LGBTQIA+ Pride Month: Yes on Love

Deputy Secretary Julie Su standing with two individuals holding the PRIDE Flag.

June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. It was in June 1969 that the Stonewall Uprising occurred, considered by many to have sparked the modern LGBTQIA+ civil-rights movement. Here at the Department of Labor, we rang in Pride Month by doing something that has never been done before in the history of the department — raising the Pride flag at our national office.

My daughter, LiMei, home from college and spending the summer with me in Washington, D.C., was able to share this historic moment.

From the time she was born, my daughter has been surrounded by many LGBTQIA+ aunties and uncles who were not related to us by blood, but were part of a large, extended chosen family. That is why in 2008, when she was 8 years old and the California state ballot had a proposition that would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, she could not understand why anyone would think that was the right thing to do. So, we spent a lot of time talking about it – and I did my best to explain the historic, political and legal issues —but I could tell that, in her 8-year-old brain and heart, she just couldn’t fathom why anyone would be opposed to marriage equality.

We marched in opposition to Proposition 8 and helped with outreach, especially in the Asian American community, to draw the connections between this battle and the larger battle for civil rights. One evening, we were making a sign to put on our front lawn. I wrote in big letters, “NO on H8TE.” As my then-5-year-old filled in all the letters with brightly colored sharpies, I saw LiMei pick up a marker and write on the sign, “YES ON LOVE.” 

I shared this memory with my colleagues at the department as we stood on Constitution Avenue in front of our office to raise the flag in celebration of Pride Month. In a month that acknowledges, promotes and uplifts diversity of identity, I thought about how this diversity is essential to the vibrancy of a workplace. 

I am proud to work alongside the LGBTQIA+ members of the department. Secretary Walsh and I are grateful to those who show up every day and make us proud to be a part of this agency.

Secretary Walsh and I believe that workers do not, and should not have to leave their identity at the doorstep of their workplace. Across the country, many employees are not able to stay true to their gender identities or sexualities without fear of workplace retaliation. 

Despite significant strides in the last decade, we have much work to do. In 2022:

  • 36% of LGBTQIA+ people experienced workplace harassment. After public spaces, that’s the second highest place where harassment occurs. 

  • 90% of transgender workers reported harassment on the job. 

In this moment in history, when workers are realizing their power in myriad ways — leaving jobs that don’t provide the security, opportunity and dignity they want and deserve, and organizing —often against great odds to improve their working conditions — here at the department, we recognize and affirm the ability of our LGBTQIA+ sisters and brothers to also realize their power at work and to emerge from the crises of the last two years better than we entered them.

When it comes to our commitment to equity, it’s not enough to talk about it or espouse belief in principles. It’s critically important that we work to make them real every single day.

By raising the Pride flag at the department, we not only participate in a moment of celebration, we make a commitment: to the beauty of identity and the work we must do to make sure all the diversity represented on this flag is valued.

To put it more simply, in the words of an 8-year-old, YES ON LOVE.

Julie Su is the deputy secretary of labor.