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The UCSF Pride Pin Pledge: One pin at a time

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The UCSF Pride progress pin on a lanyard

Graham Hinchcliffe is an academic research specialist at the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, where he researches HIV prevention and substance use in criminal justice settings — a role that allows him to interact with people from all backgrounds and life experiences.

When Graham learned about the UCSF Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program (DICP)  — a professional development program designed to help UCSF staff build their knowledge around best practices and initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) — he eagerly signed up to grow his understanding and better support his research projects. Graham didn’t realize upon enrolling that he would soon be the catalyst for a movement that inspired people around UCSF, and beyond, to support and uplift the LGBTQ+ community. 

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Graham Hinchcliffe (left) gives UCSF Pride Pin Pledges to Honey Mahogany and Sister Roma at the San Francisco Pride Parade.

Demonstrating allyship, support and care

In March 2023, DICP students received an assignment to demonstrate what social justice meant to them. The idea of social justice, Graham thought, implied taking meaningful action towards a cause. So, he created the Pride Pin Pledge — an opportunity for colleagues to increase visibility by wearing a Pride progress flag pin, while also making a personal commitment to develop awareness around issues affecting LGBTQ+ people. 

“Every day, we are hearing more about anti-LGBTQ+, especially anti-trans, legislation throughout the U.S.,” says Graham. “As part of the LGBTQ+ community, I felt it was important to find a way for LGBTQ+ people to feel the support of our colleagues; to know that we were not alone and that other people were finding the coverage equally distressing and draining,” says Graham.

This demonstration of support felt especially crucial because of UCSF’s organizational identity as a top-tier medical research center and provider. 

“LGBTQ+ communities continue to be marginalized in the U.S., and as a result, LGBTQ+ people — particularly BIPOC and trans youth — often avoid seeking health care because they fear and experience discrimination and a lack of respect in health care settings,” says Graham. “I thought wearing a Pride progress flag pin would be a way to support people by demonstrating that UCSF is a safe environment for both employees and the people we serve; that as an organization, we stand against hate and discrimination.”

The idea was inspired by the Rainbow Badge program used in the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K., where Graham is originally from. “NHS employees can wear a Pride flag badge that demonstrates their participation in education around issues that face LGBTQ+ folks in health care. I’ve always thought it was a wonderful idea,” says Graham.

Graham found some Pride flag pins online and attached them to flyers that explained why it is important to support LGBTQ+ communities in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. The pledge on the flyer stated, “I pledge to: create an open, non-judgmental and inclusive environment for patients, students, faculty, staff and the wider community; listen without judgment and refer people to LGBTQ+ support and resources if needed; respect people’s gender identity and pronouns; lead with kindness, learn from mistakes and be patient with others; and wear my pin on my lanyard/lapel with pride.”

The card also included a QR code that linked to the pledge and resources for supporting LGBTQ+ communities. This ability to take action was a crucial component for Graham. “I didn’t want it to be a performative exercise where people just wanted to wear a nice colorful pin. The idea was that in wearing the pin, people were committing to becoming more informed about LGBTQ+ issues and what they could do to support them.” 

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President Drake (second from left) wears a UCSF Pride progress pin during a UCSF campus visit.

Sharing a vision

Graham left pledges at his Mission Hall office and within a week, they were all taken. The following week, he put out more pledges and shared some with his DICP cohort. Soon, the UCSF LGBT Resource Center saw the pledges and wanted to promote them alongside their Pride month events and resources. UCSF Campus Life Services – Arts and Events provided funding for 500 pledges and pins.

The UCSF LGBT Resource Center appreciated Graham’s focus on ensuring that people who wore the pins made a personal commitment to informing themselves of what they represented. In bringing the pin alongside existing Pride materials, they decided to further strengthen the pledge commitment by asking wearers to commit to taking specific UC training courses and familiarizing themselves with local LGBTQ+ events, volunteering and donation opportunities.

Graham was thrilled that the LGBT Resource Center and UCSF cobranded his campaign. “Including the UCSF logo on the Pride progress flag sends a clear message of support to LGBTQ+ communities,” he says.

Graham put in a lot of footwork to promote the pledge initiative, as well as using connections he made in the DICP program. He held pledge clinics, where he reminded colleagues about how important it was to follow through with the action part of the pledge. He brought pins to a UCSF cabinet meeting; later, he learned that in addition to cabinet members’ enthusiastic participation, UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D. was visiting and wore the pin throughout his campus tour.

Graham promoted the pledge at the 2023 San Francisco Pride Parade — one of the largest and best-known LGBTQ+ celebrations in the United States. Among the notable attendees who chose to wear the pledge pins were Congresswoman and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi; Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence; the ABC 7 news team and famed drag queen Honey Mahogany, the first transgender person to serve on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee.

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Academic research specialist Liana Beld models the UCSF Pride progress pin at the San Francisco Pride Parade 

Looking ahead

By July, more than 250 people had taken the pledge and Graham began looking to the future.

He believes there’s an opportunity to learn from the pledge and what it represents. “As a researcher, I would love to look at how the training and action that people undertake as a result of the pledge impacts their attitudes and practices when working with LGBTQ+ folks,” he says.

And, Graham is eager to carry the initiative beyond Pride month. “I‘ve had many requests for the pins and pledges, from UCSF colleagues and students from different departments, sites and schools — even from other UC locations. We have to remember that Pride isn’t only for the month of June. We need awareness, visibility and respect all year round!”

Experiencing the enthusiastic response these pins have received from the UCSF community and beyond has made Graham proud to be a UC employee.

“UCSF has strong PRIDE values already, which are very much in line with not only empowering LGBTQ+ folks, but diverse folks throughout the entire organization. It’s been amazing to see that UCSF lives its values by backing this organization-wide initiative, especially on the back of an idea by one person like me,” Graham says. “The fact that the UCs are willing to invest in staff and students to empower them and help put their ideas forward makes me feel very valued. It’s really made me feel that I belong here.”

“Even if just one person coming to UCSF sees their health care provider wearing the pin and feels seen, reassured, more relaxed or a little bit safer, all the time and work we have done to make the Pride Pin Pledge happen will have been worth it,” Graham says.

Learn more about the UCSF Pride Pin Pledge

Visit the UCSF Pride Pin Pledge webpage

Take the Pride Pin Pledge

Follow @ucsfpridepinpledge on Instagram & Twitter

 

 

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