The IRC in Silver Spring recognizes Pride month in June to celebrate LGBTQ+ refugees, partners, staff and volunteers. In celebration of Pride Month, the IRC spoke with Shahira, an Asylee Caseworker, about what Pride means to her. 

"Self and community acceptance can be a long hard battle for LGBTQ+ people, especially LGBTQ+ refugees coming to the U.S. for the first time. It is an honor for me to show my clients and colleagues what it means for me to be a queer person of color and to share the love, joy and creativity that I bring to my work at the IRC. I have the privilege to be out and open because I stand on the shoulders of incredible LGBTQ+ advocates, including Sara Hegazy, an Egyptian activist for LGBTQ+ visibility who empowered me to be courageous, and am honored that people, including the clients we serve, can stand on mine. 

As a queer woman of color and first generation American, I recognize how refugees’ identities inform the way they go through the world. In my work, I embody Pride by creating a space where refugees and partners can feel safe and affirmed. One way is I include my pronouns in my email signature and business cards so that clients feel more comfortable sharing their own. I approach my clients and their respective trauma without judgement. As a result, I can be supportive in navigating difficulties compounded by identities such as gender and disability status.   

Celebrating Pride means celebrating community. The LGBTQ+ community is full of the strongest people I know; people who are reflective, diverse and welcoming. While acknowledging how far we have come in gaining rights for LGBTQ+ people, Pride is a time for recognizing how far we have left to go, especially now, when the rights of LGBTQ+ people, specifically transgender people, are actively challenged in our country.  

It’s important to be an ally and advocate for LGBTQ+ clients and partners all year around. You can do this by using inclusive language, educating yourself about LGBTQ+ identities, looking for local LGBTQ+ resources and learning about the struggles the community faces and how you can help. Being an ally is not a title but an action, and for me to be an ally, the most important thing is to be a safe person for clients to come to as they transition to their new life in the U.S. "