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Monday, June 5, 2023

Embracing Pride: Celebrating Diversity in the Intelligence Community (IC)

June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of LGBTQ+ people around the world. It is also a time to reflect on the challenges and barriers that LGBTQ+ people still face in many aspects of their lives, including their work environments.

The intelligence community (IC) is a vital part of US national security and our democracy. It is composed of 18 agencies and organizations that collect, analyze, and disseminate information to inform decision-makers and protect the nation from threats. The IC's mission requires a diverse and inclusive workforce that can leverage different perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences to produce high-quality intelligence.

However, for many years, LGBTQ+ people were excluded from serving in the IC due to discriminatory policies and practices that deemed them unfit or untrustworthy. Many LGBTQ+ employees had to hide their identities or face harassment, discrimination, or termination. Some were even subjected to intrusive investigations or polygraph tests that violated their privacy and dignity.

Thankfully, much has changed since then. The IC has made significant progress in advancing diversity and inclusion for LGBTQ+ employees and allies. Some of these milestones include:

- The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2011, which allowed LGBTQ+ service members to serve openly in the military.
- The issuance of Executive Order 13672 in 2014, which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal employment.
- The establishment of IC Pride in 2012, an employee resource group that advocates for LGBTQ+ issues and organizes events such as the annual IC Pride Summit.
- The adoption of policies and guidance that support transgender employees' rights and needs, such as access to health care, restroom facilities, and name changes.
- The recognition of same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships for security clearance purposes and benefits eligibility.
- The creation of affinity groups and networks that provide mentoring, networking, and professional development opportunities for LGBTQ+ employees and allies.
- The participation in outreach and recruitment efforts that aim to attract and retain LGBTQ+ talent for the IC.

These achievements demonstrate the IC's commitment to creating a culture of acceptance and respect for LGBTQ+ employees and allies. They also show how the IC values diversity and inclusion as a strategic advantage that enhances its mission performance.

However, there is still more work to be done. LGBTQ+ people continue to face challenges and discrimination in many parts of the world, including some countries where the IC operates. LGBTQ+ employees may also encounter bias or hostility from some colleagues or managers who do not understand or appreciate their identities or experiences. Moreover, some LGBTQ+ employees may still feel reluctant or unsafe to be themselves at work due to fear of stigma or reprisal.

That is why it is important to embrace pride not only during June but throughout the year. Pride is not just a celebration; it is also a call to action. It is a reminder that we all have a role to play in advancing diversity and inclusion for LGBTQ+ people in the IC and beyond. Here are some ways we can do that:

- Educate ourselves and others about LGBTQ+ history, culture, and issues.
- Listen to and learn from LGBTQ+ colleagues' stories and perspectives.
- Speak up against discrimination, harassment, or bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Support LGBTQ+ employee resource groups, affinity groups, and networks.
- Attend LGBTQ+ events, trainings, or workshops.
- Mentor or sponsor LGBTQ+ employees or aspiring professionals.
- Advocate for policies and practices that promote LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion.
- Recognize and celebrate LGBTQ+ achievements and contributions.

By embracing pride, we can foster a more diverse and inclusive IC that respects and values all its employees. We can also strengthen our intelligence capabilities by harnessing the power of diversity. And we can honor the legacy of those who fought for LGBTQ+ rights and dignity in the past, present, and future.

Happy Pride Month!

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