This blog is part of Gainsight’s celebration of Pride month and all the LGBT+ members of our community.
I came out to my fraternity simply by showing up to our reunion.
I couldn’t bring myself to broach the topic in a direct conversation. You may have had a similar experience when you need to say something that could be hard to hear. You’re taking that breath just before you speak, and it still doesn’t feel sure if you will. In my case, I wanted to share something about myself that, terrifyingly, could revile these people. So I needed to make it easy on myself, and it’s much easier to say, “This is my boyfriend, Matt.”
I hadn’t thought through what might happen next. It felt unknowable. I also felt that I could roll those dice, because I would go back to my life in a different city at the end of the weekend, regardless of what happened. And I knew that I couldn’t avoid the topic anymore. Every day in college, I filtered what I could say to whom. It was exhausting, and you become extremely practiced at being ashamed of who you are. I had put that lifestyle behind me since graduating. It was ready to be free of the walls around this last bastion of my closeted life.
Taking the Leap
So, with my stomach in knots and my heart in my throat, not a single one of my fraternity brothers batted an eye when I introduced Matt. My confession was apparently not particularly astonishing. Each person who met him was kind, warm, and open. As for me, they smoothly shifted into old patterns of eagerly embroiling me in shenanigans. (It was after Matt had gone to bed that someone got whacked in the face by an errant golf swing in a basement hallway.)
That night, the members of my fraternity proved that our bonds could not be broken by me being gay… in fact, they could be strengthened. I’m not sure that I expected that.
Pride as a Professional
Matt (now my husband) and I have been together for 17 years, and I still lean on the lessons of that reunion every week at work. It was my greatest education in how to come out in an uncontrolled environment. I meet new people in the worlds of Customer Success and Community Management on a weekly basis. Most of these conversations have a moment where I come out in the same old way — “blah blah my husband blah blah.” Each of those sentences still feels like me staking a claim, still feels like a small gamble, and still begins with that same breath and a thought of “Here we go.”
So why do I manufacture those moments again and again? I could avoid the whole situation by saying, “We went out to dinner this weekend,” when chatting with someone new. Instead, I’ll consciously say, “My husband and I…”
I do it because Straight is still the default. And frankly, I’m still protesting against all the effort I put into playing Straight for so many years. My professional career gives me a stage every day to put a small declaration into the world that being who I am is not repellant.
There are so many additional benefits to being out, like making others feel welcome and helping to normalize it for colleagues. Especially when those colleagues may not interact with—or even see—LGBT+ individuals in their personal lives. I’m grateful that my work provides a supportive environment for me to do something I never could before. Because, if I’m honest with you and with myself, I do it for me. I do it for the younger man who’s still inside me, bursting to shout that he’s done holding back.
Reunion 2009, 2 a.m.
After Matt went to bed. Before golf.