5 Things I’ve Learned as a Part of the LGBTQ+ Movement

By Ranelle Porter,

Lorelei Erisis. Photo by Sonja Brenna and Lorelei Erisis.

By Lorelei Erisis | August 15, 2019 | 3 Minute Read

My name is Lorelei Erisis. Maybe you’ve seen me marching in Boston Pride, shouting loudly for trans rights while wearing a glittery crown, Miss Trans New England sash, and Doc Marten boots.

In short (which I definitely am not), I’m an Out, Proud, and Loud Queer Trans Woman. I’m also a Second City trained improviser and a longtime activist and I’d love to share with you several things I’ve learned as a part of the LGBTQ+ movement.

1. Say “Yes!”

Saying “Yes!” is how I got where I am today and it’s something I learned from improv.

I say, “Yes!” whenever I reasonably can and sometimes when I reasonably can’t. Saying yes whenever somebody needed a speaker, a volunteer, or a helping hand took me from a passionate but unknown speaker at a rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton to the halls of the Massachusetts State House to being invited to The White House and a whole lot of places in between.

2. Listen

Next, but equally important, is listening—another thing I got from improv.

In an improv scene, if you’re actively listening, then you’ll be in the moment and ready to react, say yes, and take advantage of whatever your scene partner might offer. If your partner is doing the same, everyone will be at their best and most effective. The scene will grow and move forward organically.

Now substitute “LGBTQ+ movement” for “improv scene” and you have a vital key to my success.

3. Visibility is important

Visibility reminds people that we, the LGBTQ+ community, are here. I made a choice early in my transition that I would be as visible as possible, even if that meant being a little messy about it sometimes.

I like to look good—I like being made-up and I like dressing up. I make TV appearances, model, and have been in the press enough times that I gave up trying to keep track. But I also work as a waitress and I know that as effective as everything else is, my visibility as a diner waitress has its own enormous impact. It lets me meet all kinds of folks and it normalizes the experience of my trans identity.

I think it’s important for people to see me when I’m being a regular person. It helps trans people to know they can just be who they are. And for everyone else, it humanizes me and the identities I represent.

Visibility, both big and small, is one of the most important drivers of change I know.

4. Be kind

Sometimes it can be hard and other times it simply isn’t possible, but it’s still important. I try to be kind to everyone I meet because I’ve seen how it makes a difference and I can honestly say it’s the most effective tool in my kit.

Aside from it just being a decent way to live, I’ve turned adversaries into allies simply by being kind. I’ve made lifelong friends and brief acquaintances remember me positively years, and even decades, later.

5. Self-care is good activism

I generally try to focus on the more positive things about being trans and LGBTQ+ activism and identities. We’ve made a lot of progress and that’s worth celebrating. But trans and queer folks are still under attack.

As relatively lucky as I’ve been, my own life has had a lot of pain and hardships. I’ve faced discrimination and harassment. I know that as bad as it’s been for me, many others have it far worse. That’s why I fight. Why I speak and write and march. Why I’m visible.

It’s also why I try to remember to laugh and enjoy life whenever I can—why I make time to read, cook delicious food, watch a movie, and fall in love. Staying alive, and enjoying life, is the best activism I can do. Our most revolutionary act is simply being here and being ourselves.

Learn a few lessons from trans activist Lorelei Erisis’s experience in the LGBTQ movement and how you can apply them to your own work and life.

Eastern Bank Honored at the Shorty Awards for LGBTQ+ Community Engagement

By Ranelle Porter,

By Lorelei Erisis | August 1, 2019 | 3 Minute Read

The past several years have been a tumultuous time for the LGBTQ+ community. It has often felt like we’re constantly fighting uphill only to be pushed back down whenever we’ve made significant progress. Yet as an out, queer, trans woman who has been deeply immersed in the fight for over a decade now, I know we’re making progress. We continue to score important victories.

And a big part of these successes are the allies who have helped us achieve them—like Eastern Bank. If LGBTQ+ rights are under attack, you can find Eastern Bank rallying behind our cause in support of their customers, colleagues, and communities.

Eastern Bank’s tireless support was recognized at the 2019 Shorty Awards when they were honored as a finalist in the LGBTQ Community Engagement category, where they received the Audience Honor for the most public votes within that category. This recognition further demonstrates the impact their work has had on the movement and individuals everywhere.

Join Us For Good and The Shorty Awards

The Shorty Awards is an annual award show that recognizes impressive work done through social media. This year, Eastern Bank was nominated for their Join Us For Good campaign, which focuses on social justice issues and particularly on spreading awareness and support for the LGBTQ+ community.

As a longtime ally, Eastern Bank has teamed up with local advocacy organizations, businesses, and activists like myself to promote action on key issues. And when transgender rights were being questioned on the Massachusetts ballot in the 2018 midterms, Eastern Bank knew the election results could have a profound impact on the LGBTQ+ community.

I was deeply humbled when Eastern Bank invited me to be a part of the “Good Votes” digital campaign, which was meant to target awareness of question three on the ballot. They felt that using my image alongside the quote “‘This is a person. Not a political argument.’ offered a unique insight into just how important the question was in the midterm election.”

It takes a community of people each doing their part to make sustainable forward progress and when I asked Eastern Bank why they felt the need to be so involved, they said, “It was our duty to step up, speak out, and protect transgender people from discrimination in public places,” adding, “Eastern Bank has dedicated over 200 years to doing what’s right and smart for our customers, colleagues, and communities, and supporting LGBTQ+ rights is one of many social justice causes we are passionate about and wholeheartedly believe in.”

What Progress Looks Like

The most important thing about “Join Us For Good” is the results. With Massachusetts voting 67% in favor of question three, we knew the campaign was a success. The last-ditch attempt by opponents of the LGBTQ community to repeal our hard-won transgender rights in Massachusetts was defeated.

With such a solid success, what’s next for Eastern Bank? “We won’t waiver from our commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and from standing up for what we deem is right and smart,” they said. “The public’s response to this campaign serves as affirmation that we need to and will continue to be an ally for LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Join Us For Good and celebrate Eastern Bank’s recognition at the Shorty Awards for their work in support of the LGBTQ+ Community!

Miss Trans Massachusetts and Her Commitment to Spreading Equality for the LGBTQ Community

By Ranelle Porter,

By Lorelei Erisis | August 3, 2018 | 2 Minute Read

As a queer, trans woman, and Massachusetts native, I’ve personally been involved in activism for trans rights and organizing within the LGBTQ community. And wherever I’ve been, Eastern Bank has been there as well.

They’ve stood solid as a committed partner and supporter of the LGBTQ community. In addition to marching in both the Boston Pride Parade and the North Shore Pride Parade, Eastern Bank’s LGBTQ efforts are visible and run deep into the community.

When Eastern reached out to me to write for them, I had no hesitation accepting. I felt like Eastern Bank was already a trusted friend—an ally, in the best sense of the word.

When we were fighting to win basic civil rights protection for transgender people in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Eastern Bank was there. They sat with us through gruelingly long days of testimony at both statehouses, on multiple occasions. Representatives of Eastern Bank personally testified in support of transgender rights.

Nancy Stager, Eastern Bank’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources and Charitable Giving, said that Eastern Bank has been so committed to the LGBTQ community and the struggle for transgender rights, “Because it’s the smart and right thing to do. As a company, we need to access the broadest talent pool and we can’t afford to have populations of talented individuals feel less than,” she said. “In my experience over the last 10 years of supporting trans rights, I’ve seen and heard stories that are just heartbreaking. And we’re personally and organizationally committed to doing whatever we can to make it better because it’s just wrong.”

Beyond supporting the transgender community, and marching in the Boston Pride Parade, Eastern Bank seeks to serve the entirety of the LGBTQ community. For five consecutive years now, they have had a perfect score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s 2018 Corporate Equality Index. Their “Equality Under the Blue” employee network meets regularly with senior leadership to discuss issues that are of importance to their employees and the larger LGBTQ community. As an organization, Eastern Bank was an early leader in providing health insurance coverage for their employees that covers gender-related care and transition-related services and surgery.

And of course, as co-founders of the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Stager shared that they have, “…actually gotten some really wonderful resonance. We’ve got 45 small businesses already signed. And we have 12 large companies that are putting in $25,000 each to join as a founding sponsor. And we’re nowhere near done.”

Eastern Bank is right there, joining us for good. When President Donald Trump signed a discriminatory directive banning transgender people from military service, Eastern Bank put up a billboard that read, “Good salutes all those who serve our country. All.” with the letters in “All” representing the colors of the transgender flag.

Eastern Bank continues its long commitment to serve the transgender community as a co-chair, along with Harvard Pilgrim and Google, in the business campaign with Freedom For All Massachusetts. They stand with us to fight against the attempted repeal of our still new, and popularly passed law providing, or rather affirming, those basic rights and protections for transgender people that were placed on the state ballot this coming November.

Eastern Bank’s LGBTQ efforts are neither new nor surprising. They were the first company in the country to sign GLAAD‘s brief asking the United States Supreme Court to strike down the pernicious Defense of Marriage Act, otherwise known as “DOMA.”

“Eastern’s revenue and bottom line have grown every year,” said Stager. “And our commitment to help protect the rights of people who want to live an authentic life doesn’t diminish our business at all. In fact quite the contrary—people appreciate a company being willing to step out and say what everybody’s thinking.”

That’s a business sentiment so sensible, and kind, that my Yankee-Irish grandmother would have heartily approved. I do too.

Join Eastern Bank in supporting the LGBTQ community generally, and the transgender community specifically, as they continue to fight with us to protect our rights and enrich our lives.