Though many more easily consider June the month for celebration among the LGBTQ+ community, in fact, there is also reason to celebrate more than just Halloween in October. This month is also LGBTQ History Month, which means we are in the middle of a 31-day opportunity to honor the achievements and influence of this community on the world.
It’s also a great time to learn more about the history of LGBTQ rights.
It’s 2022, but despite that, it’s still not illegal to discriminate against LGTBQ+ individuals in employment in 27 states. Identity/self-affirmation is so important, but there are actually still laws—among other widespread stigmas—that make it particularly difficult for some.
Coming Out at Work
Being yourself and being comfortable is not so easy, I know—especially in the workplace. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on my own life and I found there was one, resounding statement that kept repeating in my head:
“Am I being my authentic self?”
It’s a question I’ve actually struggled with for years.
To explain why, let me tell you a little about me. I was born 30 minutes before my twin brother. We came into the world 17 years to the day after the Stonewall riots—the historic protests that took place in NYC in June 1969 and eventually became why we celebrate Pride Month in June. Being a twin is a unique and amazing life experience—we have an indescribable bond no one else could possibly understand.
But growing up, that bond did also present a unique challenge for me. At times, I suffered from a self-identity crisis, struggling to define who I was outside of this biological pair. Such was the impact that I also had trouble coming out—and then later in being okay with who I am at work.
The process of starting to get comfortable with “who Chris is” as an individual—and as a gay man—jumpstarted in college. My twin attended a different university than I did, and so I was left to find my way on my own. I made some progress, but after graduate school, I started working for a Big 4 accounting firm and I kept my authentic self a secret for the first six months.
Not only was I worried about my coworkers’ perspectives and how they would react to who I am, but I also personally wasn’t fully comfortable living authentically. So, I kept my personal life and relationships to myself and didn’t share anything with my colleagues. Back then, I was still so uneasy that I had an anxiety attack during a local “Out and Equal” happy hour because a team member from my same service line—who was also gay—attended.
I did eventually come out to my coworkers, but not until I was asked directly at the firm holiday party. By then, it had already been six months—six months of not developing solid work relationships, of worrying about not disclosing personal information, of not being my authentic self.
Schellman's Inclusive Culture
But when I moved to Schellman, my experience was different.
Schellman’s culture fosters an inclusive environment and the firm has created specialized employee resource groups that support and celebrate the diverse qualities of everyone within the firm. There’s an active commitment here, and it’s no more evident than what was said in a “Friday with the CEO” video that went out earlier this year.
Our leader, Avani Desai, said:
“June may be Pride Month, but we as a firm need to represent and support the LGTBQ+ community all year long.”
That kind of support, plus the work done by these resource groups, goes a long way to make everyone feel more comfortable. Including me.
I started working at Schellman in August 2021, and from the beginning, I didn’t hide who I was. I think my openness has also allowed people to have greater respect for me while also allowing me to trust my coworkers. Thanks to this kind of work environment, I can confidently answer that yes, I am being my authentic self while working at Schellman.
Authenticity as a Goal
But I don’t think that authenticity is only siloed to just those of us who identify as LGTBQ+. The same kind of apprehension about your identity can also crop up when you transition into a new role or how you encounter or handle certain difficult situations.
That’s why I want to challenge everyone to do some introspection. I may be writing this from the specific perspective of someone who is LGBTQ+, but everyone often has crises of identity. Everyone should look inward and determine whether you are working as your authentic self and—if you are—how that benefits you and your workplace.
This month is for celebrating the accomplishments reached thus far and the work we still have to achieve for LGTBQ+, but confidence in yourself is for everyone. I encourage you to celebrate by being personally open and vocal about your experience as an ally or member of the LGBTQ+ community. That show of support will continue to allow all of us to live authentically.
About the AuthorMore Content by Chris Fisher