Every step of coming out of the closet, even when you are already out, has an element of fear. Today in the CEOs staff meeting the head of Human Resources announced the formation of Resource or Affinity groups at our company, starting with LGBT and Veterans this year, followed by others next year. She also announced that I would be the executive sponsor for the LGBT group. Even though I had come out to everyone at the meeting, I was surprised by how nervous and scared I was. It felt like stepping on the world stage and being very out and very public.
The week leading up to the announcement, which I knew was coming, I kept thinking about what I would say when the resource groups were announced. I wanted to make a meaningful statement about what an LGBT group would mean to the company. But in truth, I really wasn’t sure about the value of resource groups. While it felt personally empowering to be involved with the resource group, I wondered if people step out of the shadows, in a company that doesn’t talk about diversity, and identify themselves as LGBTQ? And what did I have to say, as someone who’s only recently come out, that would be meaningful? In the end, I only said that I thought it was a very important step for the company.
So why am I scared? I’ve lived my adult life with my homosexuality tightly compartmentalized in a private corner of my brain, speaking of it to no one. While I’ve come a very long way the past three years, and since March have come out to over 25 people at work, one by one, this, as Elaine Stritch would say, ‘is big-time stuff’.
Elaine Stritch in her one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, said speaking about going on the stage: “It’s scary up there. You’re scared. You drink. You aren’t scared. What is the problem?” My drug of choice has never been alcohol or illegal drugs, but food, but that’s another subject. Years ago I would gorge myself with food to deaden emotion. My favorite, eating a box of Wheat Thins in a sitting. That was 35 years ago, and I don’t use food in that way today. I’ve gotten good at allowing myself to be scared and taking the risk anyway. I know how to move through the fear to the other side of the fear, which is happiness and empowerment.
And the truth is even though I’m scared, I’m also excited too. There’s something so tremendously liberating about how empowering coming out has been for my life. But each step of the way, it feels like I’m coming out for the first time.