Closets are for clothes, even at the office

Today is National Coming Out Day. Last year I blogged about the humorous story of coming out to some of my IBM coworkers shortly after I came out to myself. This year I wanted to talk about being out in the workplace.

I’m very fortunate to work in the tech industry which is one of the most accepting industries of LGBT individuals. Virtually all of the major tech employers have LGBT anti-discrimination policies and domestic partner benefits. Most of them have LGBT diversity groups as well. Many of them also support LGBT organizations like HRC and PFLAG.

IBM is a global leader in this field — they score 100 on the HRC Corporate Equality Index. EMC, as an entity, isn’t that far behind — they score 95. Granted, when I accepted the job at Isilon, they weren’t yet EMC.

Being out at the office is very important to me so I was up-front with HR and my hiring manager when talking about the offer to come work at Isilon. Because I was married, domestic partner benefits were very important to me and was an easy way to “break the ice” about the topic. I was also sure to poll my friends who already worked there (Zach, Matt, and Adam) to see if they felt it was an inclusive work environment, and they thought it was. As I hoped, no one has batted an eye with it comes up in conversation. Before B and I separated, I brought him to the office to give him a tour and introduced him to my coworkers as my husband. Together he and I attended the company holiday party and felt like we fit right in (or at least we fit right in as someone who had only worked there for 4 weeks could fit right in). Had I gotten an inkling that Isilon would not have been an accepting place to work, I wouldn’t have taken the job. Period.

Why is it important to be out at the office? Because it’s exhausting to filter everything you say. Simple questions like “what did you do this weekend” can turn into a mental minefield as you evaluate what the person knows about you and what you want to reveal. John Martin’s Will and Ned’s Excellent Adventure poster sums it up nicely.

I don’t wear my pink boa to the office (and truthfully I don’t own one) but I’d have no problems doing so at Isilon should I be so inclined.