Pride Month 2022

Even if I’m not planning to party in the streets this year, I’m always thrilled to see Pride flags soaring in June.

Around the time I first came out (in the late 1980s), I remember reading an article in Newsweek that said 80% of people who know someone in the LGBTQ+ community support gay rights. I just recently read a very similar statistic, that people who know someone who is trans support the rights of our trans / non-binary / enby community members. Yet, I suspect it’s even less safe for them to be out than it was for me in 1987. Visibility continues to be such a critical issue for us as a community, but that visibility sometimes comes at the risk of personal safety. That leaves me feeling that, while so much has changed in recent years, so much remains the same, too. Some days it feels like protecting (or defending) our right to be treated fairly and equally is like death by a thousand cuts.

That said, I personally have mixed feelings about Pride Month this year.  We do have a lot to celebrate (and I’ll talk more about that below), but there are reasons for concern, too.  Here are some things at top of mind for me at the moment:

Teen homelessness and mental health
  • 93% of transgender and nonbinary youth are worried about access to gender-affirming medical care due to state or local laws.
  • 73% of LGBTQ youth (ages 13-24) reported that they have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime.
  • 36% of LGBTQ youth reported being physically threatened or harmed due to sexual orientation or gender identity. 
  • 45% of LTBTQ youth have seriously considered suicide in the past year; the numbers are higher in Black, AAPI, LatinX, and Native American communities; 60% of those young people were unable to access mental health care, further complicated by the fact that, homelessness (or housing instability) is a major factor in their mental health.
  • Strong family support and/or affirming school environments reduces suicide ideation by almost half.  Why is it so hard for our kids to find safe and affirming spaces?!
  • 20% of current HIV diagnoses are in this age group.

Most of these statistics are from The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.

Changing legislation
  • In the United States, hopefully most of you know that marriage between same-sex couples is now federally protected.  In 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  More recently, Joe Biden also issued an Executive Order combating discrimination.  All good news.
  • That said, the current legislative landscape is alarming – both at the state level (like Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, and the anti-trans bill in Texas that I wrote about earlier this year) and in the Supreme Court.  If you look at this policy map from the Transgender Law Center, you can see that support for LGBTQIA+ rights is quite varied at the state level.  This website provides more detail about all the legislation under consideration at the moment.  And, with the leak of the opinion on Roe vs Wade, many (including President Biden) believe that the right to privacy will put same-sex intimacy, gay marriage, and contraceptive access at risk as well.  The draft opinion is silent on those matters, but the general sentiment seems to be that state lawmakers will seek to test the limits, ultimately ending in another Supreme Court decision. 
  • In India, there has been some decriminalization of same-sex relationships between adults in the past, but no further civil rights protections exist.  There is an interesting article which describes the current challenges in India; for example, based on Indian religious texts, some believe that Indian culture was more inclusive before colonization by the British. 
So, what are the good things?  

When you look at the sources of joy for LGBTQ youth, so much has to do with experiencing a sense of belonging, or having a space where they feel safe.  I’ve written about the importance of LGBTQIA+ representation in the media before – it is so affirming to see families like mine in books, television, and movies!  After some waffling (e.g. putting some shows with LGBTQIA characters on Hulu instead of their own streaming service), Disney has committed to bring more diverse characters to their audiences.  That’s a good sign, and an indication of other positive changes in the entertainment industry.  The latest report by The Trevor Project re-affirms the importance of representation in media for LGBTQIA youth:

From The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health

I’ve recently started reading Them magazine (web and Instagram), and it’s been a good way to learn more about gay culture in the U.S..  Some of their columnists have described an “LGBTQ+ rom-com Renaissance” or “Revival”.  Historically, many LGBTQ+ characters have been killed off as a plot device, or separated under tragic circumstances.   For the first time, we are seeing LGBTQIA+ couples leading healthy lives where they are valued and respected, and with relationships that succeed – and dare I say – flourish. 

As part of our Pride  Month festivities at ZS last year, I watched Love, Simon.  I enjoyed the movie and the group that met to talk about it afterwards.  I’ve just recently started building a list of books, movies, and shows I’d like to watch this month.  Here is a short list that’s based on my own interests and preferences:

  • Heartstopper.  Based on a webcomic by Alice Oseman, this sweet story is family friendly, accessible, and engaging.  Upcoming seasons will deal with some tougher topics like bullying, mental health (eating disorders), and more.  If you know an LGBTQ+ young person, they might also enjoy the books.  The first season is complete, and two further seasons are planned.  On Netflix.
  • Love, Victor. A spin-off from Love, Simon, which we watched as part of our Pride Month programming last year.  It is also family friendly.  Originally on Hulu, now on the Disney+ platform. 
  • Crush.  A coming of age rom-com, it’s been described as “unapologetically queer”, but otherwise typical coming of age rom-com.  On Hulu.
  • Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. Based on a 2017, this is the story of a teenager who becomes a drag queen.  On Amazon Prime.
  • My Fake Boyfriend. A favorite trope of romance books, it’s no surprise to see a queer rom-com by this name.  The premise it to explore “exploring the specific messiness that often permeates the world of queer dating”.  Releasing June 17th on Amazon Prime.
  • Fire Island. A new “unapologetic” rom-com inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice; a “multicultural examination of queerness and romance”.  Releasing June 3rd.  On Hulu in the US, and DisneyPlus Star network ex-US. 
  • My Policeman.  Starring Harry Styles, based on the 2021 novel by Bethan Roberts about the life of EM Forster (who lived in the 1950s).  The movie explores Forster’s relationship with his wife and the policeman (Styles) he falls in love with during an era where homosexuality was criminalized.  Filming finished in June last year, and the movie is supposed to be released in 2022.  On Amazon Prime. 
  • KinnPorsche. Is a Thai Mafia romance with two male main characters.  I have not watched it yet, but I have heard it’s good but very intense (the relationship and the violence).  Definitely not for family viewing!  On iQiyi. 
  • Heaven’s Official Blessing.  For you anime fans out there, the first season of this Chinese BL (boy love) show was recently released.  It was watched 100+ million times in the first month!  On Netflix.  The first two volumes of the novel are available on Amazon and elsewhere. 

Interestingly, I’ve recently learned of two movies with elderly LGBTQ+ couples, with similar themes:

  • Supernova.  An elderly couple (retired men, together 20 years) visits friends while coping with a dementia diagnosis.  Amazon Prime.
  • Cloudburst. An elderly couple (two women, together 30 years) road trip to Nova Scotia when one is encouraged to move into a nursing home.  Amazon Prime. 

So, that’s what I have on my list at the moment.  In addition, you might want to have a look at this list of “actually good” LGBTQ+ Rom-Coms from Them magazine – a really wonderful and diverse set of movies. 

Transgender Day of Visibility 2022

I was on vacation last week, so I didn’t have a chance to post this update. Now that my family staycation is over, I wanted to share a few thoughts on this topic. In addition, an excerpt of our internal communication is appended below. It includes a recent update to our company Pride logo, which now has the Progress Pride flag colors to acknowledge the BIPOC and trans / non-binary members of our community.

You may be asking yourself why this acknowledgement of the trans community is so important.  Beyond the obvious “Treat People Right” (one of our ZS values), in the U.S. at the moment there are significant legislative efforts underway at the state level to undermine or eliminate protections for the trans community.  You can read an overview of the current lawsuit in Texas on the ACLU website, here and here.  In short, this new legislation intends to criminalize parents, medical professionals, and other caregivers for providing affirming treatment of gender dysphoria – what is now considered the standard of care for transgender youth.  Similar legislation is being proposed in many states, but the Texas law is the most serious one, because the intent is to remove transgender children from their families if gender-affirming care is provided. 

In the meantime, President Biden has also issued an Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, signaling his intent to address this at the federal level.

At a personal level, what is particularly striking to me is how young transgender kids just know that they are different, and often at a much earlier age than people who realize they are not heterosexual.  This is not about choice!  Here are multiple generations of transgender folks who you might be interested to follow on social media:

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Interview with Brave UX

This blog post is the transcription of a podcast I did with Brendan Jarvis in early February. He’s done a number of interview with senior folks in the field, and they are definitely worth a listen! You can find Brave UX on all the major podcasting platforms, and also on YouTube. I’ve done many of these interviews over the years, but I particularly enjoyed this one because I feel like Brendan interviewed me as a whole person. It makes good sense – so many of my experiences outside of work shape who I am as a leader and as a UX professional.

If you prefer, you can listen to the interview on Spotify, or another podcast platform of your choosing; search “Brave UX Hanson” and it should come up. Here is what we discussed. Enjoy! The bold numbers link to the YouTube video if you prefer to watch.

00:00 Start
00:32 Natalie’s introduction
02:21 How did growing up in a bi-cultural home shape how you see culture?
06:10 How have you reconciled your health challenges with your career ambitions?
09:53 Was it easy for you to choose your health and family over work?
11:13 How did ZS respond to your need to dial back on work for health reasons?
15:15 Why is it important for design leaders to be patient and persistent?
23:08 What ingredients need to be in place to enable design to mature?
26:00 Does design need a greater degree of standardisation of practice?
30:24 How important is it for designers to understand business?
34:21 Are designers business people?
35:35 How did Christian Madsbjerg, founder of ReD Associates, help you?
38:15 How do you tell someone they’re not ready for what they’ve asked for?
41:35 When and how do you make the case for user research?
46:36 Should other people in our organisations also care about users?
50:08 Do designers lack empathy for their colleagues?
55:03 Who was Gitti Jordan and what is The Ladder of Inference?
01:00:51 What makes ZS a great place for LGBTQ+ people to work at?
01:05:24 What was it like coming out in 1986 and how have things changed?
01:14:36 How can designers improve their chances of having meaningful impact?
01:16:30 Closing out the show – Thanks, Natalie!

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A Perspective on Social Justice

I thought this was so powerful and wanted to share; emphasis mine. 

Kai Cheng Thom writes:

“I think the major difference between a social justice and a white/colonial lens on trauma is the assumption that trauma recovery is the reclamation of safety—that safety is a resource that is simply ‘out there’ for the taking and all we need to do is work hard enough at therapy.  I was once at a training seminar in Toronto led by a famous & beloved somatic psychologist. She spoke brilliantly. I asked her how healing from trauma was possible for people for whom violence & danger are part of everyday life. She said it was not.  Colonial psychology & psychiatry reveal their allegiance to the status quo in their approach to trauma: That resourcing must come from within oneself rather than from the collective. That trauma recovery is feeling safe in society, when in fact society is the source of trauma.  

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Representation matters

Over the past few years, I’ve shared and celebrated some Pride-focused ads here. It may seem obvious to some, but when I came out 35 years ago, I never saw relationships like mine the way we see them now in advertising, television, film, and books. It continues to be a thrill for me to see same-sex couples in media! I remember watching television with my family one night, and there was a commercial for life insurance that included two men. When I verbalized my excitement, both my kids looked at me with disinterest – it just didn’t even occur to them that it was a big deal.

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