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News | June 15, 2023

Authenticity and Pride in the Workplace: Travis’s NSA Journey

Pride Month is an annual event where members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, aromantic/asexual, and other communities (LGBTQIA+) join together to celebrate the progress towards equity for all, and to raise awareness of the work still ongoing. Pride Month is held in June to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising of June 28, 1970, a critical juncture in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights.
The National Security Agency (NSA) believes every person deserves fair and equitable treatment regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or other identities. This core Agency value comports with the fact that NSA’s employees are its greatest asset and deserve to be treated as such.
NSA is proud to support the Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG), a voluntary organization for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies. To mark Pride Month, we’re happy to share the following interview with Travis Barker (he/him), a member of the Pride ERG.
1. What brought you to NSA?
I came to NSA through my work in the Navy. I joined in 2010, a year after my high school graduation, with the intent to learn how to cook on boats. Instead, I wound up learning foreign languages and working alongside NSA colleagues. The joint environment got me interested in the civilian side of the Intelligence Community, and I realized that civilians get yelled at less AND get to wear whatever they want to work. So I made the switch!
2. What job do you do? 
Following my Navy language processing career, I act as a translator and language analyst for the agency. I help to translate and localize foreign language materials so that my co-workers can understand them and use them as needed to keep the U.S. Government informed.
3. What advice would you give to other prospective Agency employees?
If you are interested in working for NSA, but you are not sure how your personal expertise or experience fits in, do not hesitate to apply! You can never quite be prepared for what kind of questions will come across your desk. My love of cooking, Navy experience, and personal interest in social topics like LGBTQ+ justice and climate change have all been applicable in my work here at NSA.
4. How did you become involved with the Pride ERG? 
I joined the Pride ERG after moving into a management role on my team. I was still Active Duty at the time, coming in every day in uniform. I knew that my uniform and rank already made me inaccessible to my colleagues, so I wanted to mitigate any other walls keeping people from knowing who I was. Serving in the military during Don’t Ask Don’t Tell had me pick up the habit of keeping my queer identity very personal and private. But as a manager, I had a responsibility to set the tone in my workforce and ensure that through my openness, I would be accepting toward my colleagues. I used my participation in the ERG to help further that goal, but also found a loving and motivated community within the agency.
5. What is it like to participate in the Pride ERG?
Participating in the Pride ERG is one of the most fulfilling parts of my job! Understanding that the Intelligence Community has not always been accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, it means so much to be part of an organization that is doing everything in our power to achieve equity. Through the ERG, I have made so many friends, met so many people, and even had some really heartfelt talks with people who needed help understanding who I was, and all of it has help make changes for the better.
6. How has the Pride ERG impacted you?
Since my time in the ERG, I have become more confident in my identity in the workplace, and more eager to carry the flag for those who may not be able to. I am privileged to be safe enough to be my authentic self in my office and in my community, and the ERG has offered me opportunities to put that privilege to purpose and be a role model, a visible member of the community, and an ally to others.
7. Is there anything else that you would like to share during Pride month?
While there will always be reasons to be anxious and we should acknowledge work that still needs doing in the fight for equity - not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but for everyone – make sure you take time to CELEBRATE during Pride Month! Celebrate the victories that have been won, and the strides that have been made. Celebrate yourself, whether you’re a member of the community or an ally to it! And, most importantly, celebrate all of this with the folks you love!