As a shareholder of Barron & Newburger P.C., and part of the LGBTQIA+ community, Brit Suttell shares the importance of visibility and representation during Pride Month and beyond.
06/22/2022 9:45 A.M.
7 minute read
ACA International’s membership and the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry are increasingly diverse. In June, ACA is highlighting member voices as part of Pride Month.
Pride Month is recognized in June each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, according to the Library of Congress: “The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.”
It expanded in 1994 when a coalition of education-based organizations in the U.S. designated October as LGBT History Month. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBT History Month within a list of commemorative months. National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11), as well as the first “March on Washington” in 1979, are commemorated in the LGBTQ community during LGBT History Month.
For Brit Suttell (they/them), a shareholder at Barron & Newburger P.C., Pride Month is a time where they can recognize and appreciate the increased visibility that the LGBTQIA+ community has now.
“I embrace my queer pride on a daily basis because I never know who can benefit from seeing it,” Brit said.
Here, Brit shares more about the meaning of Pride Month, their family and more.
Q. How did you get started in the ARM industry?
A. I pretty much grew up in the industry. My dad, Bill Suttell, started a debt collection law firm in the late 1980s in Seattle and I remember filing green cards in his office at a young age. As I got older, I started doing more administrative work, but when I got to college, I worked as a collector and trained new collectors during summer breaks. After graduating Mt. Holyoke College (where I met my wife), I moved back to Seattle where I attended and received my law degree from the Seattle University School of Law. At the time of my graduation, my wife was working at at an independent Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania. I was hired by a small debt collection law firm as an associate attorney and my career took off from there. I’ve done just about every job in a debt collection law firm, except posting payments.
Q. What does Pride Month mean to you?
A. Pride means more to me the older I get. When I first came out, I was 18 and in my first year in college. The internet was just beginning to take off and there certainly wasn’t social media, so trying to find other queer people (when I was home from college) was hard.
Q. What does it mean to you to embrace LGBTQIA+ Pride?
A. I embrace my queer Pride almost daily because I never know who could benefit from seeing it. When I travel, I always make sure I wear a Pride shirt because I want others to know they are not alone and there is nothing wrong with them if they are struggling with their own sexuality or gender identity.
Q. Who are the role models or mentors who have influenced you or helped guide you in your career?
A. My role models and mentors are not part of the LGBTQIA+ community, but they have all been great allies. My dad will always be my number one role model/mentor in the industry. He has taught me so much about being a good human and he’s one of the smartest people I know. The next two people have also been pivotal in my life and career. Manny Newburger is one of the most genuine and supportive people I have been lucky enough to have in my life. He is a brilliant attorney and I always finish a conversation with him feeling like I learned something—even if we don’t talk about the law. More importantly, he has been an unbelievable ally in the last few years as I have become more comfortable with my gender identity and I feel so incredibly lucky to have him in my corner. Joann Needleman is another mentor. She is, hands-down, the strongest female attorney I know. She has taught me so much about inner strength and standing up for myself. I will never forget when she was the president of the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys (now the National Creditors Bar Association) and I asked if it would be OK if I brought my wife to a social event. Joann looked at me like I had three heads and said “nobody cares!” So I did! She helped me learn to live authentically as myself in this industry.
Q. What is an issue the LGBTQIA+ community is facing that many people might not know about?
A. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure many people have heard about the continued and even more hateful legislation in many states targeting the transgender community, especially transgender kids and their right to play sports. These proposals are horrendous. Participating in sports is such a great opportunity for so many young people and the fear and hate of people who want to ban kids from playing sports is so sad. But more importantly, I don’t think people realize that the current attacks on abortion rights has many in the queer community frightened. It is not just about abortion rights, but about people’s rights to access basic health care, like birth control. For example, in Missouri, there is already proposed legislation to ban health care access for transgender adults—it’s not just about the kids, it’s about gender identity and transphobia.
Q. How are you planning to celebrate Pride this year?
A. This was the first year we had the opportunity to take our sons (12 and 9) to our local Pride festival—typically my wife’s work schedule makes it difficult to attend. It was incredibly eye-opening. Our boys just thought it was a fun street fair. When we talked with them about it afterward , they were very nonplussed about the whole thing. What really stood out to me was my son’s response when we explained to them about Free Mom Hugs, a group started by supportive moms to give hugs to people during Pride because so many members of the queer community come from unsupportive families. My older son looked at me with pure confusion because he truly could not comprehend how a parent could not love their child just because they were queer or transgender. It really gives me hope for the next generation.
Q. How can companies create more inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ employees?
A. Simple changes to start include gender-neutral bathrooms and identifying yourself with your pronouns. While you may think your pronouns are obvious, perhaps someone else’s pronouns are not as obvious. Furthermore, when cisgender people identify themselves with their pronouns, it is a simple and easy way to say “Hey, I care about what your pronouns are and I’m open to getting them right.” Of course, then you need to take the extra step of actively making sure you get that person’s pronouns correct. Every time a person misgenders me, even though they know my pronouns, it hurts and makes it clear to me that the person doesn’t really care about me.
Of course, companies should have gender-neutral parental leave policies, making sure that benefits are available to same-gender spouses/partners. Larger organizations can make sure that conference spaces are welcoming, including making sure that gender-neutral bathrooms are available. NCBA made a point to do this during its spring conference this year and it was such a little thing but made me (and probably others) so much more comfortable.
There are so many steps companies can take to create a more inclusive environment and to bring a sense of belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community.
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