In 2013, I came out to my brother. Sitting down at dinner, knowing whole-heartedly that he would fully accept me and nothing with our relationship would change, I was still scared. Each year on October 11, National Coming Out Day, I reflect on that first coming out experience and what I truly feared.
Even though I knew I was safe, I also knew that coming out to him was just the start of coming out every single day for the rest of my life. It was the start of facing discrimination and judgment both in day-to-day life and professionally. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly.
Coincidently, my brother came out to me at that very same dinner which certainly took some weight and anxiety off my shoulders. We came out to our family, together later that week and we were welcomed with love, acceptance, and support. The unconditional support I received is not normal, but my anxiety around the process was.
I am grateful and quite lucky that my initial coming out process to my family was, for lack of a better term, easy. Like many others I don’t experience that same ease everywhere I go. I have been asked to leave restaurants, turned away from stores, spat on multiple times, and even asked to leave mass during service. I am regularly questioned when entering or leaving a women’s public restroom.
Michele Bodda, our executive co-sponsor of Experian’s Pride employee resource group, said it perfectly in her message two years ago, “The difficulty some of our LGBT+ colleagues face making daily decisions about where they can be fully present aren’t merely insecurities. They are the realities of being LGBT+.”
Let that sink in. Coming out is not a one and done experience, it is something we do over and over throughout our lives. That reality impacts people in different ways, and it’s why acknowledging National Coming Out Day means so much to me – why it means so much to many others. I feel particularly fortunate to work for a company that celebrates and recognizes our uniqueness. I know many people at Experian, like myself, who feel empowered and supported to bring their whole self to work and that reality is assuring, professionally and personally.
I have been told I am brave for bringing forth my full authentic self each day. During a time of such global anxiety, uncertainty, and open expressions of intolerance and hatred, being a voice of empowerment, representation, and visibility for folks who do not feel comfortable being out is more important than ever. I’m willing to be a voice so others know they are not alone.
Be brave with me. And if you’re not ready, I understand. I’m here for you when you are.