Just like how there’s no one right way to be LGBTQIA+, there’s no one right way to celebrate Pride. That’s why we asked LGBTQIA+ folks and allies at Berkshire Bank to share stories of their experiences.
We have asked individuals of many different ages and backgrounds to share what Pride, being LGBTQIA+ or an ally, means to them — and what Pride means for the greater community around them, and the challenges they have overcome throughout.
Good morning. We are speaking with Chad Stier. Chad is an AVP Branch Officer at Berkshire Bank.
Chad, we wanted to start with a baseline question. When did you first realize you were LGBT, and when did you begin telling others?
“Well, good morning. I am glad to have this opportunity to share my experiences with you, especially during Pride Month. To start with that first question, I can affirmatively say that I’ve always known I had an attraction to Men. However, growing up in rural Connecticut, I lacked the words or understanding to define it. My childhood community did not have a Gay-Straight Alliance or any safe LGBTQIA spaces. I first came out to my best friend at 25, after getting a boyfriend over an app on the iPhone called “Who’s Around” (laughs); it was the early days of internet dating. My friend was very supportive of me and had thought I might be Gay for years. I was lucky to have such a strong ally in him. I later found out he was running point in our friend circle, making sure no one would hurt me or be hostile toward me or my boyfriend that I randomly would bring to social events.”
So, Chad, you are OUT in your community, at work, and with your family. How important is it to you to be out with these different people/in these different environments?
“I think coming out never really ends. It’s an ongoing process. I now consider myself to be fully out in my personal and professional life. I’ve never had a bad experience but have had many confusing looks when I answer questions such as “Do you have kids?” “are you married?” People ask common questions when you meet, but most assume an opposite sex answer will always be the default.
I believe it’s important to be out and your true self as it will allow others who never meet a Queer person to know someone and relate.
The older I get, I feel more comfortable holding my partner’s hand in public, but this took time and knowing what spaces are safe to do so. Life experience is vital, but I also recognize that not everyone has this privilege and may look over their shoulders and not want to make it known.”
Have you personally been discriminated against or aware of others who have faced sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination? And, are there coping mechanisms you have used to face discrimination/rejection?
“The pulse night club shooting hit me at my core, I would regularly go out to Karaoke nights at my local LGBT bar, and I know the importance of this feeling safe and being able to let your guard down. While I did not know anyone who was murdered at Pulse personally, I was aware of a few who were one to two persons removed from a friend circle. I made a point to head to my local bar the next day, but it was a somber mood, and many of us talked about our feelings and how the perpetrators had taken a safe place from us. This same group helped me by allowing me to share my feelings with other members of the community.”
Can you briefly describe some of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people who are important to you in your life?
“For me, it would have to be Harvey Milk and Brian Sims. Their involvement in politics and for showing the world that LGBTQIA persons deserve a seat at the table when policy decisions are made regarding their lives. Especially on tax law, marriage, the right to see your loved one in the hospital, and more.”
Chad, our time is coming to a close on this wonderful interview, and you have certainly shared a great deal, and we genuinely appreciate that. Earlier, you said you were out and open at work and in the community. Are there some of the activities or organizations that you are involved in that you could share?
“Certainly, it has been my pleasure, and to the question, I am a member of the Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Chamber and the Berkshire Pride ERG. I am currently serving as Co-Chair of the Pride ERG. Both organizations are incredibly supportive of the LGBTQIA communities, and I am glad that I can be a part of their missions.”
Chad, thank you for your time, and we hope you enjoy pride month. We look forward to sharing some of your organizations’ events and activities that are planned for this month with everyone here at Berkshire Bank.