DoubleDutch has provided me the opportunity to be my true self. We don’t just accept diversity, we embrace it as a business accelerator. For example, DoubleDutch has an internal alliance network of employees dedicated to promoting LGBTQ awareness in the workplace, that has gained traction throughout San Francisco. In fact, next week, we are hosting a Pride event to discuss being out in the workplace and share actionable tips for others to create an inclusive work environment. The support from my colleagues goes beyond the office – I received amazing support, encouragement and donations to my fundraising for the AIDS Lifecycle 545 mile bike ride benefitting people with HIV/AIDS in need of lifesaving services.
Of course this is not the only reason why I chose DoubleDutch. The company’s leadership, product, coworkers, and core values are unique, refreshing, and unmatched. But first, let me tell you how I got here…
Many years before 1997 I struggled internally about my sexuality and how people would perceive me being “different” once I started working in corporate America. In the summer of 1997, I met someone whom I was head over heels for and being the only son in a tight niche Midwest family, I was drumming up courage to tell my parents that I was gay due to feeling I had an obligation to be “straight”.
One fall night in October, I was preparing to tell my parents I’m gay. I remember this vividly: my sister was at her boyfriend’s (now husband) house, Mom was watching TV and Dad had just gone to bed. I grabbed the cordless phone and with a scared voice and watery knees said, “Mom there is something I need to tell you…”
She immediately responded with “Just don’t tell me you’re gay?” I replied, “I am.” She screamed hysterically, Dad came barreling downstairs and Mom proceeded to tell him my response. I was expecting him to be upset, but it was the complete opposite. While my dad was holding her in his arms, he said, “Honey, I’ve been trying to tell you for months that I suspected he was.” When my sister came home later that evening, we all sat in the kitchen and talked. Although I felt such a weight off my shoulders, Mom felt I gave her the weight. In response, my sister said one of the most caring things I had ever heard, “He may love someone of the same sex, but that doesn’t mean he is different. I love him for who he is.”
My mom cried for 9 days straight. It killed me inside to see the pain she was in. The news impacted the family for years, and occasionally does to this day.
But that evening also confirmed that hiding my identity at work was absolutely necessary. While I worked at some amazing companies over the next few years, I felt I was isolated and unable to perform to the level I knew I was capable of due to being uncomfortable in my own skin. At times I would hear derogatory whispers about other people and did not want to be associated with the gossip. For example, I thought about attending an ERG on multiple occasions but would chicken out at last minute in fear of being labeled.
Years passed and I slowly opened up to colleagues whom I had gotten to know better. Although I felt relieved, I was nervous this information would limit me taking on more responsibilities as a professional due to others’ predisposed opinions about being LGBTQ in a corporate setting.
As I grow older, I am more comfortable in my own skin at the workplace. Being out in the professional world was hard in the beginning. However, I no longer feel limited in my capability to make a bigger impact. For instance, I am able to build groundbreaking programs, be part of a team that is impacting company growth, and participate in initiatives that impact company culture.
If I can help other people that may have been or are in a similar situation, I can tell you this: don’t rush, be your true authentic self, and you will soar in your career. It’s a great feeling.
Join me at LGBTQ@WERK, Wednesday June 29th from 5-8PM to network and discuss LGBTQ in the workplace over cocktails. Registration and details here.
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