|Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013|
The Pride series of videos, produced by LGBT National Park Service -- Alaska Region employees with the support of the regional leadership, conveys pride, strength, courage, and diversity in the performance of our mission, especially when the personal costs are extremely high. In 2012, Denali National Park Ranger Timothy Rains proposed an idea to celebrate the June observance of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Month. He had been inspired by the "It Gets Better" project video in which Department of the Interior employees support and reassure LGBT youth by providing stories of their own early struggles and encouragement to help demonstrate that life does indeed get better.
Tim wanted to produce a video to share his experiences working for the National Park Service and how it helped him make peace with his identity, as well as provide an opportunity for fellow LGBT employees to share their stories. Tim described the response to his idea as "quick and supportive." He worked with the NPS Alaska Regional Office to bring the video series to fruition. For the first time in Alaska, “...they provided a way for those of us working in the remote areas of the state an opportunity to connect and create that strong sense of community through a shared goal..." In discussions with the Alaska Regional Office, "...they quickly realized this project was larger than the story I wanted to tell..." Tim said. Within just a couple of days of the project announcement, Tim received 13 volunteers from several parks across Alaska. Their narratives are positive, encouraging, and hopeful, yet some admit feelings of caution.
During pre- and post-production dialogues, several of the employees expressed what it meant to participate in the project. Their narrations are positive, encouraging and hopeful, yet some admit feelings of caution. Below are just a few reflections:
Dael Devenport – archeologist, Alaska Regional Office – The opportunity to participate in this project has meant a lot to me. I think it will take me a while to realize all of the repercussions of participating, but one immediate effect I have noticed is that I can relax more at work. It's like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders that I didn’t realize I was carrying. I'm no longer worried about being outed and fired. And I can talk more openly to my coworkers, for example, if someone asks me what I am doing this weekend, I don't have to try to avoid mentioning my partner. I also now realize that there are several other gay people that I work with and that, while there may not be a lot of us, we are everywhere, from Eagle to Gustavus. It makes me really proud to work for an organization that is not ashamed of or afraid of its employees or people who are different. It takes courage to stand up for a group of people that is denigrated by a large segment of the population. The Park Service could just have easily taken the stand that since they serve the public and because a significant percentage of the public does not approve of gay people, the Park Service would choose to avoid controversy. But instead, they stood up, stepped out and chose to ’celebrate and value individual differences’. Thank you!
Timothy Rains – interpretive park ranger, Denali National Park and Preserve – I learned that I was not alone. As the project developed, we talked about the issues that we all faced. Then we shared our stories of what it meant to be a National Park Ranger in Alaska and how we cope with our identity. That, in itself, was an unexpected gift.
Pat Sanders – park ranger interpretation, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Park and Preserve– It was difficult, upon reflection, to place myself in a position knowing that I was laying it on the line to be "judged by my peers. I want the same thing that every human wants and should be entitled to have, equality. If you must judge me, judge me for how I live my life, who I positively impact and, if I truly care about others but, not because I am labeled as a lesbian. I am human and like all humans, I have flaws but, I will never have the flaw of labeling or judging or oppressing anyone. I don't want or expect to be treated differently than my fellow human but, I do crave to be equal and treated with respect, if I have earned respect. Am I worried about the ramifications? Yes. Am I concerned that I have potentially placed myself in a precarious situation? Yes. Do I care? Yes. Will I continue to live with a positive attitude and do the best job I can? You bet.
Read more reflections from employees in Alaska (Click on read more at bottom of page)
The series is nominated for the 2013 New Millennium Human Rights Award (aka John Berry Award). The award recipient will be announced in July.
If you haven’t had an opportunity to view the video series, the YouTube links are:
Alaska Region Pride, Strength, Courage, and Diversity