Why We All Should Celebrate Pride
Susan joined mcgarrybowen in 2013 as a Group Creative Director and oversees work for Disney Parks and Resorts and Maven, GM’s car sharing platform. Prior to joining mcgarrybowen, Susan was SVP, Creative Director at FCB Chicago for over 10 years. Prior to FCB Chicago, Susan worked as a Copywriter at 141 Worldwide in Chicago and Doner International in London.
Susan is dedicated to mentoring young creatives, especially women. She began a program to connect female creatives at the agency called mcgarrywomen, has served as a board member for AAF, spoken at numerous conferences, won many creative awards, and served as a judge at the Addys, the Effies and was recently honored as a She Runs It Working Mother of the Year. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and lives in Chicago with her wife, 19-month-old daughter, and is expecting her second child this July. She writes about what it means to be an LGBT ad Mom on her blog, SheSheLife.net
A few weeks ago, I was approached by another Group Creative Director’s daughter at my agency who had chosen to interview LGBTQ+ members of the community for her 8th-grade final project. Being that she had just come out as gay, this was a personal topic for her, but also an entirely brave one. Even if I had some inkling of liking girls back in 8th grade, I couldn’t imagine having the courage this 8th grader had to embrace her sexuality with confidence and bravado.
It was inspiring, and I was humbled to help.
Throughout the interview, she asked a lot of questions one might expect, but the question that gave me the most pause was, “What does Pride mean to you?”
At first, I didn’t think much of it. But when I took a minute to reminisce back through the years, I suddenly got emotional.
Beginning with the year 2000 when I moved to Chicago, an aspiring Copywriter with nothing but a spec portfolio and the doggedness to make it, my roommate and I unknowingly moved into the heart of Boystown on Pride weekend. And although it made for a lot of logistical challenges, I was already giddy with pride. Wide-eyed and in awe of all the costumes and glitter, the diversity and open-mindedness of the city and neighborhood I had chosen to call home.
Over a decade later I went to the parade with my dear friend and colleague, Jeremy. Both of us mid-swing in our big agency careers, I was a creative director and he was an account supervisor who was the brains behind our agency’s LGBTQ+ group and first agency-sponsored Pride float. The weather was perfect, the energy was electric and after a few cocktails, I confided in him that I had a crush on a girl. He was ecstatic and supportive. We giggled like school girls as the Pride floats rolled by. It was my first time admitting to anyone, and likely myself, that I might be gay.
Fast forward to June 2015, the year after I had married my amazing wife, Julie, also a badass ad woman, when we found ourselves in Washington DC on the steps of the Supreme Court as they struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling in favor of national same-sex marriage rights. We snapped selfies, soaked in the historical moment and watched with pride as Barack Obama lit up the White House in triumphant rainbow-colored lights that evening.
Then there was the Pride weekend when my cousin, Kelly, flew in from Arizona to celebrate with us in Chicago. Although my cousin was four years my junior and always felt like my little sister, she was first to come out to our extended family and had coached me with grace and maturity before I came out to them myself. That year my cousin, my wife and I took Pride by storm. From the Proud to Run 5k, sunbathing on the roof of Soho House, and dancing to DJs until 5am, we let our love shine all weekend.
Just a few weeks ago I learned my cousin Kelly has a brain tumor at the age of 37. We are still waiting to hear the prognosis, but I am so thankful for every ridiculous costume we donned, every impromptu street dance party we started, and every rainbow-colored memory that will never fade.
Last year’s Pride was another milestone, our first as a same-sex family. My wife and I outfitted our 10-month old daughter in rainbow garb as she waved Pride flags from her stroller and we celebrated with the many friends and colleagues who loved and supported us as a new family of three.
And this year as we eagerly await to become a family of four just a few weeks after Pride, at some point during the parade tears will, undoubtedly, well up in my eyes and I will breathe in the moment, thankful I live in a time and place where people have fought for my equality before I knew I would need it. And more than anything, hopeful our two children will feel more acceptance than judgment for their two less than conventional, and madly-in-love, career Moms.
"Having gratitude for those who have carried the torch...but more importantly not being complacent today."
Because that is what equality is all about, whether we are talking about LGBTQ+ rights or women’s rights in a machismo creative department, and why we all should celebrate Pride. Having gratitude for those who have carried the torch and soldiered through the discrimination before us, but more importantly not being complacent today. Continuing to fight for change, carve out new and equal opportunities, and redefine standards both in and out of the workplace.
So when that brave, self-aware 8th grader asked me what Pride meant to me, at the time I couldn’t quite put into words or relive the memories with the vibrancy and emotion they deserved.
Pride isn’t just a parade or a month. Pride is acceptance. Pride is equality for all. Pride is celebrating our strength within, and realizing we are stronger together. Pride is defining and redefining what family means. Pride is leading by example, and learning from others. Pride is inspiring. Pride is electric. Pride is ebullient. Pride is gay, bi, queer, trans and alike.
And more than anything, Pride is love.