Ryan Briggs’s mother was a United flight attendant for 15 years, so they (Briggs, who identifies as nonbinary, uses they/them pronouns) grew up watching her get ready before every trip. “I still love hearing stories of her trips and all the memories she made,” Briggs says. “But being a flight attendant never crossed my mind until my senior year of college.”
As Briggs approached graduation, they realized their true passion: traveling. “From that point, being a flight attendant just seemed like the obvious choice,” they say. “It was always going to be United for me, especially because of my mother’s career. I also knew United had such a beautiful legacy, and they gave the best opportunity to see the world.”
Seven years ago, Briggs’s dream came true, when they began their career with United right out of college. Since then, they’ve been based in Chicago.
For Briggs, it was important to feel comfortable being themselves not only at home but also at work. Throughout our history, United has been committed to inclusion and allowing employees to be their full selves at work, but in 2021 we took it a step further by updating our appearance standards, moving away from gender-specific guidance and allowing employees to represent themselves authentically.
At United, we believe we are all connected by the similarities we recognize and the differences we celebrate in each other.
“Coming out—in any capacity—can be a struggle,” Briggs says. “For a long time, I was able to be authentic with my loved ones and express myself however I pleased outside of work, but everything truly fell into place when United updated their appearance standards. I love being able to get on the plane and express myself there the same way I do outside of work. It’s freeing.”
It’s no surprise that gender can be incredibly difficult to navigate—especially while on the job. At United, it’s important for everybody to have the ability to embrace their true selves. The inclusion effort from United and the new uniform standards allow our customer-facing teammates to provide an even better experience for our customers, because our team members look and feel their best.
“My advice to those who identify as trans and nonbinary would be to embrace yourself and know you have the ability to express yourself at a company like United,” Briggs says. “Whether that be adding pronouns to your email signature, wearing the uniform you are most comfortable in, or just taking the time to understand you’re welcome, it’s important to recognize that there is only one you.”
Briggs also aims to be an open book with others. “We can talk about the importance of representation we deserve at home and at work,” they say. “We can even just talk about nail color. They’re topics I’m passionate about, and I love knowing that people are willing to learn.”
Since Briggs has been able to bring their full self to work, they have felt nothing but pride. “People notice the makeup and my nails, and while compliments are wonderful, it’s just nice to be truly seen at work,” Briggs says. “I’ve been asked how I identify in terms of gender, and I’ve been asked my pronouns. Now, I can explain to people what it all means. To be able to come to work and just be as authentic as I am at home is a breath of fresh air.”
Briggs is one of the lucky ones, as they have always felt supported by loved ones at home as well as their colleagues at work. “I know full well that this is not everyone’s story,” Briggs says, “but I’d urge them to first embrace their own authenticity, then seek out a community that will do the same.”
Happy Pride Month!
Next Up: LGBTQ+ Employees Reflect on Their Experiences at United