Jim Yates

Pride Month improves understanding

First step to serving members of the LGBTQ community is to listen, says Jim Yates.

June 16, 2021

Pride Month reminds us that all people deserve to be treated equally when they walk through the doors of a credit union regardless of sexual orientation, skin color, religion, or other characteristics.

In this spirit, Jim Yates advises his peers to listen to others and understand their circumstances. 

Yates, president of $75 million asset First Education Federal Credit Union in Cheyenne, Wyo., spoke with CUNA News about Pride Month, how credit unions can connect with and serve the LGBTQ community, and the importance of listening.

Q: What does Pride Month mean to you and to the credit union movement?

A: It’s an opportunity to talk and to show inclusion. There’s all kinds of diversity and we need to be inclusive of all races, sexual orientations, religions—whatever the case may be. 

Credit unions are stronger if everybody participates openly because each group has something to offer other groups and something they need from other groups.

Q: How can credit unions reach out to and serve members of the LGBTQ community?

A: Listen to people, understand their circumstances, and understand that you may not understand it all. Treat people like human beings and listen to what their issues may be. Like all members, the LGBTQ community has financial and family issues, and may not be comfortable asking family for even a small loan. 

Listen and don’t be judgmental. That’s the easiest thing. In a larger city you can sponsor or have a booth for gay pride, and you can make donations to charities that are focused on those communities. Let your employees feel comfortable enough to ask whether they can have a table at a gay pride event.

Q: How does this fit in with diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts?

A: We’re all in this together. The last year has shown that you’re reliant on your neighbors, whether it’s helping them with something or taking precautions to keep everybody healthy.

The world is a better place if everybody is more open about who they are and are willing to accept people, even if you don’t agree with it or understand it. If you rule out including someone or even being friendly to someone because of one aspect of their lives, what else are you missing out on?

Listen to a CUNA News Podcast episode with Juan Fernández, president/CEO of the Credit Union Association of New Mexico.

There’s probably one thing we don’t like about everyone we know, but they’re still our friends and family.

Take the good people have to offer you and don’t focus on one narrow aspect of their life. 

Where I live, people’s sexual orientation is not that big of a deal, but in other parts of the country it still is, and many LGBTQ people are afraid. 

If we can do something during Pride that lessens their fear, and the fear and lack of understanding on the other side, too, that makes it worthwhile. 

Five or six years ago, most people in Wyoming didn’t know what Pride was, but that’s changed, particularly in Cheyenne. Now when you refer to Pride and you see the rainbow stickers, people at least understand what it stands for and that’s not a bad thing.

The important thing, whether we’re talking about Pride or anything else, is to treat people fairly; treat them like you’d want to be treated. That’s what makes things better.