Autodesk Pride Network is one of seven employee resource groups (ERGs) you’ll currently find at Autodesk. Its mission? To promote a culture of diversity and inclusion and create a workplace where historically invisible and marginalized individuals are welcomed and given the opportunity to thrive.
In honor of Pride Month in June, we asked a few members of Autodesk Pride Network to share a little about their experiences and how others can support the LGBTQ+ community.
- Adrien Dixneuf (he/him), Senior Manager / Senior Corporate Counsel
- Amanda Brijpaul (she/her), Senior Instructional Designer and LGBTQ+ ally
- Lisa Ferliano (she/her), Project Manager
- Rachel Schnaubelt (she/they), Full-Stack Engineer
In your own words, why is community important?
Lisa: Community is vital to ensuring a feeling of belonging, which is probably one of the most important feelings for anyone. It’s what makes you feel like you have a voice in this world, and that it (and you) is valued and loved.
Rachel: You know how some people say, “home isn’t a place, it’s a person?” Community is those people who make you feel at home. People who don’t judge you, who celebrate your authentic self, and who share your trials and your triumphs. People who “get it” (or at least want to).
Amanda: Support. Support. Support. And shared experience, knowledge, and resources. Each person’s journey is different but having support networks gives people the help they need when they need it.
Adrien: When I learned about the LGBTQ+ community, I finally felt I belonged somewhere. I realized that even though you don’t always entirely embrace the community (as it is diverse), it does not stop you from knowing the community will be there for you if something is wrong.
What are some unique challenges members of the LGBTQ+ community face, both in and outside of work?
Rachel: Probably one of the hardest things about being queer is the constant awareness of things that those who aren’t queer don’t even think about, like whether it’s safe to hold our partner’s hand, or if it might risk our job security to talk about our spouse with coworkers. There’s also the expectation that we are fluent in queer rhetoric and have a take on everything. Even having to explain our reaction to current events – why should we have to express exactly how these things impact us or make us feel?
Lisa: Constantly deciding if it’s safe to out yourself or not in different circumstances – you never really know if it’s a good idea to disclose who you are, which isn’t a great feeling. Also, though it’s getting better with younger generations, people still assume everyone is straight. (My wife, who looks nothing like me, is always assumed to be my sister.) We can all get better at this – just using neutral terms like “partner” would make a world of difference.
Adrien: I think we are all struggling with acceptance. I remember creating a very complicated heterosexual life for fear of being rejected, and the more I talked about it, the harder it was to remain consistent (remembering the name of the girlfriend I invented, the job she was supposed to be doing, etc.). I’ve heard that for LGBTQ+ people, creating a fake heterosexual life can consume up to 30% of their energy, and I quite agree with this figure. I laugh about it now but at the time, I was really stressed out.
Amanda: I can only speak as an ally – I know some external struggles are with bathrooms, pronouns, and gender-biased language, and some internal struggles include gender dysphoria and self-hate. I didn’t understand these challenges until I started to educate myself. Then I understood how hurtful it is to be called the wrong pronoun, how you can internalize self-hate when you see negative depictions on TV, how scary and confusing it is to decide which bathroom is safer for you, and so on. These are not things as a straight cis person I have ever had to think about!
How has Autodesk supported members of the LGBTQ+ community?
Adrien: I’ve never sensed any negative reaction when I talk about my husband and/or my son. On the contrary – I’ve found people with a very high awareness of the LGBTQ+ community, and I’ve really felt at home.
Amanda: In my short time here, I have felt the support and energy flowing through Autodesk Pride Network. Just by having this ERG, featuring some of its members, supporting LGBTQ+ events, having Autodesk LGBTQ+ community members represent the company at conferences, and so on, I feel like Autodesk is walking the walk of supporting this community.
Lisa: Autodesk was the first workplace where I felt I could truly be myself. It was the first time where colleagues casually kept the conversation going when I mentioned my girlfriend (now wife), instead of rebutting with questions like, “are you sure?” or “but are you fully gay?” (Yes, this has been asked of me!). There are also many healthcare benefits here, and Autodesk has ensured equal access and non-discriminatory practices for its LGBTQ+ employees. It’s a wonderful feeling to not have to plead for access to basic things like this.
Rachel: Autodesk has given me space to be authentically myself. I’ve found a lot of belonging in knowing our leadership supports groups like the Pride ERG to focus on creating an inclusive culture. And the company has also provided some great direct support through our benefits by making sure queer and trans people have coverage for unique issues and are included in generalized statements.
How can others be better allies to their LGBTQ+ colleagues, family, friends, etc.?
Amanda: It all begins and ends with acceptance, empathy, compassion, respect, and being open to learning. You can find so many good resources online to help you understand. All everyone wants is to be treated with the same simple courtesies and respect – so do that.
Adrien: Little things, like not assuming everyone is cis or heterosexual by using gender-neutral expressions, and not relying too much on stereotypes (even though, yes, I do love opera). Being respectful and listening to what the community has to say is fundamental, as is speaking out when someone says something that is not respectful.
Rachel: In my experience, the best allies are the ones who have celebrated and helped me be truly, authentically myself. They don’t ask me to be an educator, make me a “token queer friend,” or expect me to be an advocate. They’ve allowed me to step into those roles when it’s right for me but have never pushed them on me.
Lisa: Let them guide you. Don’t make assumptions about what they think, feel, or do. If you’re curious or unsure how to say the “right” thing, just ask! Almost no one will fault you for trying your best if it comes from a genuine place. And please remember, not all LGBTQ+ people look, feel, or act the same. We are just as varied and different as those not in the community.
Learn more about Autodesk’s employee resource groups here.