Beyond Pride Month: Supporting LGBTQ+ Colleagues Before You Know They’re in the Room
- October 24, 2022
In celebration of National Coming Out Day, NTT DATA Services held an internal panel discussion on coming out in the workplace. Six panelists and one ally discussed coming out and the difference a supportive ally can make.
Why come out at work?
Does it still matter to be out in the workplace? As a bisexual, cisgender woman in a straight-presenting marriage, it can be easy to conclude that it doesn’t matter. But for me, it’s about creating opportunities to build community for myself and others in a similar situation. While it’s great to see more representation in the media, it’s when people we already know and love come out that can change hearts and minds. Ultimately, coming out matters because bringing my whole self to work unlocks my full potential.
During the panel, others shared similar views:
“It’s not fully authentic living if you’re not being your true, full self.”
“You owe it to yourself to come as who you are, not as others want you to be. And in turn, we need to accept people and respect them for who they are.”
Has coming out gotten easier over time?
The truth is, coming out isn’t a one-and-done thing. We started our panel discussion by asking each LGBTQ+ panelist about the first time they came out and the last time. Many talked about their experiences as young adults coming out for the first time. But it was interesting that they had all come out again just this week at some point. From sharing with their team that they would be a part of the panel to shopping for engagement rings with their partner. Here’s what they had to say about how and why it gets easier:
“I find the more I do it, the easier it gets over time.”
“I'm not sure about easier — but I find the older I am, the less I care about what other people think, and the less I worry about whether or not they will be ‘supportive.’”
“From a transgender perspective, I feel that things have gotten harder lately as we’re very tied to laws and company policy. While I feel free coming out at work, there’s a risk of repercussions for me if I come out publicly — both for myself and for those that provide my medical care.”
“At work, our leadership is so supportive that I feel if there were any issue, it would be handled and navigated with grace.”
How can allies make coming out easier?
The panel shared six tips for allies to create a safe environment:
- Use inclusive language. Address a group with gender-inclusive terms like “everyone” or “team” rather than “guys” or “ladies and gentlemen.” Instead of asking if someone has a husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend, ask if they have a spouse/partner. You can also normalize the use of the word “partner” by using it to refer to your own relationships more often.
- Lead with support. Be intentionally visible without waiting for us to be present to show support or start the conversation. Often allies fear saying the wrong thing, so they don’t say anything at all, but what’s important is your intention — it’s better to say the wrong thing authentically than to say nothing.
- Act with discretion. Coming out can also be seen as inviting people in. I love how that points to the trust involved in the situation, and maintaining that trust is essential — so remember, just because we came out to you doesn’t mean we’ve come out to everyone.
- Humanity is a spectrum. The panel challenged everyone to see humanity as a spectrum with no one norm and to stop thinking of heteronormativity as the baseline or gender as a binary of female/male. This applies to many areas of diversity and inclusion.
- Advocate for equity. Speak up against inequality and accept diversity with open arms. Value the skills that a diverse workforce brings to the table.
- We all make mistakes. Even within the LGBTQ+ community, we may say the wrong thing, but what’s important is that you apologize, be sincere and move on without making it a big deal.
Allies are so important in helping improve the workplace and the world. The reality is, closeted or not, LGBTQ+ people are already in the room with you, and we’re looking to know we’re in a safe place to be our true selves. Consider how you can show up as someone safe before you’re even asked to and help make your workplace more inclusive for everyone.
Learn more about PRIDE at NTT DATA.