What does it really mean to “come out”? To “be out”?
I first came out to one friend during sophomore year in college and then, one by one, a few more. By winter break, I was ready to come out to my parents. At the time, I saw the conversations with them as “fully coming out” – the point in time that would mean I’m out. The preparation for these initial coming out conversations were months (and probably years) in the making with stress and anxiety from the unknowns and the ugly “what if” scenarios I played out in my head.
Over the next few years, and with those milestones behind me, coming out became a bit easier each time. That all changed when I got my first full-time job and was forced to decide if I would be out professionally. I found myself stricken by the same feelings of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy “what ifs” from a couple years before.
To bring you in a bit more, not coming out takes its toll as well – trying to avoid talking about life outside of work, being conscious of pronouns – it’s all taxing. That reality, combined with the fact that people who know someone who is LGBTQ+ are far more likely to support equality under the law, helped me decide to be out at work. A huge thanks to members of Vanguard’s Out Professional Engagement Network (OPEN) who demonstrate allyship by posting the OPEN logo in their workspace and including it on their internal profile– these subtle signals can make all the difference in someone’s journey.
Fast forward to today and I’ve come out to family, friends, classmates, acquaintances and even strangers. I’ve come out to individuals and to groups, to my leaders and to my crew, to my colleagues and to my clients. I’ve come out thousands of times and I realize now that coming out to my parents wasn’t the end of the process, but just the beginning. No matter how many times I’ve come out, whether the experiences were good, bad, or indifferent, the stress that comes with coming out, even if just for a moment, hasn’t fully gone away. It’s a reminder that for others in our lives, our coming out is a distinct point in time with a before, during, and after; but for us, it’s a lifelong, often stressful process that hopefully gets better over time.
I’m grateful for the support I’ve received and am proud to participate in National Coming Out Day (NCOD) in honor of the millions of LGBTQ+ people who cannot come out for fear of losing their job, their housing, their personal relationships, their freedom, or their lives. I am thankful for Vanguard, our leaders, and the crew who demonstrate a commitment to the LGBTQ+ community, and I encourage all of us to continue to make Vanguard not only a safe place to come out, but also a great place to come out, and a supportive place to work.