For the past three years I’ve blogged about being out at my employer on National Coming Out Day and this year is no different. What is different this year is that I want to focus on on the powerful impact that straight allies have when they, too, come out of the closet as allies.
For LGBT folks there is a high cost to not being out at the office1 and straight allies make coming out, and being out, that much easier. Allies create a safe place where you can talk about your life without filtering and make being your authentic self at work effortless.
But they, too, have to come out of the closet at work. In companies and areas of the country where LGBT folks aren’t openly accepted, our allies face risks when they show their support. Depending on the employer, it’s possible that being an openly straight-ally could be a career limiting move.
My current employer, EMC Isilon is very gay friendly and creates an inclusive workplace. Many of my coworkers go above and beyond that and are open supporters of LGBT equality both inside and out of the company. I never have a question of being accepted and valued, and that’s due in no small part to all of the straight allies.
Straight allies: thank you for being “out” at work. You help create a safe place for everyone to be themselves.
1 I always think of this wonderful poster created by my good friend John Martin when this topic comes up. I intend to print it out and post it in my cube. I’ve no doubts that John would love to see you do the same.
4 thoughts on “This National Coming Out Day, thank a straight ally”
And I’d be honored if anyone did!
What does being out as an ally look like? Because honestly I really don’t care what my co-workers sexual orientation is (though it’s occasionally nice to know the correct pronouns to use); I would rather think about what kind of lunch we should get. Or maybe even something work-related.
There’s a world of difference between being simply a friend, and being an ally. An ally is someone who has your back. Someone who stands up for you. Someone who *acts* to help you out, individually or systemically or both, instead of being passively not-a-bigot.
I never understood why majority folks think the best thing they can say is “I don’t care what ____ you are.” Frankly, I need people who care, in the sense of caring about me and caring for me. As a gay man, I face a fair bit of shit in this world, and you not hating me isn’t going to magically make anyone else’s hatred go away.
If you’re actively helping to make the world a little less oppressive for someone else, in whatever way you go about that, you’re an ally.
Knowing the right pronoun to use, and not caring what a co-worker’s sexual orientation is (in the sense that it isn’t relevant, not because you don’t care about them as a whole person.) is part of being an ally.
But another part of being an ally is letting folks know that you’re happy with who they are, and support them in that.
Its not about GLBT discrimination specifically, but this video is what allies should strive to achieve: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf9QBnPK6Yg (Its what I strive to achieve for others who are discriminated against.) It takes resolve to take action before the incident where it is necessary.