Citi Marks Pride Month 2015 – Part 5
June 24, 2015 11:00 AM
In recognition of Pride Month, a time to reflect upon the civil rights history and contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, we will be sharing personal reflections and stories of progress from individuals, both LGBT and straight allies, as they examine what it means to bring their full self to work.
Alan Houmann, Head of Government Affairs, EMEA – London, UK
When I talk about my partner, I bring my full self to work.
Bringing my home life into the office, even in small, casual conversational ways, used to be stressful. Standard stuff, like chatting in the Monday morning coffee queue – "How was your weekend? What did you and your ...er, other half do?" – could feel intrusive even if you were out, and intimidating if you weren't. Years ago, I assumed that my personal decision to say “he” (not the more neutral "my partner" or "they") would be enough to change the entire dynamic of a conversation. But not once in my eight years at Citi have any of my colleagues paused, blinked, or looked startled.
For me, filtering and editing my words for all telltale clues about my life was exhausting and time consuming. And after a while I got tired of being tired.
Being yourself at work is simply easier. People don't need to know every detail of their colleagues' lives to get on with them and the job; but feeling that your colleagues mustn't know anything about your life can get in the way of real communication and trust.
My own internal debate is now whether I prefer the term “partner” or “husband.” People are used to hearing partner. Some still hesitate a little over the sound of husband. Yet, husband is the right word; we aren’t business partners! I suspect that repetition will make this word in particular seem less odd and easier for others to use. How long will it take to become a part of everyday conversation?
So to help folk get acclimated I'll just keep saying it when someone in the coffee queue asks what we did last weekend.
Jean-Marie Navetta, Director of Equality & Diversity Partnerships, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays [PFLAG] – Washington D.C.
When I speak fearlessly, I bring my whole self to work.
When I was first out at work – now more than 15 years ago – I spent a lot of time worrying about what was “allowable” to say. If I said “girlfriend” would someone panic? If I used the word “lesbian”, would someone be offended? Would using the most basic language that I have to describe who I am rattle the people around me? Anyone who has experienced this knows that this is no way to live.
The truth was (and still is) that hearing about who I am as a person who happens to be gay – and married! – may still be jarring to some people. However, the larger and more important truth is that each time I am honest and open I am making it easier for someone else to be honest and open. At that same time, I could be helping that slightly-rattled person realize that there’s no reason that we shouldn’t get to know each other and work through whatever barriers exist to seeing each other as valuable individuals who may become friends. In fact, we’re probably more alike than different.
Speaking fearlessly takes practice. I learned that the more I did it, the easier it became. There is no question that the first time was terrifying. Yet, with each conversation, it got easier. Even better, I found that people were incredibly supportive of my effort. The number of people who have responded by telling me about their LGBT kids, siblings, and friends is more than I can count. But best of all is finding all the people who responded by becoming my allies, especially when I was first out and needed to know that someone was there to support me.
Today, I know that this is a huge part of the reason for the kind of work I do at PFLAG National. The thought of helping to create more spaces where people can build their own brands of fearless realness is about the most exciting job I can think of. The only thing that is better is seeing how powerful people are when they take that first step. So start talking today, without fear, and see what happens.