This Pride Month, PayPal is reflecting on the contributions and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and broader queer community as the fight for equality persists. PayPal has been a longstanding and proud advocate for LGBTQ+ people and continues to support the community through programs, policies, and action. We recently spoke with three true champions of progress we’ve had the opportunity to work with.
- Violette Matevosian is an asylum seeker from Russia and a coordinator of a volunteer group for RUSA LGBTQ+. They are also a mentee through the Tent Partnership for Refugees' LGBTQ+ refugee mentorship program, where PayPal has committed to providing mentors in the U.S. and U.K.
- Joshua Yang is the co-founder and CEO of Glyphic Biotechnologies. He was a participant of last year’s Out in Tech Digital Corps program where PayPal employees contributed skill-based volunteering to help queer-owned businesses and entrepreneurs develop their online presence.
- Lora Hania is a trans PayPal employee and an active member of the global Pride Employee Resource Group. She is the lead of the group’s chapter in Tel Aviv, which launched this month.
From left to right: Violette Matevosian, Joshua Yang, and Lora Hania
What does Pride Month mean to you and how are you reflecting on the moment this year?
Violette: As a queer asylum seeker from Russia, I did not have the luxury of being proud of who I am for most of my life. Members of the LGBTQ+ community in Russia are constantly told that we are less than others for just being ourselves. While I never believed that, it made me uncomfortable being open. Pride Month for me means liberation. It is a reminder that I am finally safe and I have the freedom, love, and respect I deserve. It is a reminder that only your inner self can guide you in life and nobody else has a say in it.
Joshua: I have been attending Pride Month events for over ten years and have been “out” for just as long, ever since freshman year of undergrad. At that time, Pride and its associated parades, parties, and events were important for my self-development and self-acceptance as I explored my sexual identity. Ten years later, I find that Pride remains just as important. The visibility and acceptance that is engendered through Pride has provided and continues to provide people of all ages and from all walks of life the courage to come out.
Lora: Ever since I accepted my identity and started to work towards my transition, I have seen the Pride Month events as a safe place to confide with peers and be understood. If I had access to these types of events earlier in life, I may have been able to understand myself and live as my true self sooner. I’ve also seen the impact these events have on public reception. While growing up in a traditional city, the concept of LGBTQ+ people was fairly distant; but with more public LGBTQ+ events, people learned to be accepting and inclusive as a community.
Can you tell us about one of your greatest accomplishments?
Violette: I am the coordinator of a volunteer group in New York City called RUSA LGBTQ+. We support Russian-speaking asylum seekers, immigrants, and others from all over the post-Soviet diaspora. Recently, we organised a benefit concert to support LGBTQ+ communities in Ukraine who need resources during this devastating war. I couldn’t have imagined I’d have the strength and courage to organise such an event in just three weeks, but it was a great success and exceed the goal of raising US$10,000 for our queer siblings in Ukraine. It was a moment of absolute excitement.
Joshua: Graduating from a fully funded, combined M.D.-Ph.D. program to live a straightforward, comfortable life as a physician-scientist would have been a great accomplishment. Perhaps making the difficult decision to leave such a program midway through to pursue my own uncertain entrepreneurial aspirations is an even greater accomplishment of mine. I am proud that I mustered the courage, energy, and ambition to overcome the inertia of what would otherwise have been my fate.
Lora: As someone who comes from a traditional family, transitioning while keeping my family close was a huge accomplishment both for me and for them. My transition has made the connection with my family closer and has helped them better understand and accept diversity.
What's something you've learned from your personal experience that you'd like to share with other members of the LGBTQ+ community?
Violette: Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of yourself, of exploring possibilities and sometimes failing. The greatest regret you can have is for the things you never tried. Accept yourself and be proud of holding the unique human experiences that only you have.
Joshua: It's never too late to reinvent yourself. We may harbor traumas from the past, ruminate on prior paths we wish we had not taken, and face the expectations of others that may seem to limit or even dictate who we can be. Who we are today and can be in the future is not determined by the past—rather, we make that choice every day.
Lora: From my personal experience, the best thing I learned is how to handle bureaucracy. It can be difficult, but if you learn how the system work, it is much easier to navigate; especially for those who have to go to extreme lengths in order to be themselves.
PayPal’s continued support for the LGBTQ+ community
Our approach to supporting the LGBTQ+ community is directly tied with our company’s mission, vision, and values of supporting the welfare of our employees and enabling the financial health of all people, particularly historically underrepresented communities.
This year, the company has responded to a number of state and local challenges that target LGBTQ+ rights. One way we affect change is through a legal tool known as an amicus brief. This is a way for companies and others who want to share their view can formally log them into courtroom proceedings. Most recently, we signed an amicus brief in the case of Emilee Carpenter, LLC v. James to support New York’s State Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We were also a signatory to the Human Rights Campaign’s open letter in the Dallas Morning News condemning attempts by Texas lawmakers to criminalise parents of transgender youth seeking gender-affirming care.
PayPal is also a member and sponsor of multiple LGBTQ+ advocacy and talent development organiations. For instance, we are a member of the Human Right Campaign business coalition to advocate for non-discriminatory legislation and a partner of Out in Tech to empower members of the LGBTQ+ community with resources and skills. In honor of Pride Month, we are making a US$125,000 contribution to Out in Tech to further support opportunities for LGBTQ+ individuals. We’ve also recently supported a refugee training program by LGBT Ireland, as well as made a contribution to Equality Texas to help advance the rights of LGBTQ+ Texans.
PayPal’s Pride Employee Resources Group is also an incredible driving force behind many of the company’s meaningful initiatives, including the expansion of employee self-ID options to include non-binary gender status, updating PayPal’s governance guidelines of the board of directors to include sexual orientation, and the addition of pronouns to company systems. For International Transgender Day this year, the community hosted Jeopardy! Champion Amy Schneider in a discussion with employees about being a transgender woman in tech.
How you can act
We encourage you to visit PayPal Giving Fund and support some of the featured organisations that are helping to create a more equitable and inclusive world for LGBTQ+ citizens around the globe. PayPal covers all processing costs, ensuring that 100% of your donation will support the charities.