Happy Pride Month! – and the Iceberg of Invisible Identities

In the United States and in many other parts of the world, this week marks the beginning of LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The first Pride March was held on June 28, 1970, to mark the one-year anniversary of the six-day Stonewall Uprising of 1969, a turning point in queer history. As such, it’s important to remember that this idea of “Pride” was not always a celebration – the Stonewall Uprising was a series of spontaneous riots led by queer people of color, fighting against police violence inflicted upon the gay community of Greenwich Village in New York City. Pride Month is now held in June each year to honor struggles such as those, as well as the contributions of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual individuals and communities throughout the world. Your workplace might be celebrating, or be looking for ways to celebrate. Regardless, it is cause for celebration and learning whether or not you consider yourself part of the LGBTQIA community.

Pride Month is a good opportunity to reflect on the “Identity Iceberg.” If you’ve ever taken time to take stock of how you identify within different categories of identity using the Social Identity Wheel or another prompt, you’ll probably have noticed that there are parts of your identity that you think about often, and others that you rarely – if ever – think about. In addition, there are parts of your identity that are noticeable to others (sometimes referred to as “Visible Identities”) – skin color, age, some physical dis/abilities, and in many cases gender presentation being some of the main identities in this group. Together, these make up the tip of the Identity Iceberg – to run with the analogy, this is the part that floats above the waterline and is visible to ships in the area. Of course, as we know with icebergs, the portion that sits below the waterline makes up the vast majority, and extends much deeper and further than the small amount seen by others. Such “Invisible Identities” include sexual orientation, life experiences, food insecurity, mental health challenges, experience of domestic violence, neurodivergence, culture, suicidality, political views, and so many more.

How might this idea of the Identity Iceberg be helpful to you this week as we enter Pride Month?

This Week’s Tips:

  1. Reflect on the many facets of your identity; how they intersect with each other. Ask yourself which identity groups are visible to others, and which are invisible. Consider which elements, if any, you are making a conscious choice to keep invisible, and ask yourself why? There may be very good reasons to do so – check in with yourself to see if you might have a safe environment to bring some of those above the waterline of visibility. If there are any elements you would like others to know about you, how might you go about making that more visible?
  2. Keep in mind that, for almost everyone you meet and work with, you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Remember during meetings and other interactions that, with very few exceptions, everyone you know has multiple invisible identities. Your words and actions might bump up against that hidden part of their iceberg, just as theirs may with yours! Be kind, considerate, and thoughtful with the words you use, and the actions you take.
  3. Honor and celebrate anyone who brings attention to their invisible identities. More people than ever before are finding ways to make their invisible identities visible. Through personal style, pins, clothing, signs, email messaging or other means, take notice of the ways people around you are bringing attention to their invisible identities. Rather than ignore that, honor it! A simple affirmation of a brave step goes a long way to support someone living a more self-expressed life, and to building a more authentic community in the workplace!

Try these out this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group! We’d love to hear from you.

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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