AEO Pride Spotlight: Kieran C., Coordinator – Learning & Development

At AEO, we celebrate the diversity of one through the inclusion of many. Throughout the month of June, we will be celebrating associates who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community – highlighting their accomplishments, learning about their unique roles and hearing about their experience at AEO!

Meet Kieran C. (he/him/his), Coordinator – Learning & Development, who also helps to lead AEO’s REAL Pride Network and is one of four associates featured in the 2022 American Eagle Pride Campaign! We caught up with Kieran for a Q&A session to learn more about his journey as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and to get all of the fun behind-the-scenes details of his AE campaign debut!

Why do you think LGBTQIA+ representation is important, especially in the workforce?

The importance of positive LGBTQIA+ representation is something that I’m incredibly passionate about.

I grew up not knowing that the person I am was even a possibility. I had no idea that transmasculine people existed, let alone that someone could be both queer and trans. The way we define sexuality is so closely intertwined with gender, and when you don’t have many examples of what these things could look like for you, it makes it that much harder to figure out who you are. Before coming out, I couldn’t picture a future for myself — it felt like I hadn’t really been living my life, just going through the motions. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I found content creators online who were sharing experiences that so closely mirrored my own — queer, trans men who didn’t necessarily fit into all of society’s stereotypes of what that’s supposed to look like. It helped me begin to feel less alone and start figuring out who I was so that I could finally, actually start living my life.

This is why I always try to be incredibly open and outspoken about my queer and trans identities — especially in the workplace. I know from personal experience just how impactful representation can be, and if I can play even the smallest part in someone seeing themselves reflected in the world around them and knowing that they aren’t alone, that means everything to me.

You were featured in this year’s AE Pride campaign. How exciting! Tell us what that experience was like.

It was amazing to get to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into our campaigns and all of the folks who play a part in bringing it to life. I was nervous going into it, but the team made sure that we all felt comfortable and authentic to ourselves throughout the entire process — from hair and makeup, to the clothes and accessories we wore, to the actual shoot itself.

It also gave me the opportunity to meet so many folks within the company who I wouldn’t usually get the chance to work with — including the other associates in the campaign (we have definitely become friends through this experience and have our own group chat now!). I’m so grateful that AE gave us the opportunity to be the face of our Pride campaign this year and to share our personal experiences as part of the LGBTQIA+ community!

AEO has several Networks & Connections that promote educational opportunities and foster our associate community, one of them being the REAL Pride Network. Can you tell us more about the network, your involvement and your favorite aspect of the group?

The REAL Pride Network is a safe, supportive space for our LGBTQIA+ community and allies to come together, share helpful resources, advocate for equality and justice, and strengthen social connections. We host events and social gatherings throughout the year, as well as working to develop learning materials and other resources to educate about our community and make sure important information is readily accessible.

When I started at AEO and first heard about our REAL Pride Network, I immediately knew I wanted to get involved. I was on the board of my university’s LGBTQIA+ group as well, and I was so excited to be able to continue doing some of that work here. Having a space where folks can come together as a community and feel supported is so vital to being able to be your true, authentic self. That hasn’t always been my experience in the workplace before starting at AEO, and that’s part of why I am so proud to be on our REAL Pride Network’s leadership team. I love doing this work and being able to have a real impact on our LGBTQIA+ associates’ experiences!

What makes you proud to be your REAL, authentic self?

One of my favorite things about being queer and trans is the way these identities have impacted how I see the world. I am so genuinely grateful to have gone through the experience of needing to think critically about my own gender and sexuality and figure out what these things mean to me personally. There are so many societal norms that are so deeply ingrained that they become invisible and taken for granted as “just the way things are,” but when you realize that you don’t fit into some of those predetermined boxes, it becomes clear just how arbitrary and harmful a lot of these ideas are. I’m proud to know exactly who I am and to never compromise that authenticity just to fit into someone else’s idea of who I should be!

What does PRIDE mean to you?

For me, Pride is about the legacy and history of our community. It’s about knowing where we came from and all of the people (especially the queer and trans people of color) who made themselves visible and vulnerable while fighting for our community to be where it is today. It’s also about acknowledging all of the work that still needs to be done and how we can support each other today.

But Pride is also about joy. Our lives and experiences are not defined by struggle and suffering, which is what most media depictions of queer and trans stories tend to focus on. Pride is an opportunity to emphatically highlight our successes, our joy, and our love for ourselves and our community!

Check out the video below for a look at the campaign and to hear more from Kieran on community and how he’s able to feel seen, respected and supported at AEO!