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Celebrating Pride Month: Summer M. McKee, Cooley

Anderson Cooper says, “I think being gay is a blessing, and it’s something I am thankful for every single day and have been my entire adult life. I couldn't be more proud of being gay.”1 This “Pride Month” we at TMA are celebrating those in our TMA family who are part of the LGBTQIA+ Community. 

We sat down (virtually) with Summer M. McKee, an Associate at Cooley in New York, NY.  McKee became aware of TMA early by attending TMA events while in law school. McKee said, “After talking to Turnaround and Restructuring Professionals, something stood out about the organization.” 

TMA was a natural fit for McKee as she got into the world of restructuring. “It’s a well-respected organization which offers restructuring professionals a wide array of networking opportunities,” she shared. Through TMA, McKee met Allen Kadish (another featured member of the TMA LGBTQIA+ community in TMA’s Pride Month features), who has become not only a great friend but a meaningful professional contact. “TMA has a diverse approach, seeking not only to help professionals connect, but also to educate practitioners on how they might prevent bankruptcies and best support clients in out of court scenarios.”

Originally from Austin, TX, McKee shared, “Although Austin is a fairly liberal city, coming to New York has been night and day. Even in Austin there are times that you don’t feel comfortable being out and proud.”

In McKee’s experience, “You don’t come out just once, you make the decision to come out every time you talk to someone. It’s every time you say, ‘my wife did this’ or ‘my girlfriend and I went out for dinner last night.’ In that moment, you are normalizing your life and existence as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.” McKee made the choice to begin doing that in conversations during her first job out of college, and never looked back. In the process, she challenged stereotypes held by those in her conservative workplace, not only expanding their perception of the gay community but helping to create an environment where gay coworkers felt more comfortable bringing their full selves to the office.

McKee believes intersectional allyship is so important, and that we all have the ability to lift up minority voices. “So many folks want to be allies but aren’t certain of how to put the intention into action. Companies are uniquely positioned to educate these employees on what allyship looks like in practice.” She stressed, “In the LGBTQ+ community, there needs to be a special focus on the transgender community. As we see more people coming out as transgender, it becomes abundantly clear that it is a diverse community, comprised of our parents, neighbors, and coworkers. There’s nothing scary about someone living their authentic life. And the more we can do to create a supportive environment that allows someone to be true to themselves, the better our world will be.”

McKee believes that “diversity is a verb. It takes action. It’s when you start to take diversity for granted that it can start to slip to the wayside.” In McKee’s view, businesses should strive for both a top-down and bottom-up approach, with people at the top making it clear that diversity is a priority for the business, while also encouraging active participation from the boots on the ground when it comes to what types of changes they want to see in the organization that will be meaningful to that diversity movement.

When asked “What advice do you have for a member of the LGBTQIA+ community who is hesitant about coming out?”  McKee replied, “Everyone has a unique experience. Be brave!  You never want to say ‘it’s gonna be easy,’ But be brave, and you won’t regret it. You will come through it a happier person because you will be living your authentic life. As much as I hope for anyone and everyone who takes those bold steps that they are met with warm embrace, to the extent that that is not your experience you will get through it, and you will be glad that you were brave.”

1"25 Inspiring LGBTQ Quotes to Celebrate Pride Every Day,” published on Reader’s Digest Website, Sep. 20, 2021

Read the profile of Jordan Parker>>