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Behind the Wings: The importance of allyship

Piedmont cross-trained agent Jenna Thompson wasn’t familiar with the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) growing up but while attending college, a meaningful friendship prompted her to learn more and start her journey of allyship.

While attending State University of New York at Plattsburgh, Jenna and her husband joined an allyship group to expand their LGBTQ+ knowledge and understanding. The group distributed ally cards, which could be displayed in dorm rooms indicating that the person in the room was accepting and their space was safe for open and honest conversation. Jenna also wore a pin that stated ‘I’m straight but not narrow’ in hopes that her friends might see it and know she was open to having an inclusive conversation.

After college, Jenna and her husband moved from New York to Burlington, Vermont in 1998. In their first child’s play group, they met many same-sex partners. She was motivated to be an ally, searching for books on what different families look like to share with her child. “I wanted to make sure my child understood that differences in others were to be accepted and celebrated,” said Jenna.

Jenna takes pride in raising her three children to know that she will support and accept them no matter who they are authentically. “I raised my children in a way that they would not want to keep things from me,” Jenna reflects. Two of her children are LGBTQ+ and Jenna feels blessed that they felt comfortable coming to her to talk about it. “Some parents may view their children coming out as a terrible thing but I’m grateful. At the end of the day, you just want your children to feel protected and to be happy.”

Her best advice as a parent is to listen to your children and not react immediately if they ask questions. She encourages parents to educate themselves before making any judgement and shares that she’s learned a lot from her children on topics like pronoun use and what not to say. The knowledge she has learned from her own research, as well as from her children, helps her be a stronger ally to friends, coworkers and even strangers. One thing that Jenna has become comfortable with recently is politely correcting people when they use incorrect pronouns.

Jenna wants her co-workers to know that she will celebrate and accept their differences. “I want those around me to know they are in a safe space, where I am here for them and on their side,” she says.

Jenna is also a member of the Pride Employee Resource Group at Piedmont. “When I learned the group welcomed LGBTQ+ allies, I thought that was great and wanted to join,” she remembers. “Finding support as an ally is sometimes difficult. I want other LGBTQ+ allies to know the Pride ERG offers a safe space where people can ask questions and learn more about the LGBTQ+ community. Pride ERG members care and are here to offer support.”

Jenna also says that being part of the Pride ERG is a continuous learning experience for her where she wants to continue to expand her knowledge and network to best support her children. “I’m proud to work for a company that sees the value in Employee Resource Groups,” Jenna exclaims proudly. “Everyone should feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work. As part of the Pride ERG, I want to encourage allyship and educate others.”

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Behind the Wings is a Piedmont feature that highlights the accomplishments of the aviation professionals who make us Piedmont Proud inside and outside the airport. Piedmont is proud to recognize our LGBTQ+ team members and allies and their contributions to the success of the airline and making a difference in their communities.