As a working professional who has only recently come out, I've often
given consideration to how my life has changed and how people's
perceptions of me may have shifted both professionally and personally.
When I disclosed my sexuality to my parents their only concern was
that my life would now be more difficult than it otherwise would have
been. I could understand their perspective; being different would
always make life a little harder, I thought. How would my friendships
be affected? Would this make me less promotable?
I looked at both of them, right into their worried eyes, and told
them, "Mum, Dad, everything will be OK". They seemed
comforted by my confident demeanor. While I wanted to show them a
strong front - doubt plagued me.
Their worry was not unfounded.
A friend once told me that 'coming out', or a self-disclosure of
one’s sexuality does not free a person from their oppression, but it
does however free one from shame and social stigma. 'You beauty!', I
thought. Coming out is the solution to all my problems. Ha! Little did
I realise that I was signing up for a journey that would take me
through more ups and downs than the millennium force roller coaster at
full speed. What I uncovered, was the deep shame that results from
growing up in a world where I learnt explicitly that who I am as a
person is unacceptable, perhaps even unlovable. The most interesting
thing is that these feelings developed in my childhood quite
unintentionally, having been raised in a loving and nurturing family.
My parents were right. Since coming out, I sadly have become used to
experiencing discrimination in daily life. During the marriage
equality debate, this discrimination increased markedly, and because I
live in another state to my family, one of my only safe spaces I could
turn to, to be truly free from discrimination, was work. Even so,
during my daily commute I witnessed signs with terrible slogans
written on them and was on the receiving end of revolting slurs.
Much like many other out men, this shame pushes us at times to
overcompensate; to try to earn love and acceptance by being more:
better, talented, entertaining, flamboyant, artistic, worldly - in
short, to become something I believe will make me more acceptable and
more loved. This concept may be familiar to some of you, as Alan Downs
speaks about this journey of growing up in a straight man's world in
The Velvet Rage.
The next phase of my life as an out man, was to come to terms with
myself as a person, and in doing so, create a culture around me of
friends, family and work which supports this journey. While life
throws constant challenges towards us, 4 years later I feel this is a
trial I have overcome.
So what does Pride mean to me now? Firstly, it is the celebration of
all our community has achieved. From lifesaving medications for
victims of AIDS, to decriminalising homosexuality, to the ability to
marry the one we love; these are hard fought victories from which many
still bear scars.
Secondly, it is recognising the work that still needs to be done,
both here in Australia and around the world. For example, it deeply
saddens me to read that LGBTIQ rights in the workplace are still being
debated in America, as we speak.
I am however, extremely fortunate to work at a company like AbbVie,
that not just tolerates diverse sexual orientations and expressions,
but actively celebrates them. This of course forms part of our broader
ED&I principles, where everyone is treated equally, with dignity
and respect. Creating a culture where one can bring their whole self
to work isn’t just a feel good venture, it makes good business sense.
It promotes diversity of thought and inclusion, which creates a safe
and trusting environment, and, in turn, allows employees to contribute
more broadly and feel comfortable to constructively challenge the
AbbVie's active 'coming out' to support marriage equality is a true
celebration of pride, and makes this operating principle come alive
through real action. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge
AbbVie as a community pivotal in my journey of self-acceptance.
While positive; my experience at AbbVie is not the norm. In
Australia up to one-fifth of LGBTIQ people have experienced
discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when
applying for jobs. Moreover, over half of LGBTIQ have experienced
offensive jokes based on their sexual orientation. It's no wonder why
LGBTIQ people are four times more likely to suffer from depression
than their straight counterparts.
This is why this post, and our visibility is important. So, having
read this far I'd like to end on my call to action for you, an ally.
Especially with recent events and the goings on of the world; as with
all forms of discrimination, it must be called out whenever and
wherever we hear it. We cannot underestimate the power of standing up
for a LGBTIQ colleague in the face of discrimination. With even what
may be to you a small behaviour change, you contribute a large part to
creating a safe space for all.
I can speak from personal experience that this kind of culture gives
me the confidence to speak to my parents on the phone the next time
they call and say, "Mum, Dad, everything will be OK", and
this time really mean it.