I came out gay man in the 80s and it was the best I could do for my career

6 min read

This article has been translated from our English edition.

The opinions of the employees of You are personal.

I came out gay man in the 80s and it was the best I could do for my career
I came out gay man in the 80s and it was the best I could do for my career

  • Act bravely: show unshakable trust in yourself.
  • Break stereotypes: challenge the prejudices of others.
  • Look at the results: Visualize the success!

When I started my first company job in Houston in 1982, with Fortune 100 CompanyI had no intention of declaring myself gay. After all, nothing that happened to the LGBTQ community at the time would support such a risky action. I started my job at a time when the AIDS epidemic was making the national news and the reactions were extremely negative. There was a massive and violent reaction against the community LGBTQand especially towards homosexual men.

As if the AIDS epidemic wasn’t enough to keep me from “getting out” there was the fact that I had no legal protection regarding my employment. At that time, in Texas, I could have been released for “coming out” with no opportunity to appeal the decision. The last thing he should have considered beforehand was the company’s 16-week probationary period, which established that an employee could be fired for any reason at the manager’s discretion.

I remember everything having to do with “getting out” except the thoughts that led me to say to a coworker, “I’m gay.” It was more about feelings. The moment I got out, I knew I had to release the pressure to hide part of myself.

After discussing my work with my partner in front of others, I thought that they would no doubt fire me. With that in mind, I went straight to the manager’s office and asked if I could meet her. I started my conversation by telling him that I had just spoken to some of my coworkers and expected to be fired, but I wanted to tell him myself. She told me that she was grateful that I came to her office to speak to her. More than 38 years later, I still remember the way he responded to me that day in 1982.

Image: JohnnyGreig | Getty Images

She told me I would not be fired and went on to say what a great job she did in my short tenure. I worked for this company for 18 years. When I came out there was no diversity and inclusion. For many of my colleagues, I was the first openly gay person they met.

Diversity means being different

The definition of diversity that has been proven over time is different. We can all find ways to differentiate ourselves from one another. These are the most common differences:

  • Disability.

  • Career.

  • Religion.

  • Gender.

  • Years.

  • Sexual orientation

  • Sexual identity

I had the opportunity to get involved in one of the foundations of the current diversity and inclusion movement in the 1980s when I was asked to attend a focus group meeting moderated by a consultancy specializing in implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives Workplace.

As a result of the final report of the focus group meeting, the company’s senior executives agreed to advance the establishment of the first employee resource group dedicated to the LGBTQ community and allies.

I was in the right place at the right time as I worked for several other Fortune 100 companies. I had the opportunity to participate in the development of their resource groups for LGBTQ Workers and Allies (ERGs) as both a Member and Executive Sponsor. Later, my experience with these ERGs helped me support ERGs that focused on women and Hispanics.

Diversity and inclusion are just as much a part of corporate structure and culture as operations, sales and finance. Many Fortune 100 companies have a C-suite leadership position specifically dedicated to monitoring diversity and inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion are strategies that pay off when companies can attract and retain a variety of top talent to achieve superior financial results. LGBTQ talent is more likely to seek employment with companies that are deeply committed to diversity and inclusion policies.

Come out and stay there

While the decision to “get out” is strictly personal, there is growing support for staying out and being there professionally. There has never been a time in the company’s history when diversity and inclusion training has received so much attention.

It’s most evident when companies like Starbucks make a significant commitment and investment into this training problem. On May 29, 2018, they closed all of their stores in the United States to allow their employees to participate in an unconscious bias awareness program.

Image: Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash

The development of diversity and inclusion is now creating more equity. This move improves work by setting justice as a sign of a better future for those who choose to live their lives openly and differently.

Here are three strategies that can help you ponder your decision to come out professional.

  1. Act bravely: show unshakable trust in yourself.

  2. Break stereotypes: challenge the prejudices of others.

  3. Look at the results: Visualize the success!

My experience as a company director and now as an entrepreneur has taught me that my performance will steadily improve when I can show myself 100 percent. My decision to stay there as a gay man is still the right one for me and my career.

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