I’m writing to encourage you, who may be struggling with belonging in the workplace. I’m writing to let you know I understand and I see you – Whenever I start a new role, meet a new colleague, or attend an industry event, I am aware of what makes me different, and I am quickly scanning for cues that tell me my whole self will be safe. That’s because my corporate identity is complex, as is the case for plenty of members of the LGBTQ+ community. We often are cautious about how much of ourselves we bring to work, but I can tell you it gets better with practice and supportive Allys, like my colleagues at MetLife.
As many femme presenting queer women would understand, I practice bringing more of myself to different environments daily, which is to say I have to come out over and over again in my day-to-day life. People see my wedding ring and instantly assume that because I am a woman, I have a husband. I do not have a husband or a wife; I am pansexual and married to my partner, who is a transmasc non-binary person.
And I can tell you this is not an easy conversation to have quickly with a colleague, while our lunches heat up in the office kitchen. And yet, it is an important conversation to have, even if it means a 3-minute mini fact session on gender identity and pronouns. Sometimes it will be a nice conversation, sometimes it will be uncomfortable, and – if you’re anything like me – it will always be draining. Nevertheless, the benefit usually outweighs the cost. You’re opening someone’s eyes to a world they may never have encountered otherwise. Then comes the ding of the microwave, a welcome relief to what are often intense moments.
Now more than ever, we understand that personal lives and work lives are comingling. When I work from home, people may see my partner walk past the screen. When the LGBTQ+ Mardi Gras is happening in Sydney, you better believe I will show up to work on Monday with glitter still stuck in my hair and a temporary rainbow tattoo peeking below my blazer, too stubborn to be washed off. When there are horrible things happening to our community, you and I want to be able to have friends at work, people who lend an ear and are outraged on our behalf too.
Visibility is what makes those things happen, and while we are still not in a world where visibility is safe everywhere or for everyone, where it is possible, it is the most powerful statement we can make as LGBTQ+ people. Being unapologetic about who you are is the most important work you can do, especially for those who cannot be visible.
Love is love,