June is LGBTQ Pride Month. Learn what the celebratory parades, supported by Kaiser Permanente, mean to some Northern California employees. Pictured, Nic and Alisa Sierras at Fresno’s Pride parade.
For Alisa R. Sierras, a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center, the June 2 Pride parade was one of firsts.
While Kaiser Permanente has sponsored the annual parade in downtown Fresno before, this year saw the organization’s first official contingent of marchers.
And while Sierras had participated in Pride parades in the past, this was her first time walking with her transgender son, Nic, 19, who came out a year ago.
Sierras works in Adult Psychiatry, where she saw a flier in the elevator asking for volunteers to march. She said Nic was thrilled when she invited him. They walked with 2 more family members in a Kaiser Permanente group that numbered around 50 people.
“Inviting Nic to walk with me meant a lot as a way for me to show my love and support toward my son and the LGBTQ community,” said Sierras. “As a parent, I experienced a deeper understanding of and connection to who Nic is.”
Pride Parade: A Family Tradition
Kaiser Permanente currently sponsors June Pride parades in 7 Northern California locations: Sonoma County, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Oakland, Silicon Valley, Fresno, and San Francisco, which boasts the largest Pride parade in the state.
The organization has sponsored the San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Parade and Celebration for 24 continuous years, and its contingent typically draws more than 1,000 marchers, including many Kaiser Permanente executives.
For another Fresno employee, the early June parade is a constant. But it’s also just one aspect of how Kaiser Permanente supports its LGBTQ employees and physicians.
“I recall how from Day 1 Kaiser Permanente was a welcoming and diversity-aware organization,” said Richard Perez, a Fresno health plan representative in Member Services and a 20-year employee.
“I had the opportunity to march with Kaiser Permanente in the San Francisco parade a couple of years ago with my husband, and I can’t explain the excitement and joy it brought to me to be a part of that.”
For Perez, the parades embrace the changes in his life over the years, from legalized marriage to family life.
“This year’s Fresno parade was the most momentous,” he said. “We had with us our 3 children, Destiny, Laila, and Zavier. We’re looking forward to this being our family’s annual event.”
A Leader Experiences a Pivotal Parade
Jonathan Van Etten is the executive director of National Provider Contracting at Kaiser Permanente and a 25-year employee. He’s also the current co-chair of KP Pride, the organization’s association representing LGBTQ employees and physicians.
Van Etten experiences the Pride parades in 2 ways — as someone who has been marching in San Francisco for several years and as a leader of the diversity association that he says is not only growing the parade locations and participation, but is working to positively influence the lives of LGBTQ Kaiser Permanente members and communities.
Van Etten’s big parade moment was 2 years ago, right after the June 12 terrorist attack that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.
“I have a home in Orlando, family, and my best friend since 4th grade lives there,” he said. “That year he came to march with me in San Francisco. It was so important because we were demonstrating support and love for Orlando, and keeping it visible. It was very powerful.”
Alisa Sierras understands that power. She experienced it just this month.
“Before the parade started, Nic wanted to buy a Pride flag from a vendor there. He asked if there was one with the colors for transgender. They only had one flag, and it was very large, which Nic wore as a cape. I was overwhelmed with emotion and pride. He felt accepted and ready to show everyone that, ‘This is who I am.’”