Building a Diverse and Inclusive Future
Celebrating Pride Month at Clean Water!
We cannot achieve the future we are fighting for if queer people’s rights are disrespected, or if the environment is disrespected. - Bethany Dickerson
Happy Pride Month, a month dedicated to honoring and celebrating the LGBTQ+, or queer, community! Clean Water Action is proud of our diverse staff members. We'll be highlighting some of our LGBTQ+ staff at Clean Water Action for Pride Month! Today, we are excited to feature Bethany Dickerson (she/her/hers), the New England Regional Finance and Development Program Manager and co-facilitator of Clean Water Action's LGBTQ+ Caucus, which exists to provide a safe place for queer-identifying folks across the organization to connect and find support.
Bethany came to Massachusetts in 2018 to pursue graduate studies in Linguistics and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a Masters in Linguistics in September 2021. Bethany earned a B.A. in Linguistics from Michigan State University in 2017 and then spent a year as a post-baccalaureate fellow at the University of Maryland.
Before coming to the East Coast, Bethany was born and raised in Michigan. This was where her passion for environmental stewardship and racial justice developed, primarily in response to the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Outside of work, Bethany spends time weightlifting, doing yoga, hiking, kayaking, bicycling, camping, rock climbing, and taking advantage of any excuse to be outside! She loves to travel, learn languages, and try new things. She lives in Amherst, MA, with her wife and cat.
Fun fact: Bethany and her wife, Breinne, got engaged on June 26, 2015, the day that SCOTUS's Obergefell v. Hodges' decision came out.
Why is it important for queer people to get involved in the environmental movement? What are some of the intersections between the environmental movement and queer justice from your perspective?
The same people who are against rights for queer people are against rights and protection for the environment. We need to realize how interconnected we all are, and how interconnected all humans are with everything else on this planet. We cannot achieve the future we are fighting for if queer people’s rights are disrespected, or if the environment is disrespected. Anytime there are artificial hierarchies created between groups of people or between people vs the rest of nature, both are harmed. Furthermore, a win on queer rights means nothing if this planet is not habitable. Any injustice against the environment impacts all humans, but more vulnerable humans especially.
How can we create an inclusive environment for diverse staff, partners and supporters?
Not all workplaces allow their staff to bring their full identities to work; Clean Water Action is remarkably welcoming. Clean Water Action’s staff receive regular cultural competency briefings, which include trainings on using people’s preferred pronouns and names for example, and also provides several support systems for all our staff and for queer staff in particular. I’m honored to be one of the co-facilitators of the LGBT+ Caucus, a weekly support group for queer staff.
What does Clean Water Action do to address these intersections, and how can Clean Water Action further address them?
Clean Water Action’s work is centered on Environmental Justice principles. Queer folks disproportionately experience class inequality (due to many factors including: being cut out of inheritances, couples made up of people perceived as women likely make far less income than couples that include people who are perceived as men, disrespect and microaggressions creating hostile workplaces, etc.) and outright prejudice in housing and other factors that impact the environment people are surrounded by. All of Clean Water’s important work addressing environmental injustices occurring in low-income communities therefore likely has an outsized effect on queer folks living in those neighborhoods. Further, Clean Water puts a premium on expanding the capacity of groups on the ground. This means more effective organizers transferring skills to other issue areas and to other organizers. The more capacity we have to address injustices of any kind, the more likely we are to make progress on all these fronts.
How has working at Clean Water Action made you feel comfortable expressing your identity and pride?
I come from an extremely conservative family and political background. Working with other folks who are very open about their identities and having the opportunity to lead the LGBT+ Caucus have allowed me to become more comfortable being my full self at work, including being queer. My co-workers and supervisors always ask me about my wife, always respect my name and pronouns, and are very supportive of my work in Caucus. I’ve generally stayed in the closet at most previous jobs, but here I feel supported and comfortable as a queer staff member.
Clean Water Action is dedicated to supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community. While no one environment is perfect, we are proud of the community we have created, and we are glad that leaders like Bethany are helping to create a safe space within Clean Water Action.