In observance of Pride Month, we talked to Andrew Reighart (UMD SPP, ’15) about why it is important to observe Pride Month and what the general climate is at EPA, where he is a policy analyst.
Why do you think it is important to honor/observe Pride month?
The LGBTQ+ community is continuously under assault. From expressions of pure hatred like bias-motivated murder, to employment discrimination, to denial of access to restrooms, LGBTQ+ folx are confronted at every turn by a hostile society predicated on fear and ignorance. And yet, despite it all, my community is strong, hopeful, and resilient. We have never let the forces of bigotry define or defeat us, and instead, we continue to demand our equal rights, expand our political influence, and create new social, economic, and political opportunities for our own communities, while reshaping and bettering our shared, global community. My community is a source of light, love, and power and that deserves celebration. Pride is certainly an opportunity to educate others; to open hearts and minds, but it is fundamentally a time for my community to rejoice together as family, celebrate progress, and organize and protest for a better tomorrow for everyone. Thus, having June proclaimed as Pride Month by President Biden and observed across federal agencies is important because it recognizes our common humanity and demonstrates meaningful solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community’s ongoing struggle for justice.
How would you describe the general climate at EPA towards issues of D&I? How about the climate specific to the LGBTQ+ community?
Like any workplace, EPA has work to do. While certainly rare, we still see examples of blatant racism, sexism, and ableism for example. And as with any other workplace, these prejudices also show up in a myriad of more covert (and sometimes unintentional) ways from an insensitive discussion about a person’s outward appearance in the breakroom to repeated misuse of someone’s pronouns at a team meeting. That being said, EPA is widely perceived to be a “friendly” agency where staff enjoy their colleagues. Moreover, it is certainly institutionally committed to addressing D&I issues, discouraging their recurrence, and creating a positive, welcoming work environment for all employees. To that end, the EPA has an entire team dedicated to recruiting a more diverse staff, special emphasis programs to support minority employees and their programming in every program office and region office, and a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council that has a broad mandate to review Agency praxis, identify deficiencies,and develop strategic plans to remedy them. Specific to the LGBTQ+ community, I’d say EPA is a very welcoming agency with high visibility of LGBTQ+ folks in the workplace from entry-level staff all the way up to SES leadership. I’m also proud to say that we have nearly 300 employee members of Equality EPA, the Agency’s non-labor employee group for LGBTQ+ staff and their allies that I’ve co-led for four years.