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NAF Pride: The Power of Acceptance

Two queer women hold each other happily in their home

In 2019, Harvard Business Review published an article titled “The Value of Belonging at Work.” It drew on various studies to illustrate how social belonging is a “fundamental human need” and how harmful the feeling of isolation can be, especially in the workplace. For marginalized groups, this need has historically been more difficult to fulfill.

Social and economic discrimination, workplace exclusion and harassment, and systemic violence are all barriers that the queer community has faced throughout the years. In some ways, the queer community is more accepted now than ever before. However, at a time where the ACLU is currently tracking 479 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S., it’s clear that the work is not over.

Institutional Change Starts with People

Collage of happy queer couples and families enjoying their homes

Robert Kaiser, VP of Internal Audits, has worked at New American Funding (NAF) for 10 years. In that time, he observed the progress of NAF’s Latino Focus, NAF Dream, and NAF Heroes initiatives. These initiatives were built by and for other communities who have been historically underrepresented both generally in our society and specifically by the housing industry.

As Robert attended leadership conferences over the years, he began to feel passionately about his community, the queer community, being represented. So, after several conversations, he decided to start NAF Pride.

“When I think of the NAF Pride initiative, I think of being able to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community and say, look, here is a safe place to come where you don’t have to come out over and over again,” Robert said. “It shouldn’t just be an extension of the queer community within NAF, but a safe place homebuyers can come where we understand. We don’t want any potential client to feel like they have to explain anything. We understand the complexities. We understand the differences.”

The vision for NAF Pride is to externalize and share the acceptance that queer employees at NAF have found within our work environment with our potential clients.

“Sometimes in the queer community, we're judged in a variety of different ways, and so sometimes we bring that baggage with us to social experiences or professional experiences,” Robert said.

“Being open at work isn't easy, and whether you're 71 years old as I am, or whether you're 21 years old and this is your first job, it it's not easy because we're afraid of being judged for what we are not who we are,” Robert continued.

“It’s who I am that’s really important. Being gay is not something that defines me. My integrity, determination, my willingness to help, that’s what defines me, and I’ve been able to bring that to NAF as a gay man,” Robert added. “Right now, this space is safe and that’s important because I want to be able to look at my brothers and sisters and say, look, be authentic, be yourself because nobody here is really going to be concerned with that.”

Sharing a Safe Space

White home with a pride flag flying out front

Historically, safe spaces have been shared within communities by word of mouth. That continues to be the case. When facing systemic discrimination, it’s important that marginalized communities vet the institutions that they are trusting. This is particularly important when it comes to life-altering decisions like buying a home.

The Real Estate Alliance reports that the most recent data on LGBTQ+ homeownership shows a rate of 49.8%, much less than the national average of 65.9%. At the intersection of racial discrimination and LGBTQ+ discrimination, those numbers fall even lower.

“Statistics show us that there is a lot of fear in the current community when it comes to homeownership. ‘How do you buy a home? Where do you go to get financing? How do you apply? Oh my god, I have to tell somebody on a piece of paper that you’re my partner.’ I’ve been economically discriminated against. I was denied my first RV purchase because my husband and I, I think we were both on the same application, so I understand the feeling,” Robert said.

“So, if I can work at a firm that sets that aside, then that’s great! I want to reach out to the queer community and say, come to us,” Robert concluded. “Let us help you. Let us teach you so that you can own your own home too.”

The power of acceptance is clear at NAF. Each initiative has been created from the passionate will of employees who have felt empowered enough to, in turn, reach out and build something to empower their communities. NAF Pride plans to continue the work, by channeling the acceptance its members feel within NAF, into supporting the queer community and enabling queer homeownership.

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