AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: DANIELLE BORJA, AE ASSOCIATE

For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

 We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler, and have followed up with posts from associates across the country. Now, AE associate Danielle in Hawaii shares the best advice she ever received: love yourself before you love anyone else.

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

DANIELLE BORJA

Aerie Selling Manager in Hawaii

The best advice I was ever given was given to me in high school. I was going through a transition phase where I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be and more so who I wanted to be with. While my friends were girls dating guys or guys dating girls, there were few people in my school who actually stepped out to be exactly who they wanted to be. I didn’t know a lot of girls who liked girls back then. Or guys who liked guys.

I was speaking to a teacher one day and he told me to just love myself before I love anyone else. And when I choose to love someone, that I would make that decision based off of how I feel, and not on what everyone else has to say. He told me that being gay was just a label. It doesn’t matter who you choose to love, it just matters how they love you. As long as you are happy and you are 100% loving yourself, there is no reason to be fearful of being exactly what you are.

 

 

If you are gay or if you are straight, it doesn’t matter. Everybody in this world is equal. Everybody in this world deserves love. That is the best advice that I was given.

And since that day, I have never let that go. I have gone through ups and downs and at the end of my journey I have found my wife.

So, no matter who you are, make sure you are always loving yourself. Because you deserve it.

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!

 

 

 

WE COULDN’T BE PROUDER OF YOU: THE PRIDE WRAP-UP

Pride Month is about love, acceptance, and building a better future. Which is why, for the past four years, we’ve been proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world.

And this year, we’re even prouder than usual.

Why?

Because this year, for the first time ever, we opened up donations to customers so YOU could contribute at check out. And wow, did you contribute.

@sunflxwerbxy

In the U.S., customers donated more than $800,000, and in Canada, customers gave more than $100,000. That means that in TOTAL, we were able to raise more than $1.2 million for the It Gets Better Project through this year’s Pride campaign. Yup, over a million bucks, making a difference.

THAT’S ALL YOU.

@brcrawford1999 @allison.beauregard

Ready for an even bigger number? Over the past four years – through YOUR generosity – we’ve been able to donate more than $2 million to help It Gets Better amplify stories of hope and encouragement all over the world.

@ahdeesh @drewbikscube1 @envy_the_siren @haleycrespo

We try to do our part to promote those stories, too. This year we featured guest posts on our blog about how it really DOES get better from AE associates around the country, including our Global Brand President, a merchandising manager in Texas, and a distribution center supervisor in Kansas.

We also co-hosted a Pride panel with Aerie at our Union Square store in NYC during World Pride, featuring words of inspiration from actor and AerieReal Role Model Samira Wiley, actor Nico Tortorella, AExME Council member Edith Cruz, and DJs (and sisters!) Coco and Breezy, plus a dance party with DJ Tiff McFierce.

@tyler_tyty @hunni_imhome
@valmarss
@mateoesquivelg

This year’s Pride commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. In the past 50 years, we’ve seen incredible strides for LGBTQ+ rights, but there’s still work to be done.

@shopsalatte @vickybv_

Thank you for continuing to do that work with us.

 

 

 

AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: JACOBY FREEMAN, AE ASSOCIATE

For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler, and have followed up with posts from associates across the country. Now, Jacoby Freeman, an AE associate in Mesquite, TX, shares his thoughts on being your true self.

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

JACOBY FREEMAN

Merchandising Manager in Mesquite, TX

My name is Jacoby Freeman and I’m a merchandising manager in Mesquite, TX. I’ve been with AE about 6 1/2 years now. I actually started as a sales associate in Shreveport, LA and just moved to Texas about 8 months ago.

One thing I love about AE is their support for every type of person. I’ve very excited this year that every store has the Pride theme. It honestly makes me feel very proud to work for a company such as AE with their support of the LGBTQ+ community.

JACOBY FREEMAN

With the focus on the Pride collection being It Gets Better, I would tell my younger self to believe with every fiber of my being that it really does get better. Because it’s 100% the truth. I wish I would have known how the amazing people around you will support you with all their heart. They don’t see you as anything else but your true self and that means everything in the world.

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!

 

 

 

AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: ALLISON ADAMS, AE ASSOCIATE

For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

 We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler, and followed up with post from Nate Christopher and Maple Chen. Now Allison Adams, a staff supervisor in Colorado, shares how she’s gone from feeling confused and alone… to feeling the rainbow love!

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

ALLISON ADAMS

Staff Supervisor at AE Factory Store in Colorado Mills, Colorado

My name is Allison and I’m a Staff Supervisor at American Eagle. I’ve been with the company for eight months, and I’m absolutely loving it.

I’ve worked in places before where I felt very constricted when it came to being me, and it was always a struggle for me. I remember visiting an AE store in 2014 and buying one of the Pride collection tank tops because I was so excited to see a store have something that seemed to celebrate me for me.

I really love that AE has partnered with the It Gets Better project. I remember first coming to terms with being gay and feeling so confused and alone, and I definitely wouldn’t want the kids of today and tomorrow to also have to feel that. Thank you, American Eagle, for taking a stand and showering us with rainbow love!

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!

 

 

 

AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: MAPLE CHEN, AE ASSOCIATE

For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler, and followed up with a post from Nate Christopher about finding love through loving yourself. Now Maple Chen, a merchant at our Pittsburgh corporate campus, shares her story about using her voice to help others feed heard.

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

MAPLE CHEN

Associate Merchant, Women’s Jeans

I wasn’t one of those kids who “just knew” from a young age that they were different. It took me until college to figure out that I wasn’t straight, and another two years from there to feel comfortable enough to talk to anyone besides my closest friends about it. One of the reasons it took me so long to realize was that there was very little representation in mainstream media, and what I did see was specific to gay men – maybe I couldn’t completely relate to Ross and Rachel, but I also didn’t feel a kinship with Neil Patrick Harris.

The fact that AE has a Pride collection and gives to charities supporting LGBTQ+ youth is a reminder to me of how far we have come in terms of visibility. It’s a huge step from debating same-sex marriage in my ninth-grade government class to being part of a huge brand like AE that is celebrating people like me.

Maple Chen

I’m proud to be part of a company that understands how important it is to make LGBTQ+ kids feel understood, and I hope I can inspire people just by living my life authentically and speaking my truth.

To anyone reading this who feels like people just don’t get it: We see you, we were you, and we made it. Find the people who make you feel like you can be yourself unapologetically, and then use your voice to stand up and help others feel the same.

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!

 

 

 

AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: NATE CHRISTOPHER, AE ASSOCIATE

For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

 We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler. Now Nate Christopher, a retail packing evening shift supervisor in Ottawa, Kansas, is here to share his story of honesty, joy, and finding love by learning to love himself.

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

NATE CHRISTOPHER

Retail Packing Evening Shift Supervisor, Ottawa, Kansas

 

As far back as I can remember, I always knew I was gay, but I repressed it as I went through my childhood and adolescence. I wore a mask hiding who I was for at least 20 years.  However, I’m here to say that it does get better.

As a child I found myself interested in music and acting. I joined chorus, select chorus, and even performed in multiple musicals and drama productions. In high school I found the Army JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) and became interested in the military. My desire to serve was solidified by the events of September 11, 2001 as I was in the first few weeks of my junior year of high school. However, I was afraid that if I were to come out, my chances of earning an Army ROTC scholarship to my university of choice would fall by the wayside. After all, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in effect up until mid-2011.

Even though it was becoming more socially acceptable to be gay, I was petrified of being outed. I am ashamed to admit it, but I severed ties with my childhood best friend for trying to out me to the rest of my high school class. I had a specific agenda: I wanted out of my small hometown and a chance to be the first member of my family to attend college in years – on an academic scholarship no less. I was not going to let anything prevent me from attending St. Bonaventure University while working toward becoming an Army officer.

My high school years passed, and I experienced my first true love with a girl. I earned that scholarship and we broke up because I was going away to college. Soon after my high school graduation, I met my first male partner and began a secret relationship that I somehow managed to keep hidden from all of my closest friends and family for nearly the next 10 years.

I went off to college at St. Bonaventure. I made some great new friends over the years.  However, none of them knew what I was hiding. I entered the Army after my college graduation in 2007, still in the closet. I continued to put on a face the whole time I was in the Army. I completed all my initial training and was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas in 2008. My partner and I saw each other a handful of times during my college and years in the Army, but his support for me was unwavering.

I had become a Type 1 diabetic sometime during my deployment to Iraq in 2009. This discovery was devastating – I had lost an astounding 70 pounds due to the condition.  I took the time necessary to get my diabetes under control while fighting for several years to remain on active duty. Despite my best efforts, the Army saw fit to release me from honorable service due to my medical condition. I realized during this time that my partner and I were no longer compatible and it would be better for the two of us if we were to end the relationship. The breakup was messy and stressful. We had been together for nearly 10 years and I still was not out, so I didn’t exactly have friends to discuss this with, and I found myself alone, unemployed, and searching for a new direction and purpose in life.

NATE CHRISTOPHER Retail Packing Evening Shift Supervisor, Ottawa, Kansas

Nate and his partner Steven in 2018. They went on their first date during Nate’s first week of working at AE. 

This was a very uneasy time for me. All I ever wanted to do was be in the Army from the start of my high school career in 1999. I had a degree in English but I had not really considered what I wanted to do post-military. I had spent a significant part of my time in the Army working with the supply chain and logistics fields and had discovered that I enjoyed that type of work.

I spent the summer of 2012 attending job fairs and traveling all over the country for follow-up interviews with various companies in a number of different industries. I interviewed with two HR representatives from AE in Chicago and they told me about opportunities in both Ottawa, Kansas and Warrendale, Pennsylvania.  If you had asked me back then if I had any intentions to remain in Kansas, I would have very clearly stated, “Absolutely not.” I had loathed my time in the Manhattan, Kansas area and found myself traveling to the Kansas City metro area for entertainment (I grew up near Buffalo, New York, so I was used to more of a “bigger city” vibe).

The HR reps saw fit to have me come to the AE Ottawa campus distribution center for an on-site interview. As soon as I walked in, my gut told me I was supposed to be here. I immediately fell in love with the warm welcome and cordial interviews I had with the management and HR team. I also developed a fascination for the operational environment. I was fortunate enough to be selected for a position as a Distribution Center Supervisor, and within a few weeks I packed up and headed east to the Ottawa/Lawrence area.

By the end of my first week with AE, I met my partner Steve and we went out on our first date.  This fresh start was exactly what I needed to get me to come to terms with my sexuality and to start living my life for me. As my relationship with Steve developed, I became more confident in showing my true self to people around me. I came out to my sister first, and then to most of my co-workers. In January of 2013 I returned home and told my mother and the rest of my family and close friends in person. I was fortunate to have a relatively low-key coming out. Everyone was surprised but supportive. Three months later, my youngest sister came out.

NATE CHRISTOPHER Retail Packing Evening Shift Supervisor, Ottawa, Kansas

Nate entered the Army in 2007 and bravely served in Iraq in 2009. He’s found a post-military career with AE — and love and acceptance with his partner Steve.

I’m a firm believer in fate and that things happen for a reason. I believe that developing diabetes was the best thing that ever happened to me. It set the conditions to end my first professional career (which I loved and secretly hated at the same time because I couldn’t be myself); it kept me in Kansas to accept a fantastic opportunity; and it allowed me to meet my significant other at the same time. After living out and proud for nearly the last 7 years, I can honestly say that I have never been happier than I am right now in my life. It is even more rewarding knowing that I work for American Eagle Outfitters. This is such a diverse and accepting professional organization and I’m blessed to be a part of it.

If I could go back and tell my younger self something about it getting better, I would say that there is so much more joy in life that becomes available once you accept yourself and come out. Had I known that I would have been this happy after being honest with myself and the people closest to me, it probably wouldn’t have taken me nearly 27 years to do so.

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!