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    GGBA Message from Leadership: Three Moments that Turned Me into an LGBTQ Ally

    By Pamela Schmitz–

    As a straight woman, I may not be the most obvious choice to become the newest member of the Golden Gate Business Association board. However, if you get to know me, you’ll see how I’ve grown passionate about my allyship and sense of community building since the 1980s.

    That’s when a dear friend—she was my little sis in our sorority—told me she was gay. Having grown up ultra-liberal in the Bay Area, my reaction was, “Yeah, so?” It didn’t matter one iota to me whom she loved. I’m embarrassed to say that I was so flippant, acting like it was no big deal when it was something major in her life. I wish then that I had been mature enough to thank my friend for her bravery and for trusting me with her truth, before letting her know that this wouldn’t change our relationship in the least.

    Watching many people my friend considered close walk away when she shared who she was provided my first awakening to the discrimination the LGBTQ community faces. Until then, I had been blind to how often that happened, especially in the height of the AIDS epidemic.

    The next step on my journey was when Prop 8—that horrendous amendment banning same-sex marriage—was on the ballot. My college friend, by now with two girls about the same age as mine, called to ask us to join her at a protest. I immediately agreed to support my friend. “No,” she told me. “I need your whole family to be here. I need my girls to see that this is not just a gay issue.” That still gets me teary eyed when I think of it. Needless to say, we came to the protest in full support.

    My third eye-opening moment came at a time when I was looking for a new challenge in my life. Once again, my little sis from college helped me see a new way forward. She suggested that I check out Brio Financial Group, a company she worked with periodically. It quickly became clear that this was some place where I could make a significant difference in people’s lives.

    Founded by a lesbian and gay man, Brio has a goal to be the go-to financial planners for the LGBTQ community. Before same-sex marriage was legal, this required great creativity to develop workarounds that could approximate the treatment afforded to married couples. And even now that gay marriage is legal, the community faces unique challenges, such as HIV+ people not planning financially for a future they never dreamed they would have.

    Working at Brio for seven years now, I continue to be honored when people from all walks of life open up about what they truly want, and trust me to help them bring their finances into alignment with those hopes and dreams. That work feels more important than ever right now with the pandemic causing so many people to shift priorities and start valuing their time over their money.

    Being able to view the world through the rainbow lens of my friend and many clients has made me more attuned to the discrimination and injustices that LGBTQ people continue to face, even here in the Bay Area. It also makes me passionate about being an ally who actively works to help overcome this inequality. That’s why I feel so privileged to be a part of the GGBA board, where I’m eager to advance the mission of creating a more inclusive and welcoming business community.

    Pamela Schmitz is the Financial Planner at Brio Financial Group (https://www.briofg.com/). She is also a member of the Golden Gate Business Association Board of Directors.

    Published on December 2, 2021