From the Leadership | Pride and Privilege

WTS International is committed to celebrating, sharing, and preserving the history and accomplishments of the LGBTQIA+ community in the transportation industry and around the world. We believe in amplifying the voices not only in our own WTS community, but in communities where our mission and vision are put to work in a tactical way. We are a fortunate organization: privileged to be able to publicly promote and celebrate this month in not only a joyous manner, but without fear. Privileged to have a diversity of thought, expertise, and lived experiences ensuring the best for our communities.

Celebrating Pride Month in 2024 feels like a bigger privilege than past years.  Attacks on LGBTQIA+ people have escalated dramatically since 2015; with approximately 515 discriminatory bills currently in play across the country. Legislatures are advancing statutes that target transgender people, limit local protections, and even allow the use of religion to discriminate.

There is danger in ignoring the need for full acceptance. If our industry is to remain a career of choice, the robust buildout of current and future workforces is at stake without embracing inclusive policies. Our communities, and even our place in a global economy, will be affected.

Several weeks ago, the U.S. State Department renewed a global security warning for Americans overseas, adding to their warning that “LGBTQ people and events in particular face an increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence." As an association with goals of international expansion, this concerns all of us.

It’s not all disheartening news. Lambda Legal has recently announced a $180 million fundraising goal to power more lawyers to challenge anti-LGBTQIA laws. People in the United StatesIndiaSouth AfricaJapanSouth Korea and Mexico have registered the largest gains in public acceptance with gay rights since 2002, according to findings from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. And those attempting to pass anti-LGBTQ+ attacks on the state level? Well, they have largely failed.

Last month, WTS hosted our 2024 Annual Conference in New Orleans, a city known for its acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community but located in a state that has current legislation attacking that same community.  At WTS, we believe that our presence is more impactful than our absence, and we worked closely with the WTS New Orleans and WTS Baton Rouge Chapters and greater NOLA community to ensure the culture and acceptance found through Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, and so many other local events was felt throughout the WTS Conference.

During our plenary session “The Exceptions,” the U.S. Department of Labor’s Tammi Fleming remarked “the upcoming generation of workers were raised with privilege, and now they see their privilege being taken away.”

Celebrating Pride is not something everyone gets to enjoy. We are faced with compounding discriminations against women – race, class, religion, and sexual orientation. The choice is ours. How will we stand up for ourselves and for our peers?  How will we advocate for full inclusion and acceptance in transportation?  Will we protect the privileges we have had, and perhaps taken for granted? How will we ensure a future that welcomes all and cares for all? How will we use our privilege, not only during Pride Month, but throughout the year?

We all have a right to live and work in physical and psychological safety, to thrive in our personal and professional lives, and to be treated with dignity. At WTS, we strongly believe that we are better when all people can equally participate in and access the labor force.

I am proud that WTS is leading the way in purposefully building inclusive practices into our organization, being driven by our members and their demand for inclusionary practices and delivery of our vision of equity and access.  I fervently believe we will continue this role modeling for years to come.

We are privileged to be together, to celebrate our differences with pride, and to acknowledge that it is in our differences that we will deliver safe, equitable, and innovative transportation systems for the communities that build and use them for years to come.  #OneWTS





Sara Stickler
President and CEO
WTS International