Pride: Meet Travis Riggs

Travis works at the Department of Veterans Affairs and is an AFGE member with Local 1273 in Idaho.

What role do you think labor plays in advancing the rights of LGBT people in the workplace?

Travis RiggsTravis works at the Department of Veterans Affairs and is an AFGE member with Local 1273 in Idaho.Labor plays a major role in all of our lives, whether we admit it or not. With the LGBT community, Labor has been a much larger ally than many would first suspect. In the 1970s Frank Kameny, was dismissed from his position as an astronomer because he was gay. This was the beginning for workplace equality for LGBT people.

In 2002 my then-partner was diagnosed with a serious illness. I was informed by my supervisor at the VA that because we weren’t “really related” that I would not qualify for FMLA and I could choose to have a job or be by his side. I made the right choice and stayed by his bedside. I slept on a cot for more than two weeks and didn’t leave the hospital. When I came back to work to clear out my locker - I had assumed I had been removed -I was told that I still had a job, and I learned it was because AFGE interceded on my behalf.

Personally, without AFGE, I wouldn’t have a job. In 2002 my then-

What changes have you seen in the labor movement with regard LGBT labor rights?

Labor has been slow to come on board with the LGBT movement, though we have worked behind the scenes for decades; however in recent years we have seen astounding progress! Through creative and persistent appeals to EEOC sexual orientation and gender identity are now protected classes. This has saved many people’s jobs and will continue to protect a group of people who have been marginalized for centuries.

I have personally been fired and denied housing because of my sexual orientation and I am glad that this is no longer a factor in employment and housing decisions.

What does it mean to you to see LGBT represented and acknowledged in AFGE?

I have been an LGBT activist, HIV and AIDS activist and am now a Labor activist…the feeling of having Labor support other causes is indescribable. I am proud of AFGE for standing up and I have never been more proud to be an LGBT activist. To have an official program like AFGE Pride sends the clear message that we’re all in this together and that AFGE stands up for what’s right for everyone!

What does ally-ship in the context of LGBT labor rights mean to you?

For the longest time LGBT people were out there on their own, to have straight allies and allies in labor movement is something I didn’t think I would ever see in my lifetime.  It is the allies who have brought the LGBT movement so far in so little time.

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