By Kelvin Elvidge, Advanced Quality Engineer, Health and Safety
Your heart rate goes up. You begin to sweat and your hands get cold and clammy. Then you feel nauseous and strangely out of place. You’re in a staff meeting and your manager has just announced that there will be a holiday party Saturday night for all department employees and their significant others.
Your coworkers have heard you mention the name Kelly several times, but you’ve never explained that Kelly was a guy, not a girl. I guess it’s one of the advantages of having a significant other whose name can be either gender.
But now you have to figure out how to best handle this. Walking in and surprising everyone with the fact that you have a same-sex partner, just to see jaws drop, may not be the best scenario. Not going or making up a lame excuse to miss the party also doesn’t seem appropriate. So in your next 1-on-1 meeting with your manager, you let him know that Kelly is a guy, not a girl.
This is how coming out at work went for me. It was stressful and daunting at the time, but I’ve come a long way since then.
Today, I am president of Straight Allies and Gay Employees (SAGE), a Visteon employee resource group. And today, on National Coming Out Day, I’m not just “out,” but I’m educating my fellow employees on what it is to be LGBTQ in the workforce.
For the first time in Visteon history, we will be raising a pride flag outside our world headquarters in Van Buren Township, Michigan. By flying the pride flag, we’re going beyond an equal employment policy and showing employees that we have an inclusive and supportive workplace. We’re showing employees that they don’t have to hide their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression at work.
There is never a right way, right time or right place that works for everyone to come out at work. Every situation is unique, and you’re the best judge of your office dynamic. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that you deserve equal treatment and respect, no matter what.
When I arrived at that holiday party with Kelly, we fit right in. I consciously didn’t swear my boss to secrecy, figuring the news would travel from there. It did. Part of me felt as if I’d been forced to come out, but in some ways it was a relief that my coworkers knew.
When you do come out at work, it’s important that you’re surrounded by people who accept you for who you are and who will support you. That’s what I’ve found at Visteon.
Looking for a way to give back on National Coming Out Day, or any day for that matter?
Consider supporting the Ruth Ellis Center with you time or through a monetary donation. This organization strives to serve young LGBTQ persons in the Metro Detroit area. For more information, ruthelliscenter.org.