I’ve never been a public figure. In fact, when I began to work after college, I remember consciously making the decision, because of my homosexuality, to keep a low profile in the world. I knew that being gay did not lend itself to many white-collar professions at the time. And to borrow a line from Panti’s Nobel Call at the Abbey Theatre, I was afraid the gay would show. So I did my best to keep the gay hidden by hiding myself.
Even though the gay part of me remained hidden, to my surprise, in job after job, I continued to experience professional success and regular growth. So fast forward 30 years from when I first entered the workforce after graduate school and three years ago I found myself in a very senior position in a mid-sized corporation. It was only two months before I started my current job that I came back out to my wife after 20 years of not discussing my sexual identity, and began a very painful few years. I made the decision to take on a very large job with a lot of responsibility and stress just as my marriage was imploding and I was painfully wrestling with leaving my marriage. As I’ve written, I separated from my wife about a year ago, and it’s been a fantastic year of tremendous positive growth and change.
In March of this year, I came out at work. Over the past four months, I’ve told about 25 people my story through individual meetings. Coming out at work is really the beginning, after being in the workforce for 30 years, that my professional self is being integrated with my internal self, and it’s had some positive consequences. I’ve begun to feel new ease at work about who I am as a person. There’s nothing to hide anymore! I no longer feel that I have to present myself in an all business all the time the formal way that I had for so many years. I am joking more at work; feeling more at ease; and have a new, happier sense of myself in the workplace.
As I’ve written in other posts, my company is forming an LGBT resource or affinity group, along with other resource groups. I have agreed to be the executive sponsor of the LGBT group. I see the role of the LGBT resource group executive sponsor as a natural next step in my coming out and my personal growth. But this next step comes with lots of fear after a life spent in the shadows. So the only thing I know how to do is to step into the leadership role, take action, plan, and move the group forward. It keeps my fears at bay and is empowering at the same time. Every time I have a conversation with a peer or employee about the LGBT resource group I feel I’m taking another step in going public. And I’m not, repeat NOT, letting my fears get in the way.
While stepping out into the public spotlight always has pitfalls, I think I’m well prepared for what may come. I want to have a larger role in the LGBT community and I feel that I need to make up for the lost time. I want to give back to the LGBT community and help the next generation of gay youth grow and develop. So I’m in a rush. I want it all to happen now. And I’m pushing hard. I’m pushing our HR department to move faster. I’m pushing my peers for support and help as we organize the resource groups. And I’m determined to launch the LGBT resource group in the Fall of 2014.
So I guess I’m on the cusp of being a public figure with a topic that has a lot of personal meaning for me and which I continue to grow and learn about. I’m excited. I’m scared. But I’m going forward fast and furious.