Legal executive search firm Major, Lindsey and Africa's Outlaws LGBTQ employee resource group (ERG) hosted a virtual panel Oct. 29. The event focused on how LGBTQ professionals have navigated their careers and personal lives as their authentic selves.
Major, Lindsey and Africa Managing Director Rebecca K. Glatzer was the event moderator. Panelists included CNA Aging Services Underwriting Consultant Roxanne Meyer, JP Morgan Chase Information Security Manager Vice President Mark D. Joyce and Major Lindsey and Africa Managing Director Andrew Teig.
Glatzer introduced the panel and asked them to tell their coming-out stories.
Joyce said his coming out experience was in two phases. At first, Joyce told his close friends and some co-workers that he was gay while in his 20s and then later to his family in his mid-30s. He said that his father did not speak to him for a couple of years however his mother and sister accepted him right away. Joyce added that it was due to his grandmother's death and subsequent funeral that caused his father to eventually "come around to a point."
Meyer, 27, said she came out as a lesbian when she was 14 to everyone in her life except for her grandfather who said at a family dinner when she was 12 that "gay people are of a different race" in a negative way. Her grandfather's comments shook her because their family is Jewish so she could not understand why he felt this way about another persecuted group of people.
"With LGBTQ people you will never forget what people say before they realize you are gay," said Meyer. "I never came out to him."
Meyer said that recently she came to understand that she is also demisexual which means she does not experience any superficial attraction to people. Her attraction has to be with someone she has an emotional connection to which means "I have never had a celebrity crush."
Teig said the first time he met any other gay people was in college and it was during that time he told his parents he was gay while at home for the fall Jewish holidays. He said their first reaction was that he was going to die of AIDS and it led to a huge fight and them not speaking to each other for two months. This changed, Teig said, when he went home for Thanksgiving and they started to see a family therapist and now he is closer to his parents than ever before.
In terms of the workplace, Joyce said coming out early in his career was confined to specific co-workers and that "you have to come out on your own schedule to the people around you and the wider world."
For Meyer, coming out at an early age was her way of "wanting to live my life and also be my authentic self."
Teig said that coming out as a teenager was unheard of for him and he is in his 30's. He added that today more youth are coming out than ever before and that Meyer is a testament to that phenomenon.
The conversation then turned to how each panelist has navigated the workplace as out LGBTQ people.
Meyer said when she started at CNA five years ago she did not explicitly say she was a lesbian in the beginning but over time that changed. She added that she has to watch what she wears to certain meetings because of people's perceptions of her. Meyer said conversely she will not hide that she is involved with Pride at CNA but she does not bring it up on her own.
Teig said that no one teaches law school students how to come out so he never volunteered anything about his personal life except for a few associates. It was not until Teig came to Major, Lindsey and Africa and found that there was an LGBTQ ERG that he felt he could be his authentic self at work.
For Joyce, he never volunteered any personal information about himself but his roommate did which hurt him. After that, Joyce decided he had to control his narrative and this included looking for allies which led to a much better existence for him. When Joyce joined JP Morgan it was a different world so it was easier to be out at work. He also joined the LGBTQ business resource group (BRG) at JP Morgan.
Other topics covered included how to be an ally, how to navigate LGBTQ-focused jobs and outreach efforts showing up on ones resume, gendered workplace dress code rules and how to eliminate them, how the Black Lives Matter movement is also changing the conversation about inclusion efforts and the need to hire more LGBTQ and especially trans and gender nonconforming people in all workplaces.