Pride Parade

Greg Fields

We’re told America is intractably divided into opposing tribes. But there’s one thing we can all agree on: middle school sucks. It’s awkward; smells like teen spirit and subjects us to the silliest adolescent rite of passage: the school pep rally.

Those years were way less than awesome for me, but I was not prepared for my LGBT son’s profound mistreatment in sixth grade. I need to be a little vague here as legal counsel was involved, but I thought sharing his experience would help everyone understand how difficult it is to grow up gay. Mind you, we live in Los Angeles. Home to parents in Birkenstocks and dreadlocks, lefty politics, and the largest Pride celebration in the world. Right??

Not so fast.

Before coming out at thirteen, my son already suspected he was "different". He had a crush on a boy at school. He wore a pink backpack stuffed with magical fairy books. Add to that learning disadvantages like ADHD and OCD, and his middle school experience became a collision of emerging identity and institutional suffocation. His neurological and biological differences made it challenging for my son to participate in the classroom and cultivate safe peer relationships.

He was mercilessly bullied - not only by students - but also by teachers and administrators. It didn’t help that his parents were blacklisted by the school principal. Our crime? Expressing concern that school doors were routinely left open, allowing homeless people to enter and hide in the children's bathroom. We later discovered that the entire staff had been directed to engage in a full-court press to push us out of the (public) school. My son’s legally binding Individual Education Program was ignored. Every day there were new, anxiety-inducing dirty tricks and intentional targeting perpetrated by teachers. They gaslit and punished my son every day in the hopes that we'd cave, withdraw, and home school him.

Instead, we pushed back. Hard. Our resistance earned our son two full years of free private education. But the experience was so traumatizing that it took all of those two years to rebuild my son’s trust in adult educators. Not surprisingly, when shown patience and kindness, he blossomed.

This week, my son will be graduating With Honors from high school. In the fall, he’ll attend a renowned liberal arts college - on an academic scholarship.

I tell this story to underscore a critical point. If anyone thinks that by saying the word ”gay” or openly discussing sexual identity in school will somehow entice other children to "switch to the LGBT Team”, I’ve got a news flash for Ron DeSantis et al. No one in their right mind would voluntarily grow up gay. Not because it's "wrong," but because there will always be some ignoramus looking to slap a target on your forehead. There will always be some nimrod, hammer in hand, looking to pound down the LGBT nail that sticks out. Growing up gay can be painful and soul-crushing, but it should nonetheless be celebrated. It was character-building for my entire family.

Diversity Equality and Inclusion aren’t just buzz words we roll out during Pride month. Our advisors hail from every continent and speak ten languages. DEI is integral to who we are as a company. By committing to these values, our hope is growing up gay will be that much easier for the next generation.

Happy Pride, everyone!