The thoughts below are that of my own, and do not reflect the journey or perspective of every member of the LGBTQIA+ community. My hope is that my story gives comfort to anyone not ready to share their own.
Coming out of the closet, or coming out, implies that it’s a one-time event, but in reality every LGBTQIA+ person knows it’s a process, a struggle, a celebration, a journey, that never ends. It’s often overlooked that an LGBTQIA+ person has to come out all of the time—in some cases every day—at work.
As a Customer Success Manager, it’s my job to ensure our customers find success in our solutions by guiding them, as much as possible, to a result. I do this by fostering a relationship with them through conversations, sometimes around transactional items, but mostly around the challenges they’re facing with their L&D Program.
If there is any silver lining to the past 16 months, it’s how the conversations with my customers have evolved into an opportunity to become something more real, more personal. Early into the pandemic, I started getting (and giving) very candid and honest answers to simple questions like “How are you?”. Together we shared our struggles and anxieties about the state of the world and opened up about our personal lives. The honesty has been refreshing and has resulted in more meaningful conversations and relationships.
However wonderful those conversations are, I still find myself hesitating every single time I’m about to mention “my wife” in a story. I question whether or not I should “out” myself. Coming out is vulnerable, sometimes exhausting, and every time you do it you’re putting trust in the other person. Fear creeps in and tells me it’s not safe; that it’s putting my job at risk if something goes wrong. To this day, fear wins more often than I would like. Part of me thinks that writing this now is my chance to make up for that.
I’m fortunate to be able to work at a company like OpenSesame. That I know I can show up each day as me. 30 days after I started, I felt so comfortable that I disclosed my queerness during my New Hire Presentation. To my surprise and elation, I was invited to our private “Queers of OpenSesame” Slack channel which has since become a formal Employee Resource Group. Words can’t describe the relief and happiness I felt knowing that not only were there other queers at work; they were banded together in a fun and supportive community.
I recognize this isn’t the case for many LGBTQIA+ folks, and am hopeful that corporate DEI initiatives will prove to be more deliberate than performative and make real change for anyone who might previously be made to feel “other.”
If you are queer at a workplace that doesn’t feel safe, put yourself first. You are in no way inauthentic or “unproud” for protecting your personal life from your professional one.
If you are queer and looking to make others feel more comfortable, consider starting a Slack channel or an affinity group.
Straight and looking to be an ally? Cultivate learning within your organization and propose such affinity groups exist in your workplace. Then, move aside for those who identify to step up and lead.
We live in a time when coming out might not seem like that big of a deal anymore, until you have to do it yourself, every day. I would encourage our straight allies to remember that everyone’s journey is different, and homophobia is still very much alive today. If a co-worker chooses to openly share who they are with you, thank you for building an inclusive workplace and making your organization a better place for them to be their authentic selves. Now, I encourage you to continue pushing for more innovative progress. Honor their act of bravery by remembering that like you, they are so much more than their sexual orientation. Keep asking them about initiatives, keep working with them to promote inclusivity, keep celebrating what makes them, “them.”
Support Pride Month with our LGBTQIA+ focused courses
For ideas on how to support your co-workers and assess, accelerate, and amplify your DEI programs and initiatives, visit our array of LGBTQIA+ focused courses that help you on your company’s inclusive journey. From foundation principles, to specifics about gender identity and sexual orientation, OpenSesame has resources that help you support your LGBTQIA+ employees and the greater LGBTQIA+ community.
About the Author: Alexa Morales is a Customer Success Manager for OpenSesame and fosters meaningful and lasting relationships with honesty and humor. She calls Portland, Oregon home – and when not at work supporting customers, you can find her out on the trails in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.