October 3rd, 2019 was the day I officially "came out of the closet" as bisexual.
I remember writing a Facebook post, sharing it, and immediately turning off my phone for the next two hours since I didn't want to take it back or read any reactions that may have been posted.
To my shock, when I looked at the post hours later, there was not a single negative reaction to my coming out. Even my most religious relatives were giving their full support – and even apologizing that I never felt like I could be my genuine self around them. What began as a night of fear and worry turned into one of the best nights of my entire life.
But then I realized a new problem stood in front of me: how would this "genuine self" carry over to the workplace?
How could I bring my sexuality up in conversation with colleagues? Was there a way I could bring it up casually? How much was too much?
This is just a sampling of the questions that swirled in my head for hours upon hours. I didn't want to isolate myself, but at the same time I wanted my genuine self to be seen and recognized.
At the beginning, this seemed like a conundrum that would be impossible to solve. In many ways it felt like I was doomed to live out the inevitable questions that came when others learned of my Mexican ethnicity. Questions that were meant as a way to make me feel welcome, but only further isolated me. After all, why else would someone just randomly ask another person how much Spanish they spoke?
However, I quickly realized the most important piece of the puzzle when it came to not only being an LGBTQ+ member at a company but allyship in general: the people.
A thousand DEI initiatives can be implemented but it all comes down to the manner and way in which others treat you that create the culture and vibe that can make an employee feel either welcome or uncomfortable to be themselves, and my colleagues are a shining example of allyship each and every day.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I feel a responsibility to make myself seen, especially since I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where it is safe for me to come out and be visible. Unfortunately not everyone has that right, so I feel a sense of responsibility to do my part in increasing visibility for queer individuals.
For folks seeking to be allies to the queer community for Pride Month and beyond (both in the workplace and outside of it), here are some key ways you can be a helping hand:
1. Be curious, not judgmental...but also do your own research. This line made popular by Ted Lasso doubles as a great lesson for allyship! Of course we don't expect allies to know all the answers (I still don't!) so don't be afraid to ask about what you don't know in a respectful manner. Obviously do this within reason (especially since we have Google) but asking with curiosity instead of judging without knowing goes a long way!
2. Don't make assumptions. There are plenty of unfortunate stereotypes that exist about various sexualities. Don't fall for them! Every queer person is made differently so never feel like just because you know one thing about someone, you know their whole story.
3. Recognize your privilege. I'll be the first to admit: this is NOT an easy thing to do. Many of us view recognizing our privilege as a bad thing but in my opinion it is a normal and healthy part of having humility. It is totally possible (and important) to recognize your privilege and use it for good! Knowing the powers you hold in society can mean a whole world of difference for creating change in an environment or system.
4. Take your allyship into the real world. This one is arguably the most important step there is but it is also the toughest. It is one thing to share something to your Instagram story but it is a whole other thing to present yourself as an ally in real life. Obviously, this is much easier said than done for others. But even taking smaller steps to show up for the community in-person can help to turn the tide.
Whether you're an ally, out and proud, or still figuring yourself out, know that Pride Month is all about celebrating love and acceptance! Hopefully these tips help and I hope everyone has a great rest of Pride!