What challenges did you face coming out/growing up as part of the LGBTQ+ community?
I actually faced very few challenges coming out when I was young. Though I did see negative messaging in society in general, I’ve really encountered very little personally throughout my life, save being called a derogatory term on a couple of occasions. Regardless, I did struggle with self-acceptance for many years, often feeling that others would think less of me knowing that I was gay or reject me in some way. It’s taken most of my adult life to feel comfortable in my own skin, so the whole concept of “bringing one’s whole self to work” resonates strongly with me, as for many years I really didn’t. I no longer waste energy worrying about those that would reject me based on this one aspect of who I am. Having supportive family, friends and co-workers has made all the difference.
What is something that you want people to know about this community in our company?
That we are not asking other individuals to change their values or beliefs in respecting LGBTQ+ co-workers, that it’s one's attitudes and behaviors, shaped by their experiences and implicit bias, that allow them to treat members of our community and people of all diverse backgrounds respectfully. In this day of hyper-polarized social conflict, it strikes me that it’s never been more important to start conversations from a point of equal footing, assuming good intentions and with the realization that not agreeing on a topic does not make us enemies. Diversity of thought is a powerful equalizing force but it is lost in an environment of absolute right and wrong, winner-takes-all.
Who is your role model?
Years ago it would likely have been different, but now I would say Pete Buttigieg. Secretary Buttigieg communicates in such an honest and thoughtful manner, he is exactly the type of person that I want in a leadership role in our country. What really made me admire him is when he talked about struggling with his orientation when he was young, stating that “if he could have cut that part of him out, he would have”. That hit me in the core of my soul, that he also felt that being gay was not something he asked for and that his journey was similar to mine. Some LGBTQ+ people have no problems with self-acceptance and grow into their natural selves seemingly effortlessly, but for many of us the journey to self-acceptance is more difficult. To see him now, a cabinet secretary of the United States, is such a source of pride for our community. A promise of meaningful change.
What is your hope for the future?
That we see hatred and bigotry shrink back out of our daily lives, that discriminatory speech and actions once again become socially unacceptable. I would like to see Americans reset their perspectives and remember how much more we have in common than that which divides us. I hope that LGBTQ+ equality becomes a reality and something that no longer has to be fought for, but is commonplace. That we meet a day where we look back on a past where Americans tried to stifle the voices and limit the rights of their brothers and sisters and it seems abstract and absurd.