Affirmation in the Workplace
September 27, 2019
As a young adult working at a YMCA in a Southern California suburb, I never thought that being out in the workplace was safe. I had come out to my friends, my family and most importantly myself. But, I wondered all the time whether my coworkers knew, and if they did, would say anything to my boss? More seriously, would the clientele think differently of me because I worked with children? Conservative parents are notorious for having perverse thoughts about queer-identified people in the childcare industry. Needless to say, I lived in fear of being fired and ousted by my community for being queer and proud at work. So, I vowed never to talk about my identity at work.
As a new staff member at NETWORK, I found that being out at work is not just accepted, it’s celebrated. I don’t know how I lived in the shadows (or in the closet) for so long because of how comfortable I am now. This organization proudly affirms me, my identity, and who I love. As I write, however, I realize how big of a privilege it is to even be able to write this. In little under a month, the Supreme Court will hear a case to decide the constitutionality of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia will be heard on October 8, 2019. This case is not a question of whether the law permits discrimination, it is a question about respecting human dignity. As individuals, we have the right to be ourselves one hundred percent of the time — this includes identifying as LGBTQ+ all the time. I am scared, though. What if our human dignity is not protected under the law? What if my queer siblings and I cannot live in peace without the fear of discrimination? We cannot let the courts, nor any administration revoke the rights that we have been working to gain for so long. I began identifying myself as queer in the workplace because I realized that Marsha P. Johnson did not sacrifice her life for me to be scared.
A verdict will be announced soon, and we cannot and will not be afraid of a negative outcome. Queer is invincible; it is resilient, and we will overcome just as we have many times before. Perry v. Hollingsworth was the first time the Supreme Court overturned a state decision to put a ban on marriage equality. This case proved that we can make progress, but we must unite as a coalition of citizens loving and affirming those affected while being dedicated to social justice efforts.
Honestly, I never thought a faith-based organization would be the place I can present myself in such an authentic way. NETWORK proudly affirms the dignity of all people and the reality that LGBTQ+ people like myself are in need of protection under the law and within the social sphere. When I walk into my workplace, I am queer. When I am working, I am queer. When I am advocating for the rights of others, I am queer. There is no political force nor law that will bar me from being myself, unapologetically.