Aimee Broadhurst, ally grand marshal of the Houston Pride parade, is fighting for her three lesbian siblings.
By Brandon Wolf
Aimee Broadhurst has vivid memories of Christmas as a child. She typically got “girl” gifts—clothes and dolls. But her younger sisters, Kellie and Kristy, got things like G.I. Joe action figures, model trains, a drum set, a trampoline, and even football gear.
“We used to watch Sunday-afternoon football, and they would dress up like their two favorite Washington Redskins players,” Broadhurst recalls.
Broadhurst didn’t give it much thought at the time. In fact, it wasn’t until her sisters came out to her decades later that things began to make sense. Later, their mother remarried and they gained a lesbian stepsister.
Having three out siblings helped inspire Broadhurst to become a passionate supporter of LGBT rights, culminating in her being named ally grand marshal for the 2017 Houston Pride parade. She says she’s “humbled and honored” by the recognition, and hopes to use the opportunity to reinforce and expand her work.
“If you have a problem with my sisters, then you have a problem with me,” Broadhurst says. “I have a justice personality. When I see something unfair, I try to fix it. I just came wired that way.”
Broadhurst, a corporate communications manager for Bank of America, serves as co-lead for the bank’s Ally Program that supports its LGBT Pride employee resource group. Bank of America’s Ally Program, with more than 18,000 members, has become a model for other corporations.
Broadhurst is also active in a local LGBT-affirming congregation, Plymouth United Church of Christ in Spring.
Although her sisters have partly fueled her activism, she says she first became an LGBT ally thanks to her many gay male friends at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, where she attended college. And she credits her mother with instilling in her the importance of speaking up for the marginalized and the voiceless.
Broadhurst was born and raised in North Carolina. She recalls the family had a basketball hoop that her sisters used, but she preferred to read—often checking out 10 books at a time from the library.
Kellie and Kristy were athletes and members of the swimming, basketball, and tennis teams. Noting that “bathroom issues” go clear back to the 1970s, Broadhurst recalls one incident at a restaurant in which a woman tried to kick Kellie and Kristy out of the women’s restroom because they had short hair and were dressed like tomboys. But even then, Aimee suspected nothing.
“They dated [boys] in high school and college,” Broadhurst recalls, adding that she just thought “they were the athletes and I was the singer.”
When Kristy came out to her in 1986, Broadhurst told her sister, “If that’s who you are, that’s who you are.”
Kristy Kennedy now lives in Washington DC with her wife, Ginger, and three children they adopted from Russia. She called her sister’s words “so comforting.” “It helped me stop thinking there was something wrong with me,” Kennedy says.
Broadhurst moved from North Carolina to The Woodlands in 2001 after her husband, Trey, accepted a job at Lone Star community college in Conroe. They have two daughters.
She first attended Houston Pride a few years ago, as part of a group from her church that served free snow cones to parade-goers.
“Gay people have been beaten over the head with the Bible because homosexuality does not fit into some people’s belief systems,” she says. “We felt it was important to show that some churches were affirming.”
Broadhurst joined Plymouth UCC in 2010, after hearing about the church from gay friends. Her previous experiences in the Methodist and Episcopal churches had left her frustrated with the relationship between religion and the LGBT community.
She recalls that in the early 1990s, she attended a Methodist church in Charlotte where an assistant minister was disciplined after coming out from the pulpit during Pride Month.
After moving to Texas, she and her husband attended an Episcopal church in The Woodlands where the new rector proclaimed that he would never hire an openly gay man. Deeply hurt and angry, Broadhurst stood up and walked out of the service, tears streaming down her face. “But I did come back for communion, and made him see me with tears in my eyes,” she says.
In 2009, at the request of a gay coworker, Broadhurst became communications lead for the LGBT Pride employee resource group at Bank of America. In 2013, under the umbrella of the Pride Network, she helped launch the bank’s Ally Program.
She was inspired in part by seeing the differences in her two sisters’ work environments, where one was out and the other was not. “It fueled my passion to be visible as a straight ally at the bank,” Broadhurst says. “I don’t ever want a colleague to feel like they cannot be who they are. The Ally Program shows how we truly are better when we are connected. Those connections are only possible in an environment where every single person brings their whole self to work every day.”
According to Bank of America’s website, the Ally Program provides opportunities for employees to participate in educational and volunteer events while learning how to assist the LGBT community in the challenges it faces.
For each of the last four years, Broadhurst has spoken about the Ally Program at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit—the nation’s preeminent conference on LGBT workplace issues attended by more than 3,000 business leaders. “We don’t just showcase it,” Broadhurst says. “We show other companies how they can implement such a program.”
Kennedy attended one of the Workplace Summits where her sister spoke. “People flocked to her, showing her the gratitude they have,” Kennedy says.
Asked about Aimee’s selection as Houston’s 2017 ally grand marshal, Kennedy adds, “I could not be more proud of her.”