When the Human Rights Campaign released a report highlighting that 46% of LGBTQ+ workers are closeted at work, it really reinforced the challenges that many people face on a day-to-day basis.
Workplace conversations with colleagues such as talking about home or family life, upcoming plans on a weekend, or who you will be travelling with on vacation, can all be terrifying for members of the LGBTQ+ community. All these seemingly innocent conversations present the risk that someone’s sexual or gender identity may be revealed.
Whilst I am now an openly ‘out’ and visible colleague at Zebra, this wasn’t always the case. I very much remember the feelings of low self-esteem, lack of enthusiasm for life and genuine exhaustion of being closeted at work, feeling the need to hide parts of my life from others.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community are often asked about their coming out experience, and often we remind people this isn’t a one-time thing. Every one of those conversations about home life, weekend plans or vacations with someone new for the first time, they are all examples of where an LGBTQ+ colleague is coming out. It is something that happens every day for LGBTQ+ people, and we are always subconsciously risk-assessing whether we are in a safe space or with safe people to come out to.
For me personally, and no doubt many others, the coming out journey is one of emotional ups and downs, self-discovery and self-acceptance. It can be both very traumatic and very liberating at the same time. What is clear is that it is a very brave and courageous thing to do, because despite all the progress that has been made with equality and inclusion, LGBTQ+ people still fear judgement, negative reactions or damage to their careers.
That is why today, on October 11, we celebrate National Coming Out Day in the U.S. and many other countries around the world. This day has only recently been recognised, with the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights as the tipping point. Thirty-four years later, it is a day that is still very important to the LGBTQ+ community. National Coming Out Day is about celebrating the bravery that it takes to come out, to show your truth and to be your authentic self!
Whilst National Coming Out Day recognises the ‘coming out’ experiences of the LGBTQ community, the desire to live authentically as your true self is something that everyone can relate to!
At Zebra, we are promoting that safe, inclusive and supportive work environment for all our colleagues, such that everyone may be authentic about themselves in the workplace and empowered to reach their full potential. This culture of inclusion and belonging is embedded across our organisation and supported by the work of some of our amazing inclusion networks here at Zebra.
Last month, our LGBTQ+ inclusion network, ZEAL (Zebra Equality Alliance), sponsored Reading Pride, a local Pride event in the UK, located close to our EMEA Headquarters in Bourne End. Reading Pride is a charity that works to promote freedom, acceptance, and equality for the community and their allies, where #LoveUnites. It was amazing to see so many of the Zebra herd come together, both from within the community and our allies, to celebrate diversity and equality! As an openly out Zebra employee, it felt wonderful to be supported and encouraged to show our pride and to be recognised as our true authentic selves.
Indeed, this National Coming Out Day, it is important that we all take the opportunity to support each other and to celebrate our true selves, whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or not! Join us in celebrating this day and recognising the importance of feeling safe to be your authentic self in the workplace.
But please don’t stop there. Extend the compassion and acceptance elevated today to those you meet every day of the year. And if you ever want guidance on how to be a better ally, this is a great resource.
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