Coming out- On repeat
It’s not just a day when you’re a member of the LGBTQIA+ family. Coming out is never a once and done like, “Phew, I made it through that! Now let’s just move on with my life.” It’s every day. It’s ongoing for the rest of our lives. I’ve had to come out over and over and over again in a variety of different scenarios.
Starting a new job?
As a new crew member at Vanguard, I’ve had to come out to all my new colleagues over the past few months during introductions as topics of family and who we spend time with over the weekend has come up in casual conversations. It can be very awkward and anxiety-ridden, depending on how questions are posed. For example, I’ve been asked “What’s your husband’s name?” more times than I can count over the lifetime of my career.
Moving to a new location?
I relocated from Chicago, IL to Reading, PA when I accepted my new role at Vanguard. I’ve had to come out to new neighbors and new social circles. There’s a risk of not feeling comfortable or welcome in your own neighborhood, depending on the beliefs of these strangers you now share a side lawn with or sit next to at book club. Going out to meet new people? You take your LGBTQIA+ status with you everywhere you go.
Meeting new friends
At some point they will ask if your husband stayed home with the kids for girl’s night, too. Coming out is exhausting because it carries a heavy emotional tax. Oh, you thought it would be easy to come out after having lived as an out and proud lesbian for over 20 years? That’s a myth. I still have anxiety about it every single time. I’m often asked questions that I’ve never heard asked of straight colleagues or friends.
When introducing my wife, I’ve been asked, “Are you two legally married?” Pause a moment. Let that sink in. If you are married or have married friends who fit the hetero-normative profile, have you ever observed anyone ask the legal status of their union? That’s an example of a microaggression that doesn’t even cross the mind of the person who is asking, I’m sure. We can all play a role in making coming out an inclusive and supported experience.
On the occasion of NCOD, well frankly every day, here are the top 3 things to consider as you support the LGBTQIA+ community:
- Listen. Coming out is about letting someone tell their own story. You don’t have to take any action or say anything profound. Supporting the person is the most important part of their coming out to you.
- Don’t out others- even your own children/family members. If a colleague has shared their personal story with you, that’s great that they trusted you with that information. It doesn’t mean they trust you to share it with others. It’s never your story to tell.
- It’s ok to ask questions. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume everyone you meet is straight/cis-gendered/just like you. Be mindful that your questions, if they are not invasive or inappropriate, are preferred over assuming. Consider how to frame your questions more inclusively. Instead of asking what a woman’s husband’s name is, ask what their spouse’s name is. Lead with “my pronouns are she/her” to make someone else comfortable to share their pronouns, whatever they may be.
I look forward to the time when coming out is not such a big thing. Until then, I’ll keep coming out so that I’m visible. As a leader in an industry that is still moving diversity initiatives forward, that’s important to me. Vanguard’s people culture is the most resounding positive aspect of the corporate profile that I read about prior to joining, have heard about from industry peers along the way, and have experienced first-hand from current crew members after joining the organization. I feel empowered to show up to work at Vanguard as my authentic self every day, and that’s a great feeling!
Thank you to those of you who continue to make coming out less of a thing.