This Pride Month, we continue to share our platforms with our LGBTQ+ teammates in an effort to show up, and amplify their voices. These are their stories, in their words – with no edits, just a spellcheck ❤️.
But first things first, let’s start with an introduction…
My name is Tori Lelbach and I am a store manager for Buckle in Pittsburgh, PA at store 377. Buckle has always been a major part of my life since I was 18 when I was recruited off the sales floor in Lexington, KY – and also plays a major role in my pride story. Josh Huber became my mentor and friend, and saw the potential in me to become a store manager under his training. It was my third or fourth time attending manager meetings and I was spending time with Erica Canfield and Amber Dial; and telling them I had met someone in Pittsburgh and came out to both of them that night as gay. Erica and Amber were the first two people I had ever come out to and they instantly supported me. The next group I came out to was my team who met me with same support.
It’s been a couple years since then, I’ve come out fully and embraced my LGBTQ+ community. Managing for Buckle has always been special, the diversity of backgrounds and cultures of people I’ve connected with, hired, and simply met has always been the best part. Learning someone’s story – guests and teammates – is always important to me.
The Buckle has not only found me mentors and friends but also allies. I run my store with a diverse team, with 3 other LGBTQ+ team members, help guests feel proud of who they are in a safe space, and am building a large network of LGBT+ individuals and allies who come together for more than just jeans.
I am so lucky to have a welcoming environment inside and outside of my career. My girlfriend, Rachel, is my number one supporter in my career and has always gone above and beyond to encourage my success and has grown as close to my team, and even some guests, as myself. I am part of the LGBT community, I am a part of the Buckle community, and I am proud.
Hey y’all! My name is Brilen Seratte, I am leader in training at the Tyler, Texas location! I’ve been with the company for just over a year now and time has flown by. Being a part of the Buckle crew is spectacular. I can be myself when I am in the store. From my manager, to the teammates, to the other leaders, they make me feel so welcomed and a part of the family.
When I was younger, I never knew what being gay was or bisexual. Going through my early teenage years, I started to become familiar with the term of a homosexual man. When I finally found out the term, I knew in my gut that that was ME.
One thing I always told myself for being different is that I would never let anyone bring me down and drag me through the dirt. If no one accepted me, I always had myself. I still have that mentality to this day. I live my life with positivity and love. That is what keeps me going every single day in this wonderful world.
These past few years have been tremendous for the LGBT+ community. From marriage equality, to just more and more social acceptance, it makes me smile and proud of the country we’re getting to. I love being able to celebrate this community in the month of June. All the backlash and bigotry we have received has gone on far too long, this month is PRIDE MONTH. My heart jumps with joy knowing that Buckle is out here celebrating and acknowledging all of the LGBT+ members of the company. It makes me even more excited to be a part of this company.
My name is Robert and I am the operations manager at store 368 and I am so excited to share my story.
I grew up in a highly conservative household in Craigville, Indiana. Being anything other than a straight, masculine male was simply not acceptable. I knew I was different when I was about 14, but kept it to myself out of fear of rejection and losing my entire family.
All through high school I was in band and made some deep bonds with some great people, yet I still could not tell them my deepest secret. My high school shared identical views to my parents. It was simply not acceptable to go outside of the social norms.
It wasn’t until the summer after I graduated high school when I finally told someone. I was marching drum corps that summer and another member asked me point blank if I was gay. At this point I was tired of hiding and figured that I’d never see them again after the season ended. So why not. It was an enormous relief to say the word yes. The response I received caught me off guard. She accepted me and celebrated me for who the real me is.
By the time I went to college that fall, I wasn’t hiding myself from anyone. If someone didn’t like me for being gay then I’d know who to avoid. That wasn’t the case though. Once again I was embraced and empowered for who I am. Being gay isn’t a bad thing like i was taught growing up, apparently. I still hid my secret from my family, I wasn’t able to afford college without their help and was afraid my education would be taken from me if I spoke up.
Over time I stayed in Indianapolis against my mother’s wishes for me to move back home, but this is where I was free. Why would I give that up? I started working at Buckle in Noblesville, Indiana. Initially, afraid I would be rejected for being who I am but once again was proven wrong. I was pulled into a team of incredible and accepting people who let me become even more of the person I am to this day. I eventually met the man of my dreams and moved in with him which caused me to transfer to a store in Plainfield, Indiana where Renee celebrates anyone in the LGBTQ community!
My boyfriend at the time had proposed to me and I of course said yes! Now was the time I needed to tell my family. I was expecting the worst and hoping for the best. Of course I was met with the worst. I was disowned and rejected as I expected to be. They even refused to come to my wedding but grudgingly came to the reception but sat quietly and didn’t mutter a word to anyone. Come to find out, most of my family doesn’t care anymore and have brought me back into the family, but the hurt is still there for me and accepting them back has been an internal challenge for myself.
Buckle has played a big part in who I have become as a person within the LGBTQ community. They have been so accepting and inclusive. I have learned through our company that friends become your family and who you call family is all that matters.
We will continue to highlight the stories of our teammates as long as they keep sharing. The platforms we have are made so much better, genuine, real by amplifying the voices that make Buckle, well… Buckle.
We recognize these posts as an opportunity to learn together, and celebrate Pride for what it is – LOVE.
If this is the first Pride post you have read, we encourage you check out Darren’s story of acceptance and Kerry’s story on growing as a creator – we know you will leave inspired.