Rebecca Milliken: A Mother's Journey as an Ally

At American Eagle Financial Credit Union, Rebecca Milliken is known for her role as a Development Specialist in our Member Contact Center, but her identity as an unwavering ally and a mother to a LGBTQIA++ child defines her both inside and outside of work. Her story, enriched by personal challenges and profound insights, serves as an inspiration and guide for parents navigating similar paths, and for the broader LGBTQIA++ community seeking acceptance and understanding. 

Growing up without direct experience or mentors in the LGBTQIA++ community, Rebecca's journey into the world of allyship began with her son's revelation. He first came out to her as Bisexual at the age of 12, a couple years later identified as Pansexual, then Gay, and most recently unsure of what category he fits into.

Rebecca's evolution continued as she faced the harsh realities her son and his friends endured—abandonment, homelessness, and a staggering rate of suicide among LGBTQIA++ youth. These were not just statistics for Rebecca; they were real dangers that children like her son could face if not supported unconditionally. This stark awareness has been a driving force in her advocacy and allyship.

Outside the supportive environment at AEFCU, Rebecca encountered challenges that tested her convictions. She shared the emotional conflict of having to lie to other parents to protect her son's friends from unsupportive home environments—a decision that pitted her parental instincts against her values as an ally. These experiences underscored the importance of providing a safe haven, not just in her home, but in every environment she influences.

Rebecca advises other parents at the beginning of this journey to lead with love and acceptance, emphasizing that a child's coming out is a gift to be cherished. She believes in creating an atmosphere where open, candid conversations about identity and sexuality are not just possible but encouraged. Her home has become a judgment-free zone where her son and his friends can discuss anything from relationships to safe sex practices openly, nurturing an environment of trust and safety.

At AEFCU, Rebecca has seen significant changes in inclusivity over the years. From the elimination of outdated dress codes to the creation of our OneTeam Resource Groups to active participation in LGBTQIA++ events, she recognizes the progress made and continues to advocate for policies that support LGBTQIA++ families and staff. Rebecca envisions a workplace where inclusivity is not just about participation in events but is embedded in the daily experiences of all team members.

Rebecca's journey as an ally is characterized by her willingness to learn, adapt, and advocate fiercely for her son and the LGBTQIA++ community. Her story is an inspiration for other parents and allies, showing that while the path may be fraught with challenges, the rewards of understanding, accepting, and loving unconditionally are immense. Her experiences at AEFCU and in her personal life illustrate the powerful impact of empathy, education, and advocacy on creating a supportive and inclusive community.

Rebecca's narrative not only enriches AEFCU's culture but also enhances the broader conversation about what true allyship looks like in action. It's a reminder that each step taken towards understanding and acceptance not only transforms families but also strengthens the communities they touch.

 

Austin McKenna-Carroll: Unapologetically Authentic, Unwaveringly Inclusive

At American Eagle, Austin McKenna-Carroll is celebrated not just for his role as a Personal Financial Representative (PFR) at our Enfield Branch, but also for his vibrant authenticity that infuses the workplace culture with diversity and spirit. His story weaves into the fabric of AEFCU's inclusive culture, showcasing a journey marked by resilience, expression, and a commitment to mentorship.

Growing up in a small, conservative town in Western Massachusetts, Austin lacked visible LGBTQIA++ mentors, but not support. While he described his support as "blind," it was foundational, instilling in him a desire to be the very mentor he never had. This resolve shaped his vision for the future—one where he leads by example, showing that embracing one's true self is not just possible, but powerfully transformative.

Austin vividly recalls the night when, at fourteen and ‘deep in the closet,’ he was captivated by an episode of ‘RuPaul’s’ Drag Race.’ This discovery was transformative, unveiling a world where glamour, activism, and self-love were celebrated, teaching him the value of embracing and celebrating uniqueness.

This transformative realization led Austin to a defining moment during his junior year in high school. At a public speaking event, in a room filled with peers, Austin bravely declared, ‘I am gay,’ experiencing a profound sense of liberation. This public affirmation, met with unconditional support of his family, underscored the pivotal importance of acceptance; yet, Austin is aware that such support is not a universal experience. That’s why the concept of "chosen families" resonated deeply with him, as he learned that support can come from both biological and constructed bonds.

Transitioning into professional life, Austin found a true sense of belonging at AEFCU. Previously constrained by rigid dress codes and conservative norms, Austin found refreshing freedom at AEFCU. Here, he could replace the traditional suit and tie with outfits that reflected his eclectic and expressive style, a change that significantly improved his confidence and comfort at work. This freedom not only allowed Austin to thrive but also to foster an environment where others feel equally validated.

As he anticipates his first Pride Month with AEFCU, Austin is impressed by the organization’s deep commitment to community involvement, yet he emphasizes the importance of remembering the roots of Pride as a movement born from struggle—a reminder of the ongoing fight for equality and the critical need for historical awareness and solidarity.

Austin passionately spoke about the internal challenges within the LGBTQIA++ community, highlighting specific challenges like restrictive labels that compartmentalize diverse identifies within the community. He advocates for a more unified approach to understanding within the community, stressing the importance of intergenerational learning and support, believing firmly in the power of inclusive dialogue and education.

Looking forward, Austin envisions a future where AEFCU continues to enhance its inclusivity, advocating for persistent engagement within and beyond the community. His life, both personal and professional, is a testament to the belief that every day is an opportunity to practice and celebrate Pride, beyond the confines of June.

Written by: Devon O'Nalty, VP of Diversity & Inclusion at American Eagle Financial Credit Union