Pride, not prejudice!

dvm360dvm360 June 2024
Volume 55
Issue 6
Pages: 12

Alyssa Mages, BS, CVT, chief visionary officer of Empowering Veterinary Teams, says allyship is earned, striven for, and is an honor that is bestowed by those to whom one is an ally with.

Chief veterinary officer

Photo courtesy of Adam Christman, DVM, MBA

This content is sponsored by VCA Animal Hospitals

I was entering a place of business this past May and witnessed the store manager adding Pride stickers to the storefront in preparation for Pride Month. It was a sense of joy knowing that this business welcomes and supports all people. But behind me in line was a woman with her 2 young children, and she said to them, “Oh, here we go again. Another month all about them.” I turned around to her and told her, “You are incorrect ma’am. My pronouns are he/him, and I thank you for validating why we need a month.”

As we celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) Pride Month, it’s crucial to reflect on the significance of diversity and representation in every facet of our society, including the veterinary profession. As veterinary professionals, we are not only a caregiver to animals but also a crucial part of a diverse community of professionals. However, despite strides toward inclusivity, prejudice and discrimination persist in many workplaces. Understanding and addressing these issues is paramount to creating a welcoming environment for all veterinary professionals.

Defining prejudice

Prejudice, at its core, is a preconceived notion or judgment formed about an individual or group based on stereotypes rather than personal experience or knowledge.1 In the context of the LGBTQ community, prejudice manifests as discrimination, bias, or marginalization directed toward individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. This discrimination can range from overt acts of hostility to subtle forms of exclusion and microaggressions.2 And these acts can happen quite a bit in the workforce.

The importance of representation

Having proper representation in the veterinary workforce is not just about meeting diversity quotas; it’s about fostering an environment where every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to bring their whole selves to medicine is crucial for several reasons. Here is what representation means to just a few of our colleagues in the industry:

  • Josh Sanabria, DVM: “I am an openly gay veterinarian, so celebrating Pride Month is vital to me and my hospital because it reminds our community that we offer a safe space to our clients, especially our LGBTQ community. Pride Month helps by making everyone around us aware that, just as we advocate for our patients in our evolving veterinary medical profession, we will continue to stand up for ourselves and advocate for our rights, along with our allies. In the same way we need motivation and reminders to eat healthy or work out, we also need motivation and reminders to continue doing our best in shaping a society that believes in equality and acceptance of who we are.”
  • Trusten Moore, DVM: “Pride Month is a time to be unapologetically me and shine a bright light in our dark world. It’s also fun to see veterinary clinics support and show allyship toward the LGBTQ community.”
  • Jennifer Evans, veterinary consultant: “Pride means ‘empowerment’ to me. When organizations outwardly show support of Pride, I feel empowered to show up as my best self, and my best self is the version that will serve this profession in the best way possible. Pride, in my opinion, is not about the celebration; it is about the recognition of my humanity and the support needed to help change injustice that our community continues to face.”
  • Erik Zager, DVM, DACVECC: “Pride Month is a time for visibility for all LGBTQ members and allies to show that all are welcome and loved. There are members of our community still under assault around our country, and it is important for all members and allies to show that there are safe spaces and ways to succeed in life.”

The importance of allyship

Being an ally means actively supporting and advocating for the rights and dignity of the LGBTQ community. It also means listening with empathy, educating oneself on LGBTQ issues, using inclusive language, and creating safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ people to express themselves authentically. Ultimately, it’s about fostering a culture of acceptance, respect, and understanding for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Here is a perspective from one of our amazing colleagues and allies in the community, Alyssa Mages, BS, CVT, chief visionary officer of Empowering Veterinary Teams: “I’ve been asked what it means, as in the defined sense, to be an ally several times. The answer I keep coming back to is that this cannot be defined by me. Allyship is a term that gets bantered around and wrongly placed in the noun category, when it is most definitely action packed. Allyship or being an ally is not something that can be claimed. Being an ally is not about you or the optics it can present. Allyship is earned, striven for, and is an honor that is bestowed by those to whom one is an ally with. To have heard my friends and colleagues refer to me as such is an indescribable feeling and is a moniker that I will continue to work hard to earn each and every day.”

Creating an inclusive work environment

Promoting LGBTQ representation in the veterinary profession requires intentional efforts from both individuals and organizations. Here are some actionable steps to foster inclusivity in your workplace:

Education and training. Offer diversity and inclusion training programs that address LGBTQ issues, including cultural competence, unconscious bias, and respectful communication. Provide resources and support for ongoing learning and development.

Policy and advocacy. Implement nondiscrimination policies that explicitly protect LGBTQ employees from harassment and discrimination. Advocate for LGBTQ inclusive health care policies and practices within your organization and professional networks.

Visibility and support. Create LGBTQ affinity groups or support networks within your workplace to provide a sense of community, peer support, and mentorship opportunities. Celebrate LGBTQ awareness events and milestones to promote visibility and allyship. Be active within your community.

Language and communication. Use inclusive language and terminology in all communications, forms, and patient interactions. Respect individuals’ chosen names and pronouns, and educate staff members on the importance of affirming language.


LGBTQ representation is not just a matter of diversity; it’s a matter of equity, justice, and excellence in veterinary medicine. By actively promoting inclusivity and embracing the rich tapestry of identities within our profession, we can create a more vibrant, compassionate, and resilient veterinary community where every individual can thrive.

I want to personally thank the many of you around the country who have approached me during our Fetch conferences to thank me for being a large advocate for the community. I take greatpride in who I am and hope you all do too.

Let us commit ourselves to championing diversity, fostering inclusivity, and creating a profession where everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, feels seen, heard, and valued. We have this one beautiful life to live. Let’s live it to our fullest and authentic selves.

Happy Pride Month.


  1. Herek GM. Hate crimes and stigma-related experiences among sexual minority adults in the United States: prevalence estimates from a national probability sample. J Interpers Violence. 2009;24(1):54-74. doi:10.1177/0886260508316477
  2. Norton AT, Herek GM. Heterosexuals’ attitudes toward transgender people: findings from a national probability sample of US adults. Sex Roles. 2013;68(11-12):738-753. doi:10.1007/s11199-011-0110-6
  3. Meyer IH. Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychol Bull. 2003;129(5):674-697. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.129.5.674
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