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Taking Pride in Yourself and Others
A letter from Adam Christman, DVM, MBA.
Were you ever the last kid to be picked for the soccer team? Or the one left out of the school play? Kinda sucked, right? Being an outsider or on the sidelines when others participate in something to which you felt you could have contributed feels downright awful. Imagine working in an environment where you can’t be your true self or feel as if your ideas cannot be shared because you will be excluded. It’s awful—and sad. Unfortunately, our society has a long way to go in terms of inclusiveness.
During Pride Month, it is crucial that we take time to be an ally and recognize the importance of inviting everyone to dance at the party! It’s really a no-brainer that diversity and inclusion make for a stronger workforce. When companies embrace and value employees of different backgrounds, they reap the rewards in creativity and innovation, a strong company culture, and improved employee performance. To me, this approach obviously leads to success, whether you’re a society or nonprofit organization, a veterinary hospital, or a company. An inclusive workplace celebrates diversity and its role in the organizational fabric. Such companies do not pretend that everyone enjoys an equal footing or a level playing field. Instead, they acknowledge differences and systemic differentiation and take responsibility for offering equal opportunities to all. Good companies and hospitals are the ones that are walking the walk.
Inclusivity in the workplace stems from the top of the organizational chart. If your employer sets the precedent with continuing education and training on how to create an inclusive workplace, you are more likely to walk the walk and model inclusive language, check in often with team members, offer safe spaces, and even have a taskforce dedicated to creating fun events that show support for everyone.
During this month of celebration, I want to share a personal story. As a gay man, I have been bullied, been made fun of, taunted, berated, and verbally attacked. And to this day I still receive hateful speech on social media. I decided early on that I was going to let my “haters” become my “motivators."
Life is precious, short, and sometimes challenging. I was blessed to receive tremendous support from my mother, father, and brother, who loved me for who I was and saw nothing other than a son and brother who was passionate about veterinary medicine at an early age. Yes, I struggled. School didn’t come easy to me. In high school, I was scared that if people knew I was gay it would be the end of my journey toward becoming a vet. “What if they find out about me?” The question was constantly on my mind when I was a veterinary technician. Leaning on my family and friends was crucial for me as I tried to achieve the beautiful DVM reward. And part of that journey was my coming out to my family and friends. It was terrifying, but also liberating. I wanted the world to see Adam Christman the way I saw Adam Christman.
Looking back, I can comfortably say that I am the best veterinarian, friend, brother, uncle, colleague, and husband I can possibly be because of being my authentic self. I’m so thankful to have married my best friend, Chris, almost 5 years ago and to have been together for 18 years. He makes me a better person every day (as well as our dachshunds!). I would never have thought as a kid that I would be able to marry anyone. Having that security and happiness means so much to us and our friends in the LGBTQ+ community. To those of you potentially struggling with any of this, I hear you and am here for you. Lean on me, your friends, your family, Pride VMC, Pride Student VMC, or any other organization with which you feel comfortable. The world is a beautiful place, and no one should have to live with inequality, exclusion, and/or discrimination.
I learn many, many things from my patients, and I continue to learn from them every day. But the one thing that I find strikingly beautiful is the unconditional love our pets have for us. They don’t care who you love or what color your skin is. They love us for who we are and for what we do for them. If we can all take a page from the animal playbook, the world would be an even more beautiful place
“Look out ’cuz here I come! And I’m marching on to the beat I drum. I’m not scared to be seen. I make no apologies. This is me!”–The Greatest Showman.
Happy Pride Month!