June 30, 2023
(PHILADELPHIA) – Despite all that has been accomplished since the Stonewall Riots of June 1969 — which propelled the gay rights movement and started when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, New York City, leading to six days of unrest and violent clashes — the journey to “staying true to yourself” is still ongoing and still requires all of us to be active participants.
Steph Cordero (they/them) joined STEM Healthcare 5 years ago and now leads a team of analysts at STEM Healthcare, North America. They feel very proud of helping make the York office a safe place for all. Cordero lives with their partner and their dog, Runa Rose, in Maryland.
The Click: What does Pride Month mean to you? How different, if at all, do you feel as we celebrate the LGBTQ community?
Cordero: These are very deep questions when they should be so simple. [It’s] the one month a year to shed that light on the community more so than the rest of the year. It shows the importance of raising awareness in the community and celebrating the individuals who are part of it. So, whether that’s just anyone who identifies with the LGBTQ-plus community or allies, it is a way to say, “We love you for you. We want you to be your authentic self.” It ties back to when the gay rights movement started, which came from something negative — riots, violence, arrests — and see where we are today, celebrating the braveness of those people in the Stonewall riots who stood up to be themselves. And so, this month represents the first step for everyone to stand up, be themselves, and not be afraid.
The Click: Stand up and not be afraid. Do you think that people might still feel afraid today? They might not even want to stand up. What advice do you have for those who still feel scared today?
Cordero: I don’t think there’s ever a good time to stand up and be yourself. It’s about when you feel comfortable taking that first step, and it’s OK if you don’t. The most important first step is being true to yourself, whether wearing that proudly on your sleeve or keeping that a little bit more to yourself. Regardless, there will always be an uphill battle, but I think the first step is just within you.
The Click: True to yourself. Over the last year, you have been on a journey of self-discovery. Can you talk more about what happened over this past year? Where are you today? How did that progress happen?
Cordero: When I first started at STEM, I held that part of me closer to my chest. I was new to the company and wanted to get a feel for the people I would be working with to see if it was a safe space. And I saw pretty quickly that my team at the time was fantastic. They were so open. And so I felt comfortable and safe enough to share. Like, “hey, you know, I’m a part of the Community. I have a partner…” I felt like this was a safe place to work. And then, over the past year, I have been through my own journey of my identity. I feel comfortable now and at this workplace to be myself and share my pronouns. I think they have their hearts in the right place, right? That is a big benefit to a company like this. And speaking on behalf of the analysis team, we have several people who are part of the Community, and they feel comfortable enough to be themselves. So, making even our analysis team a safe place in the York Office is something I’m very proud of.
The Click: Saying our pronouns when we introduce ourselves is challenging, at least for me. It does not come naturally to me. How do you feel when people say their pronouns vs. when they don’t say them?
Cordero: I’d say with introductions — especially when meeting someone for the first time — it depends on the situation. If you’re going to a grocery store and you’re saying “hi,” you don’t need to do it. But if you’re starting a relationship, whether at work or in your personal life, baking it, like saying, “hi, my name is Steph Cordero. I go by they/ them pronouns,” it just says that this is a safe place. There are nonverbal ways to communicate that, too. Some clients put their pronouns in parentheses in their Microsoft Teams or Zoom. So, if you don’t have the opportunity to vocalize it, you could put it in your e-mail signature like we’ve been doing here at STEM. It’s just something simple and lays the ground rules, like, this is a safe place. But I don’t have a right or wrong answer, especially regarding the workplace. Is our client going to be receptive to that? Are you going to lose that client? I just don’t know, but that is Ok too.
The Click: Can you recall a time or experience that had significant repercussions in your trajectory to be where you are today, that is, staying true to yourself?
Cordero: It didn’t have a safe space in high school — this was never talked about, not even with our school counselors. It was also hard for me because I grew up very religious. It took a long time for me to be okay with who I am. It was not until I went to college that I met more open people. My counselor had a big sticker on the door saying we welcome everyone. And that was so impactful. Also, seeing a representation of our community on TV shows gave me the courage to say, “Wow, OK, like this is becoming more acceptable.” It helped me become a little bit braver to be myself. It’s so different now. People are so much more educated and aware. I think it was a combination of slowly becoming an adult and having those resources at my disposal.
The Click: Looking back, what could have helped you feel safer?
Cordero: It would have been nice to hear from a religious person and a family member, “I’m here if you ever want to talk about anything; this is a safe space.” Just hearing those two words, I think, would take much pressure off because if you don’t know how that person or that place is going to react, you’re much less likely to open up because you’re scared of someone lashing out at you or someone getting angry with you and knowing that there’s a safe space so. I think it is important to make it obvious that it’s a safe space.
The Click: To whom would you say thank you if you had to thank someone?
Cordero: I do really want to thank my partner. She has been a huge advocate for me, especially in my recent journey of my own discovery of what I’m going through. So, she’s been my biggest supporter and some of my closest friends.