Q&A with Fletcher Alumna Erin Clancy (F09)

As part of Fletcher’s Pride Month 2021 celebration, alumna Erin Clancy offers reflections on her journey from Fletcher to Facebook, LGBTI rights on a global scale, and what gives her hope for the future.
Erin Clancy

What one thing do you want people to  focus on this month in support of the LGBTI international community?

That defending democracy, and the democratic norms and institutions upon which democracies survive is essential to the protection of LGBTI folks around the world. This cannot be the responsibility of the LGBTI community alone. We need every ally and people from every nationality to stand up for freedom for all.

Q1. How has your experience at Fletcher impacted the way you think of your identity in the LGBTI community, or vice versa?

A1. Fletcher reinforced the value of intersectionality and diversity both in the classrooms and out in the real world. The Fletcher experience pushes us to take that intersectionality, or interdisciplinary approach, to everything from ending wars, innovating the delivery of humanitarian assistance, to defining the future international legal norms for space and cyberwarfare.  As a young, queer, Fletcher student I learned to take Fletcher’s interdisciplinary approach and apply it to how I showed up as an advocate and community builder for fellow BIPOCs throughout my personal and professional life.

Q2. What advice would you give to yourself if you were just starting out at Fletcher?

A2. Do not be intimidated by the other students because they are older and more experienced; run toward them and all they can teach you.

Q3. How does your identity within the LGBTI community impact the way you think about patriotism?

A3. The through-line is duty.  As both an American and a queer, Black/biracial, woman of color, I have a duty to protect people from harm, to demonstrate excellence, and create as much room at the table for the next generation of people behind me whether they look like me or have similar life experiences or not.

Q4. What is a bit of love advice you like to share?

A4. Choose someone who seeks to understand you and wants to be on your team.

Q5. There is a trope of loneliness attached to the LGBTI community; how have you been building or maintaining your network?

A5. Out in National Security and the Atlantic Council’s groundbreaking fellowship for LGBTI professionals in foreign affairs have been key for building new connections and maintaining my networks. Kudos to these organizations for fostering the next generation of queer foreign policy practitioners.

Q6. Which country's LGBTI policy do you often think about, and why?

A6. The United States. I think about the status of LGBTI rights in the United States most often because, for better or for worse, our journey toward full equality remains a bellwether for every country in the world.  When the U.S. LGBTI policies backslide, we see that ripple effect in other parts of the world, and our adversaries leverage our own diminishment of human rights policies at home to their advantage on the world’s stage.  But, when pro-LGBTI policies are championed at the highest levels of American legal, political, and corporate spheres, the human rights, dignity, and equality of all people expands.  The bottom line is simple--U.S. leadership on the advancement of LGBTI rights remains essential. 

Outside of the United States, the country I think about most often is Poland.  The rising political power of far-right, nationalists and the establishment of hundreds of so-called “LGBTI-free zones'' is deeply troubling not only for Europe and other EU member states but also for how these movements undercut the power for the EU’s tradition of leadership on LGBTI rights.  Poland can and must do better, so the U.S. and EU can maintain our strong, increasingly diverse, global coalition of countries to protect LGBTI folks around the world.

Q7. What innate or developed trait do you possess that has offered great benefit to your work in international policy and LGBTI rights?

A7. Being queer sharpened my courage.  And, my courage empowered me to lead by my example, not my lack of title, and stand up to risk-averse naysayers by springing action to save hundreds of lives. This earned me the State Department’s highest honor, the Distinguished Honor Award, in 2018 for negotiating the exfiltration of 422 Syrian nationals from the Syrian-Israeli border who were being targeted by the Assad regime while some in the State Department and international community urged against both me and the United States government from getting involved.

Q8. Where was your favorite spot to spend time when you were at Fletcher?

A8. Front row of Dr. Richard Shultz’s Role of Force class on Tuesday mornings with a fresh cup of coffee in my Fletcher mug; wherever Tarek Zeidan, class of 2009, was at any given time; and, I cannot leave out Diesel Cafe in Davis Square.

Q9. What piece of LGBTI history do you think more people should know about?

A9. I think we should all be more aware of the erasure of LGBTI people throughout all parts of history and their contributions whether that’s Eleanor Roosevelt, Bayard Rustin, or ancient Egypt to the Lavender Scare in the 1950s.  The world needs to be reminded that LGBTI folks have always been a part of our societies and cultures and many have contributed greatly and would have, arguably, had a greater impact if their gender identities or sexual orientations did not have to be hidden away by those charged with writing our histories.

Q10. What gives you hope for the future?

A10. Fletcher graduates. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Erin Clancy, MALD 09, served for 15 years as a Foreign Service Officer at the Department of State where she specialized in multilateral diplomacy and advanced U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa. She recently transitioned her national security expertise to the technology sector as a public policy manager on the Strategic Response Policy team at Facebook. Erin is a member of the Atlantic Council's LGBTI fellowship and is a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member.