From a comfortable seat on an American Airlines flight (home from Dallas Texas) I worked for the last two hours on my current work assignment when, in a moment, my mind drifted and I was backspacing out a sentence about my experiences at Out & Equal from my work. I suddenly found myself opening a new word document and this article was born.
I have been in Dallas since Monday October 24th for a conference – Out & Equal. In my work for HSBC Bank I am exposed to people from all different backgrounds, sexual orientations, and so on. We participate in employee resource groups (ERG) that allow our Lesbian Gay Bi and Transgendered staff to find comfort and rally together for change. The HSBC Pride Network is a club that our employees can find on the intranet site and a network of people that provide unified support for our employees while we challenge management to place value on workplace equality and the cost of not allowing us to be our full and authentic selves at work. I lead the Western Canada Chapter of the Pride Network (Our ERG) as such I was invited by my counterpart US ERGs to join them for the LGBT summit this year.
When I first heard about it I was impressed that HSBC was involved but questioned what more I could learn about being gay, hello –I’m gggggaaaayyy! Furthermore I questioned if I needed to be any more of a gay advocate than I already was. As I return home today I am humbled as I reflect on the courage and incredible talent that our community possesses. I have tears welling up as I think back to the moments when either a speaker or participant in any one of the classes or plenaries moved me to tears with their courage and stories of strength, pain, anger, tolerance, exclusion, beauty, power, and growth. Our work is not done people. I see now that I cannot stop being an advocate and telling my story just because I am in a good place right now. I cannot stop until every person I know can say the words transgender, gay, lesbian and bi without fear. I’m not just talking about people who identify with one of those titles, I’m talking about everyone. If your straight friends, family, or even you can’t use these words then you are afraid. Our work is not done. Read out load, really say it, scream it: gay, gay, gay;lesbian, leabian, lesbian; transgender, transgender, transgender; bi, bi, bi (N’sync pun intended).
The week was not all serious nor could you ever expect that from a community as vibrant as ours. There were breakfast brunch and dinners; nights out on the town, and plenty of new friends. In fact, I learned as much from the people I met as I did from the organized courses (2 per day). If I met you this past week, thank you for sharing your stories and allowing me to grow from your experiences.
1st Timer Lessons:
- Take business cards. If you don’t have them get them – Everyone is passing them around like candy
- Go early. Take the first flight you can on Monday. Most people arrive in the afternoon even though the event doesn’t really kick off until Tuesday morning.
- Stop at a supermarket and grab some snack food. The program is intense and there isn’t a lot of time between events.
- Meet as many people as you can. Ask them where they’re from and about their story. Learn.
Next year’s Out & Equal will be in Baltimore –hopefully I’ll see you there!
I will let you know, with confidence, that if you’re looking for a job or going shopping remember these companies who “get us” and want to employ a workforce that includes OUT and accepted Transgender, Bi, Gay, and Lesbian persons. I am impressed by how responsible North American firms are truly embracing our community through their employees and customers, many bringing their chiefs and executive leaders.
I challenge you to come forth with your talent, creativity and decide to work with your firm’s management if you don’t have the equality and comfort to be your full and authentic self at work. I challenge you to call upon Out & Equal to help build a foundation that will support the next person hired, as they will not have to face discrimination.
Thank you to all of the companies listed below for valuing diversity and for investing in such an amazing organization. Please take this opportunity, if you haven’t already, to take action and encourage officials to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Me posing with Margaret Cho.