An interview with AFOL Bri


My name is Bri and I use she/her pronouns. I am a Senior Network Engineer, avid traveler, sometimes photographer and digital artist, LGBTQIA+ advocate and an AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO®)!<br>

Tell us about the AFOL LGBTQIA+ community. What have you gained from being part of the group?

My first foray into the AFOL world was on a business trip, in an area where I knew there were some amazing LEGO user groups (LUG). I didn’t have much to do over the weekend while I was there, and it happened to coincide with a monthly LUG meeting, so I took a chance and went to the meeting. I was a bit quiet, sitting by myself at first. I didn’t know anyone, but that didn’t last long as I found myself immediately adopted by the FabuLUG group, a small social group of LGBTQIA+ folk, most of whom also attend the other LUG meetings. Finding my LGBTQIA+ family brought me into an amazing world of creativity. One of the LUG/FabuLUG members actually suggested I start my own LUG in my area.

What role do you believe companies can play when it comes to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community?

This one is challenging, so I want to be challenging as well towards companies. On one hand we have seen companies celebrating Pride Month in a way we might call ‘Rainbow Washing’. By this, I mean now that Pride is a ‘big party’… NOW you want to show up. Where were you during the AIDS crisis? Where were you during the fight for marriage equality? Where were you when things were hard? I want people and companies to think about that as they move forward into allyship.

On the other hand, today can be hard too, and we need all the allies we can get! So, thank you for being here! I would start by asking, today, do your corporate policies support or not support your LGBTQIA+ workers and customers? On the worker side, for instance, do you support comprehensive transgender healthcare? How are you supporting the mental health of your workforce? Do the health plan folks understand the LBGTQIA+ community in a way that can actually help, rather than insult? Are you hiring LGBTQIA+ folks to work on LGBTQIA+ campaigns and integrations? On the customer side, do the products you build lift up LGBTQIA+ folks? Do you publicly take a stand with LGBTQIA+ organizations in the fight for equality? Do you financially and substantially support LGBTQIA+ organizations that make sense for the space you are in as a company? Are you being thoughtful and intentional in your support, rather than just trying to put out a product with a rainbow on it because that is what companies do in June? Are you showing up all year, not just in June?

All that said, obviously I think there are a lot of ways companies can be good stewards of equity and inclusion in the world.

How do you use creativity as a tool for self-expression?

LEGO building has recently, for me, been a form of meditation. As a person who experiences gender dysphoria that tends to manifest as anxiety and depression, building with LEGO bricks has been a tool I have used to get out of my head. I have a lot of trouble with seated meditation. I know that probably means I need to do it more, but I always do better with active forms of meditation like walking or hiking. LEGO bricks are one of these. LEGO building clears my mind. There is something extremely comforting to me in sitting for a set build. All the parts and pieces I need are there. If I just follow the plan, everything will turn out ok. Everything will be alright.<br>

How and where are you celebrating Pride Month this year? What does Pride Month mean to you?

Locally, our Pride is in October. Who knows where we will be by then with the pandemic, but I have my fingers crossed that we can meet in person, and I can hug all my friends! This June, I will likely mostly be participating in some virtual events.

To me, Pride Month is a time to be visible. For a very long time, I hid myself from the world. I am not proud of that, but it was what I thought I needed to do to survive. I didn’t think the world would accept the real Bri. But there came a point when hiding myself from the world was no longer an option. The pain of not coming out was greater than the pain of losing everything and everyone in my life. Slowly, and on my terms, I did it. I came out to everyone and to my great surprise (and thankfully), almost everyone are still in my life. I have thought a lot about my ancestors and transcestors, how I stand on their shoulders. Not every LGBTQIA+ person can be out. We all have to do what is best to protect ourselves, but I am out now, and I am proud, and I can be visible for all those folks who can’t currently be visible themselves.