With last week’s coming out declaration by Apple CEO Tim Cook finally settling in, I’ve started to reanalyze what it means for me to be out at work. I work for one of the “big five” banks in Canada in a non-influential role and I wonder if my openness about my sexuality has done anything to further the acceptance of LGBT’s in the workplace or whether it’s had any positive or negative impact to my current career.
Now, I know that a lot of corporate entities push the pink envelope in every which way to benefit themselves; I’m speaking from my own experience in the corporate world. But how does that corporate strategy actually make it better for the employees in the workplace? Does that once annually- usually at Pride- message about diversity leave a lasting impression? Or does it simply prove that companies know when and how to turn a profit simply by putting two people of the same-sex in public ads?
After 8 years, these are the questions I ask myself. In my 9-5’er, I’m open about my sexuality; I’m certain that everyone in my building knows it. Some know it based on a perceived stereotype I might portray, such as the fact that I’m an okay dresser with a flare for colourful socks. And some might know it from my very own forms of activism, mainly my mini rainbow flag lodged in my P-Town mug on my desk. Or even my position as a voluntary board member on the LGBT employee resource group. Whatever the reason, my sexuality is well known. But has this done anything to make my experience in corporate Canada any easier? No. In fact, it’s made it much more difficult to figure out people’s angle in the workplace.. To understand whether decisions are based on fact or laced in homophobic ignorance.. Or if that “joke” about gays was really just that and not a deliberate attack on my character.
It’s a tough position to be in especially when added to all the other obstacles in the workplace, like being a gay visible minority. Wait. Is there even such a thing? Last I checked gays were considered a minority, so I suppose I’m a double minority? Oye! Confusing! But back to my conclusion, while at this point in my career I may have concerns about my sexuality hindering chances at career growth or other opportunities, I can’t see myself being any other way. My openness might not have the same impact of that of Tim Cook’s, but in my own little way I’m being the change that companies like my own need to see. If my willingness to self identify has at least sparked the discussion of positive change in any workplace, then it was much more worth it than it would be to hide away in the shadows and accept anything other than equal treatment.