HEADQUARTERS, NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.– Part of LGBT Pride Month each June is having pride in your true self.

That’s the message Risha Grant, author, television host, international speaker and a former Division 1 women’s basketball player, imparted to NAVAIR employees at the national NAVAIR Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month event June 10.

“I haven’t always celebrated Pride [Month] or had pride,” Grant, a self-described bisexual woman, said. “It took me awhile to get to that point.”

Grant said she embarked on a four-step process to “own her authenticity,” which took her more than 30 years and down several different paths.

“I am diversity personified, but so are all you,” she told employees. “We are all diverse. I made my diversity my superpower by owning everything about me.”

First, she redefined “normal,” which meant being true to her sexuality and eschewing some of the lessons she learned growing up.  

“I was told to be normal, but that word means common or standard, and who wants to be that? It isn’t inclusive of everyone. Honor your uniqueness.”

Second, she released the expectations people had of her.

“I had to radically accept myself,” she said. “I had to love myself, and not judge myself.” She told employees to ask themselves, “Are you living in love or living in fear? Be intentional, and ask yourself, ‘Am I being real? Am I living my real life?’” she advised. “Live your life on your terms.”

Third, she embraced inclusion.

“Allow another human being to be who they are for the space they’re taking up in this world,” she said. “Be open-minded, say hello with a smile and include everyone. We owe this world to leave it better than we found it for the people who are coming behind us.”

Grant has coined the term “bias-synapse” to describe how biases can unconsciously color how you view the world and urged employees to let go of the “BS.”

“What is it you can do to become an ally and help someone feel a part of the team?” she asked. “Am I experiencing the world through my ‘bias-sphere’ or how it actually is?”  

Last, she realized her voice and used it to start speaking to shift hearts and minds as an award-winning diversity and inclusion expert.

“Sometimes, you can plant a seed that may not bear fruit for many, many years,” she said, but encouraged employees to keep learning, growing and working to understand their biases and live their truth.

LGBT Pride Month is celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village. This year’s theme was “Pride in All Who Serve.”

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