DyShaun Muhammad, a board member with the Human Rights Council in Minneapolis-St. Paul, knows firsthand that discrimination and bias can come in many forms and that many people are afraid to be themselves.
Conquering his own fear at age 19, Muhammad came out. “Growing up in the South as an African-American in a Muslim family had its challenges,” Muhammad said. “But being gay was a line you didn’t cross.” After coming out, he said he experienced oppression and isolation.
Knowing the fear is real, he encourages those struggling with coming out. “If someone you care for rejects you when you come out, be patient with them and draw those who accept you fully closer for support.” Muhammad was patient with his parents, who struggled at first, and leaned a lot on his friends and others for support. And he did what he had always done – he got involved. He drew on the lessons grandparents had taught him as a child. They would take him along to vote at the polling booths or attend city council meetings. “They were an integral part in teaching me how to be civically engaged.”
Muhammad became involved with his local Pride Parade. “I was already politically active at a young age,” he explained. “Coming out just adjusted my perspective.” Seeing his passion for equality, a city council member suggested he get involved with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality.
HRC’s mission of striving to “end discrimination against LGBTQ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all,” was a natural fit with Muhammad’s desire to help. “It’s an opportunity to be an ambassador for social and governmental change,” he said.
U.S. Bank is honoring the work of volunteers and staff at the HRC during Pride Month and beyond by becoming an HRC national partner. For the past 10 years, U.S. Bank scored a perfect 100 on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, a measure of best workplaces for LGBTQ employees. Muhammad began volunteering with HRC in 1998 and served on the Board of Governors before joining the Board of Directors. He feels fortunate that his career path allowed him to work with companies that are engaged in equality. But he noted that countless people are still struggling to be themselves in their work and personal lives. As a board member, Muhammad joins volunteers across the globe to educate, affect policy, create awareness and help people be themselves without fear.
One of Muhammad’s favorite activities still remains getting out for the local Pride Parade events. “It’s community building and an opportunity for all organizations to stand side-by-side in representing a better life,” he said.
Muhammad emphasizes the importance of the work HRC is doing and his hopes for acceptance. “We only have one life – it is a shame to be anything other than our best, most authentic self.”