This story is written and provided by Amanda Oliver, Manager Member Solutions, BIS at USAA.
I started working for USAA in 2004. The Iraq war was in full force, and many of the members I spoke with were either deployed or just returning. “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” was still enacted, and of course, same sex marriage was not legal yet. I was very close with my Uncle Sunny growing up, and he was with his partner my entire life. It was somewhat of a shock to me as I got older and encountered what homophobia looked like since it was something that was a non-issue in my household. My uncle suffered kidney failure when I was 10 years old, and while I didn’t quite understand why, I was very aware that whether his partner would be allowed in his room or not really depended on which doctors and nurses were on duty. My uncle passed away in 2010. I was in my early 30’s by then and saw the aftermath of someone trying to muddle through the financial impact of your significant other passing, while having very little legal recourse. My little sister came out the following year and I knew right then that I wanted to show her that there were people that supported her, would stand up for her, and hopefully give her opportunities that my uncle did not have.
When USAA decided to start up the LGBTQIA diversity business group, called BOLD, I felt like I was finally able to connect two important pieces of life together. I was excited and wanted to be involved as much as I could be, my initial desire being to satisfy this personal drive to support local LGBT causes and our LGBT workforce. It was clear from the day BOLD started that our employees not only wanted USAA to have an LGBT resource group, they expected it. In the first year, the Phoenix office had about 200 members, which was something to be proud of. In 2017, the Phoenix chapter walked in the Phoenix Pride parade for the first time. 200 employees and their families showed up to walk with us, and just typing that out makes me tear up. I’ve had people come up to me at events and tell me they came to work at USAA when they saw we had an LGBT business group. I’ve had employees hug me to thank BOLD for making them feel like they can be themselves at work. I cannot express the feeling I have knowing that this wonderful company I work for is here to serve the military community. USAA has stood up and said, we support you, we stand behind you, and you can be yourself here. As an ally to the community, that’s all I’ve wanted to do, and USAA has given me the opportunity to extend that sphere so much further. I’ve since been able to be involved with our additional diversity business groups, and I’ve realized the depth of how important diversity and inclusion is in the workforce. This year, not only did we walk in the Pride parade, but we also participated in the Phoenix Pride Run. The runners were so excited to see USAA there handing out water for them as they ran by! We will continue to support internal events to educate and support our employees on LGBT issues, and we will continue to show up for LGBT community events forwarding the future. BOLD now has over 800 members in Phoenix, and I cannot wait to see where 2018 and beyond takes us.