June is Pride Month, a time for LGBTQ people and their families and friends to celebrate and advocate for their rights. Just a decade ago, Pride was reserved for big cities and rarely discussed outside of the gay community. Now, though, even small towns are throwing Pride celebrations. Many of the world’s biggest brands (e.g. Starbucks, MAC, American Eagle) are creating special rainbow products to promote Pride Month and donating portions of the proceeds to LGBTQ charities.
More and more companies and individuals are opening their minds and showing their support for the LGBTQ community. As the world becomes more accepting, more entrepreneurs and businesspeople are coming out. But it wasn’t always so welcoming. Here, some exceptional executives share their life-changing moments as LGBTQ people.
Like many LGBTQ teens, Johnny Skandros, founder of the gay dating app SCRUFF, experienced bullying in school. From homophobic slurs to physical abuse, Skandros relied on his friends to make it through. Despite his tough teenage experience, the entrepreneur says he wouldn’t change a thing. “I’m fortunate,” he said. “It made me stronger. It fueled me to become a success.” With the app translated into 14 languages and options for transgender and military users, SCRUFF’s 3 million users prove that is true.
Mathieu Chantelois, a journalist and TV personality turned media executive and now Vice President of Communications & Promotions with the Canada Media Fund, dreamed of marriage and starting a family as a child. When he discovered his sexuality, he was devastated at the thought that he wouldn’t be able to have a proper wedding with the person he loved. When Canada approved same-sex marriage in 2003, he and his husband were among the first couples to marry at Toronto’s City Hall. As they left the building, protesters showered them with insults instead of good cheer. “None of it bore any resemblance to the applause and confetti that usually greets newlyweds,” he said. “I left under a hail of insults, shaken but standing tall. Sad, but overflowing with joy. I was focused on one thing—the man of my dreams, whom I’d just married.”
Throughout college, graduate school, and even in the San Francisco community, Leanne Pittsford noticed that “queer women were a group really underrepresented in our community”. Queer women were even more abset, she found, from the tech industry. To bring together people like her, she started Lesbians Who Tech at a bar and in just three months the line to join the group snaked down the block. The organization now has over 25,000 members with chapters in 39 cities, meeting at summits to share industry tips. “Your guard isn’t up, and you’re feeling more open, because you’re feeling slightly vulnerable. That’s been the power of this connection,” notes the CEO.
Pride Month is a time to celebrate the past, present, and future of the LGBTQ community and its members. Some of the world’s most successful, powerful people are gay and have brought us life-changing innovations, strong communities, and world-class entertainment. Whether you are part of the community or an ally, there is no better time to take pride in what executives like these have accomplished.