By Tyler Dean Kempf – Facilitator
GETTING OFF MY BUTT & ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING
WARNING: If you ever follow me on Twitter (@TDQueso), you’re going to read a lot of political posts. It’s true, I’m a huge pusher of political news, opinions and jokes on the World Wide Web. But, like many after the most recent presidential election,
I realized it was time to get off my butt, stop just talking about making a difference in the world and start walking the walk.
Near the end of 2016, The Second City announced that the company would begin sponsoring Employee Resource Groups, or ERG’s, and was not only looking for suggestions on what those groups could be, but was also asking for volunteers to lead the groups.
Employee Resource Groups are company sponsored groups that are run by and for employees who share common characteristics, like race, gender, sexuality, etc. At The Second City, each ERG is given a budget for the year, but how or why the group decides to use the budget is strictly up to those involved in the ERG.
When the Employee Resource Groups were announced at The Second City, I threw my hat in the ring. It was time to make a difference.
SECOND CITY PRIDE!
And with that, Second City PRIDE! was born. As Co-Leaders of the Second City LGBTQ+ ERG, Bob Knuth, Creative Director of Marketing and Brand at The Second City, and I knew we had to roll out this group in a way that gave ownership to all employees who wanted to participate. Instead of defining the goals or needs of the ERG ourselves, we decided to invite the participating employees to define the group’s mission statement and purpose.
Our first meeting together was an equal mix of an “express yourself session” and “Yes, and brainstorming session,” allowing the employees to openly express their concerns about their work environment, and share their hopes and dreams for what this ERG could be. At the end of the meeting, we had determined that the group wanted to do two things: Look Inward and Reach Outward.
As a privileged gay white, cis-gendered male – I can honestly say that I was not aware of many of the negative interactions that my fellow LGBTQ+ co-workers were experiencing on a regular basis. Second City PRIDE! gives all of us the safe environment to air grievances, share experiences or garner advice on how to best deal with a situation they may be dealing with at work.
We are also able to share any of these issues with members of our HR team, which we have done on occasion. As an ERG, we want to affect positive change company wide, and we hope these changes don’t just benefit employees, but also The Second City’s students and audience members as well.
One way we are working to affect change is by inviting dialogue about pronouns throughout the building. We’ve reached out to the leaders of The Second City Training Center and have invited them to introduce their pronouns during orientation so that any new student of Training Center will learn that this is an environment where we respect a variety of different students.
We have also used some of our budget to design and make “pronoun buttons,” which are now being distributed for free around the building. We have four different buttons that read, “My pronouns are He/Him/His, She/Her/Hers, They/Them/Theirs” or just simply, “Ask me about my pronouns.” Students and teachers are wearing them proudly around the building.
While we are working hard to affect positive change in and around The Second City, we are also doing our best to bring members of our community together to affect positive change in the world at large.
Last year, after the tragedy in Orlando, I produced a fundraiser at The Second City called, “Love Always Wins.” All proceeds went to the One Orlando Fund and we raised over two-thousand dollars. This year, Second City PRIDE! took on the responsibility of hosting the now annual event.
As an Employee Resource Group, we chose to raise funds for Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, a local organization that advocates for the legal rights of the Illinois trans community. The event not only showcased some incredible talent, but educated the audience on the amazing work taking place at Transformative Justice.
We are currently discussing with TJLP ways to continue working together in the future. Many members of the ERG would like to volunteer for their future events.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
In a few short months, Second City PRIDE! has made a difference. As I was walking to class the other day, displaying my “He, Him, His” button, a fellow teacher stopped me to tell me that they’ve begun introducing their pronouns on the first day of class and has already noticed the positive effects in the classroom.
Our ERG has initiated many conversations that will hopefully lead to a more emotionally intelligent group. We’re noticing stronger communication about the LGBTQ+ community at The Second City, and hope that mindfulness and emotional intelligence continues to grow.
It’s so easy to say, “if I only had the time,” but if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time as the Co-Leader of Second City Pride!, it’s that I DO have the time, and I also have the community to help me make a difference. If there was ever a clear example of “bring a brick, not a cathedral,” it’s the good folks involved with Second City PRIDE!
And don’t worry, I’m still posting some dumb political jokes and articles on Twitter. But now I can back them up with some clear change I’m helping to make in the world and support some amazing organizations that are doing the same.