Jul 08, 2021

By Kyrah Kimbro
LGBTQ+ employees across ViacomCBS share how companies can honor the spirit of Pride Month beyond June.

In Proud To Be, we highlight ViacomCBS employees and their personal histories. In this installment, we spoke to members of the company's LGBTQ+ employee resource group, PROUD, about the importance of celebrating Pride Month.

At ViacomCBS, we are committed year-round to a culture where people can bring their full selves to work—whether that's on or off-screen. Our celebration of the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t end when Pride Month is over.

“ViacomCBS really represents a lot of different walks of life,” says Brad Burnside, VP of Creative Music Strategy at ViacomCBS. “We have employee resource groups. We have leaders who are not afraid to say how they identify. And the company, as a whole, is making sure that the LGBTQIA community has multiple platforms to reach more people than ever before.”

The ViacomCBS Newsroom spoke to Burnside, along with Neil Wade, Femi Redwood, Paul Socasi, AllyCat Castle, David Pangilinan, Tony Jermin, and Julia Finder about what unites members of the LGBTQ+ community, the barriers LGBTQ+ people continue to face both in and outside the workplace, and the importance of avoiding “rainbow-washing” during Pride Month.

 

On embracing authenticity…

 

Neil Wade, manager of animated current series at Nickelodeon: I identify as a gay man, and my pronouns are he or they. But I don’t really mind how people refer to me. At a very early age, I started marching to the beat of my own drum, because I wasn't quite fitting into a lot of the boxes that were laid before me. I didn't know the word “gay” until I was 14. And I certainly didn't apply it myself until many years later.

Femi Redwood, correspondent for CBS News and CBS Newspath: I first realized I was a lesbian back in my freshman year of college… Things were a lot different than they are today. It basically forced me to be a bit more resilient. It forced me to stand in my truth more and become the strong person that I am today.

AllyCat Castle, makeup artist for CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell: For the longest time, I didn’t want to transition, because there were not a lot of positive representations of the transgender community. Transitioning might be the scariest thing I've done, but it has also been the best decision I've made in my life.

Tony Jermin, senior manager of consumer marketing at Nickelodeon: If you look at what society deems as acceptable in the world, it doesn't look like me. Being a black gay man has really affected the entire trajectory of my life… I've lived my life rejecting society's expectations, and I've created my own lane, in pursuit of my dreams, my goals, and being my best self despite any hardships that I face.

 

"Everything that [LGBTQ+ people] have been fighting for and everything that we do is just so that we can be felt and seen and supported."

David Pangilinian

Manager at Velocity’s Creative Strategy and Cultural Intelligence

David Pangilinian, manager at Velocity’s Creative Strategy and Cultural Intelligence: I went to an all-boy Catholic high school in New York City... I did Army Junior ROTC for all four years... I was commander of the nationally recognized drill team at my high school, and I did it all with a beat face. The teachers, the priests, my family, and my friends taught me to just live your life authentically, and that’s exactly what I do.

 

On the importance of fostering community...

 

Brad Burnside, vp of creative music strategy at ViacomCBS: I'm proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community because it celebrates diversity. We're not really a part of the majority heteronormative culture and I love that, because it means we can be who we want to be. We don't have to conform to something, and we can celebrate ourselves.

Paul Socasi, project leader for partner solutions at ViacomCBS: Pride is something that I didn't feel in the beginning. I always felt shame. I come from a very conservative family and a very conservative country… But then I found the community, and I realized I’m not alone.

Pangilinan: A lot of people see the LGBTQ+ community as some sort of entity that desperately wants to be so different, when in actuality everything we've been fighting for is so that we can be felt and seen and supported.

 

"If you are anywhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, you can come work here, and you can be yourself."

Neil Wade

Manager of Animated Current Series at Nickelodeon

Julia Finder, program operations and distribution coordinator at Showtime: Pride started as a riot in the face of discrimination, and discrimination is still a very real part of the community. So when our community has support from corporations, it makes it so much easier to go out and be yourself. It makes it so much easier to get legislation passed. It makes it so much easier to have resources available to help people better understand the community.

Jermin: ViacomCBS has one of the most robust employee resource programs of anywhere that I've ever worked. There are resources in place— and what I mean by that is an actual budget—and there's influence and sponsorship from leaders within the organization from the top down.

Wade: It is not just trying to look good for 30 days in June. ViacomCBS has just really made me feel comfortable to work here… If you are anywhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, you can come work here, and you can be yourself. And I believe that we do our best work when we bring our whole selves.

Socasi: Plus, for younger generations, seeing people in executive positions who are also out is so inspiring. They know they don’t have to hide in order to be successful. I don't have to hide… and I'm not going to hide. I'm going to do the opposite. I'm going to go in front of people and show them how proud I am.

 

On stepping up as a company...

 

Redwood: Throughout all of the adversity that LGBTQ+ people have faced, we are still able to continue loving and embracing and living life every day to our fullest. We are such a resilient community. Everything about us is just fabulous, quite frankly… How do you not be proud of that?

 

"Don't just slap a rainbow in your logo in the month of June for pride and call it a day."

Tony Jermin

Senior Manager of Consumer Marketing at Nickelodeon

Finder: But one of the problems I find sometimes in the community is the lack of visibility of anyone who’s not a white gay man. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I found that everywhere...I would walk into a queer space, and I would see white gay men.... A great way for companies to show support outside of monetary resources is to make sure their content shows diversity. And that doesn't just mean queer couples. It can also be more racial diversity, more diversity for disabilities. Showing those different kinds of diversity on screen helps normalize it in the minds of everyday people.

Socasi: And that is why Pride Month is important, because it offers LGBTQ+ people visibility and the chance to go out and share our stories. Wade: Pride has to do with elevating voices that were ignored for so long, and elevating perspectives that were historically never considered in our large society.

Jermin: So don't just slap a rainbow in your logo in the month of June for pride and call it a day… Companies really need to put money and resources where their mouth is in supporting the LGBTQ+ community. And it needs to not only happen in the month of June, but throughout the entire year… in front of the camera, behind the scenes, in programming, and in the people they hire.

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