the opportunity to give back and to be involved with our LGBT community. I remember marching on the streets of San Francisco in 2009 fighting for the right to marry, and being amazed at how involved the community was. It is important to encourage people to be involved and to march with us. It takes being out in the community to educate people and help them understand our perspective. There are a growing number of people and businesses that are standing with the LGBT community, but it will take continued work to achieve equality. I am very grateful to work for HighTower Advisors, which promotes inclusion and diversity within our culture. It is my hope that one day all businesses will embrace this culture of inclusion. Until then it is important for us all to stand together, which is what Pride Month is about. Celebrate diversity, attend a Pride Festival, and hug your LGBT neighbors and tell them how much you appreciate them for who they are.
Jason Nagaia, Associate
Acacia Wealth Advisors, HighTower
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