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Why Taking Pride in How We Treat Each Other, No Matter Our Differences, Can Do So Much Good

Why Taking Pride in How We Treat Each Other, No Matter Our Differences, Can Do So Much Good

By Stacey Lindsay
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How we treat one another forms the bedrock of who we are. But do we stop to ensure we create space for people to feel safe, seen, and wholly themselves? Do we pause to let those around us know they are loved unconditionally? And, as Chasten Buttigieg told us recently, are we doing the work to be in true allyship, no matter how different someone may be from us?  

"If you are going to love your friend unconditionally, no matter who they are, or a family member or someone you know, make sure they know that they never have to worry alone, in silence," Buttigieg, a teacher, bestselling author, and advocate, told The Sunday Paper.

We all need to hear these words, especially as social divides widen and legislation threatens rights. So, we called Buttigieg to gather his thoughts on being more aware and meaningful with each other—because it is often in the small acts of inclusion that big steps toward hope and progress are found.


Let's start with much of what is happening and grabbing headlines, including legislation targeting LGBTQ rights and social divisions. What is on your mind and in your heart right now?

I am both anxious and hopeful. I'm anxious when I read the news. I'm anxious about what I see in politics on the right going after LGBTQ people and families, and predominantly young trans people. I'm anxious that this political party that is in search of a problem instead of a solution will continue to double down on that divisive rhetoric because it is beneficial for them to have a boogeyman stoke fear and to rally a base around what they perceive to be a problem rather than solving the real issues of protecting young and vulnerable people, and securing more rights for Americans. On the same hand, I am hopeful. I'm hopeful when I travel the country and meet with people who are on the ground doing really good work. I meet really good candidates, politicians, nonprofit leaders, and folks in the community who are treating each other well and doing important lifesaving work every day. But you rarely get to read about or hear about them, especially on late-night TV. So, I'm always hopeful when I'm out here doing the work because I get to be face-to-face with these people and sit down at their table to hear what they're working on. And I'm reminded that there are really good people in this country working to solve these issues, and it's not as dark and scary as the internet will have you believe.

What acts help to build hope and honor the inclusion of all you'd like to remind people of?

I'm constantly reminding folks that we all have to put our oxygen mask on before helping others. We can't dismantle oppression by ourselves. We can't do all of this work alone. And when the task seems so daunting, scary, and insurmountable, it's very easy for us to want to sit down and give up. I think of allyship and advocacy work as that Red Rover game we used to play where we all link arms, and someone tries to break through the chain. Imagine playing Red Rover, and half of your team is sitting on the ground saying, 'Well, it's too hard.' You're only as strong as literally the weakest link in your chain. So, for us to link arms with other people, we first have to take care of ourselves and recognize that we will only be able to do this work with others. We cannot do it by ourselves. We can't do it alone. And then, if we're linking arms with other people, we also have to look out for our neighbors. We are not the entire chain, to stay with this hypothetical playground game. We're one part of the chain. We are all stronger together. So, if you're sitting at home and you're thinking, My gosh, I don't know what to do about all this anti-LGBTQ legislation and book bans and bigoted lawmakers, I don't even know what to do about all of it, just remember that you're one part of this giant link. So, finding ways to strengthen your resolve also strengthens the team.

For some folks, that can be as simple as putting up a sticker in your storefront or a flag. Because when I'm shopping, I want to know that it's okay to be myself and that I can bring my family into a store or business that is open and inclusive. For some folks, that can mean stepping up and running for the school board. Many folks in our communities are qualified to run for office, but they just don't believe they are, or they might not have somebody pushing them to do it. For other people, this can mean supporting someone running for office. Maybe it's a mom you work with who keeps talking about how disappointed she is in this backslide in legislation. You can encourage her to run and then help her run. There are many different ways that we can approach allyship. The important thing for us to do is to remember that we have to ask ourselves when it comes to allyship: Am I just giving myself that title, or have I actually earned it? Allyship does require work. You have to think about ways to use your time, money, or privilege to benefit other people—but that doesn't mean you're out there doing it alone.

Considering Pride month is coming to a close, what does Pride mean to you on a grander scale?

I think Pride means something different for everyone. Pride, for me, is two things. It is an opportunity to celebrate the fact that I'm still here. I was a very suicidal teenager. I was convinced that the closet was going to kill me. When I came out, I ran away from home, never dreaming that the life I have right now was possible. I thought the easiest thing to do would have been to end it all. I'm so grateful that I'm still here. So, Pride is celebrating the fact that I made it and I've gotten to see some of my dreams come true. The closet didn't kill me. I'm happily married. I'm a dad.

Pride is also an opportunity to be reminded that not everybody has those dreams. And for some people, their dreams haven't come true yet, particularly young trans Americans. If you're a person of privilege, you have to ask yourself, What am I doing with my platform, my time, and my advocacy? As a person who has been so grateful to be given a platform, I think about different ways to hopefully reach back down the rope ladder and pull somebody else up. In a way, I feel like I reached a goal. It was hard and scary at times, but I did it, and I want to help others achieve that as well. So, for me, Pride for me isn't about the block parties, even though I love them. To me, Pride is about celebrating my existence and, in many ways, my survival, and in that work, it's about thinking about ways I will continue showing up for other people still waiting for that moment or that dream to come true.

Regarding allyship and treating each other with dignity, no matter our differences, some people may feel scared to do so because of their surroundings. What do you say to those who want to step up yet are afraid?

It's important to recognize that a lot of people are scared. I'm scared in some ways, too. Allyship does require us to be vulnerable, and I think we can be vulnerable in many ways, and some of that work, even amongst friends, is important. You might recognize conversations amongst your peers, such as 'I'm scared' and 'I'm scared too; what are we going to do about it?' Allyship looks different for everybody, so if you're in an area safety where you fear your safety, I always advise people to put their safety first. But if you are, say, a business owner who wants to put a flag or a sticker up, maybe coordinate with some other business owners that you're friends with. You can recognize that you will do this and need others' help and support.

On a different note, it's really, really important that we, as parents, tell our kids that they are loved unconditionally. That unconditional part is so important. I grew up very loved for 18 years, but I thought that love was conditional. So, when I came out, my parents were heartbroken that I would run away, but we never had that conversation about being LGBTQ or being different. We didn't talk about it. Had my parents sat me down at a young age and said, 'We just want to let you know that we'll love you unconditionally. We'll love you no matter who you are, whether you want to be a dancer or a football star or want to bury your nose in books or spend all your time outside. We'll love you whether you're gay, straight, bi, trans, we will love you.' If they had said that, I could have spent so much time being a kid rather than fearing that if my parents ever found out my secret, I would lose them. A loving parent might think their kid knows that, but unless they tell them, it's not a sure thing. It's not a guarantee. So, let's ease those worries at a young age.

And also, this isn't just about telling your child. It is also important to say this to each other. It's important to tell our friends this. If you are going to love your friend unconditionally, no matter who they are, or your family member or someone you know, make sure they know that they never have to worry alone, in silence. Tell them. I am so grateful I had friends in my life that did that for me. They reminded me that I was loved and that that love wasn't going away because of who I am. We can really take care of one another this way.

Chasten, how do you rise above the noise?

The majority of the noise comes into my life through my cell phone. Whether I'm reading the news or on social media, that is typically the source of the noise for me. So, I try to find ways to step away. I'm conscious that the phone can come between me and my husband or me and my children. I always find that the most grounding experiences are when I put the phone away, get down on the floor, talk to my kids, and be reminded that my life is filled with such beauty. I never want to take a day with these kids in this family for granted. So, as much as we can, we find that putting away social media and our phones allows us to connect and to be reminded that this family is such a gift.

Right now, my kids are obsessed with building forts and getting into play kitchens. I love sitting on the ground and entering their imaginative worlds rather than entering the deep, dark world of Twitter. I'd rather be eating my fake banana bread any day. 

Chasten Glezman Buttigieg is a teacher, speaker, advocate, and bestselling author. You can learn more and order his books at and follow him at @chasten.buttigieg.

Stacey Lindsay

Stacey Lindsay is a journalist and Senior Editor at The Sunday Paper. A former news anchor and reporter, Stacey is passionate about covering women's issues. Learn more at:

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