It’s Pride Month. Say Hi to LGBT Leaders in Cannabis | Trista Okel and Michele White

At Say Hi and Hi&Low, we truly believe that as the cannabis industry grows, we can incorporate positive business practices and set an example for other industries. And so some of the most important values at Say Hi are diversity and inclusivity, which we try to capture in everything from the products on the site, to the audience we write for, to our partners behind the scenes.

June is Pride Month, a time of year to highlight the accomplishments of the LGBT community. We talked to a few of our collaborators and partners, who shared some of the stories and insights from their experiences as LGBT members of the cannabis industry. In this edition, we talk to Trista Okel and Michele White, the [em]power[ed] couple behind Empower BodyCare.

Photo credit: Mirifoto

Tell us a little about what you do in the cannabis industry.
Michele and I run Empower BodyCare, a topical company that I founded in 2013.

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered as an LGBT person in the industry? 
For the most part, we have been lucky to not have to deal with much adversity in the industry because we’re gay. That said, as someone who “looks gay,” I do have to deal with more discrimination than Michele does.
And in some communities, it makes more sense for us to send an Empower representative who looks straight.

Are there any good learnings you’ve taken from those experiences?
I’ve learned how to not take things personally and how to make decisions for my business with my head, not my emotions.

What has been an opportunity, or just something you’ve loved about being members of the LGBT community in this industry?
There is definitely a camaraderie among LGBTQ people in the industry. We get a lot of support from allies in the industry as well.

Do you think that being LGBT helped to equip you for a career in cannabis?
Since I came out in 1993, I’ve always tried to be an ambassador for the LGBT community in a heteronormative society. I use the same ambassador techniques I have used for two and a half decades as a gay person to do the same for the cannabis plant. Winning hearts and minds has always been vital to changing public perception, and can be applied to both the cannabis industry and being gay.

Do you have a favorite hashtag that you’ll be using this Pride Month?
Being a queer-owned business, we embody Pride year-round with our hashtag #empoweryourself. It’s not just a hashtag for us, it’s a way of being.

Thanks to Trista and Michele for talking about their inspiring experience. If you want to share your story, leave a message on our Facebook page.