Invest with Pride : The Journey
“Love, Simon” a progressive romcom that tackles the hard truth of coming to terms with who you are, has a scene that asks the question, “Why is straight the default?”
Thinking back on the scene, I had to question, why do I always have to “Come Out” in every social aspect in my life? The stress of coming out is so parasitic that it just eats away at you until you finally purge. I harbored the feeling of coming out to my family. I got the courage to tell them, and unfortunately they responded by saying it was a “lifestyle.” I was concerned that I may carry their opinion of my “lifestyle” with me to SEP, ultimately affecting my relationships with my peers at SEP.
“There are so many fears with coming out at work. Will people treat me differently? Will they even want to work with me?”
Even though I was so excited to start my career as a graphic designer at SEP, these fears of judgment and rejection lingered in the back of my head. Could I be myself around my new peers?
There are so many fears with coming out at work. Will people treat me differently? Will they even want to work with me? It became so exhausting to think about. Each day I felt like I had to hide who I was. I realized this behavior wouldn’t be fair to SEP, but also wouldn’t be fair to me.
I was constantly being conscious of what I said, how I acted, and even what I wore. The slightest hiccup could reveal who I was on the inside, and that petrified me. I even avoided being friends with coworkers on social media because they could find out. The facade had me so uneasy, that I had enough. I reached my boiling point, and I just had to tell someone.
SEP has a program for new hires where you are paired with a guide. The goal is to help new hires get acclimated with SEP and the company culture (I can vouch that this program is very helpful and necessary). A guide could also be someone you talk with about anything, and that’s just what I did. Noelle was one of those people I just instantly clicked and felt safe with. But at each meeting, I felt this urge to tell her about my sexuality. I wanted to tell her because it was such an important part about me and because I naturally told her everything else.
For so long I felt like I was constantly holding my breath concerning my sexuality to everyone I worked with. It wasn’t healthy so I finally told Noelle. I remember during the whole conversation I was quite nervous, palms sweaty, could barely talk in complete sentences and my eyes started to swell with tears. I still don’t know why I was scared to take the leap, but I think the fear of the unknown got the best of me. I took that leap and although terrifying, it was so exhilarating at the same time. After that one moment of acceptance, I just naturally told colleagues I work with who I consider confidants, and my connections with them grew so much because I could be myself. I even noticed I grew as a designer, being freed from that fear that haunted me before allowed my confidence and creativity to grow and cultivate.
As pride month rolled around I started noticing well-known companies having LGBTQ+/ally groups within their organization. I started to think something like that would be great at SEP. Companies like Eli Lilly, HubSpot, Cummins, Salesforce, and others celebrated their employees who are in the LGBTQ+ community. I wondered if I could be celebrated at SEP too. After about 2 years working at SEP, I couldn’t believe I didn’t know where my company stood on this particular social issue. I started to think about how I felt when I first started, and I didn’t want anyone else to feel that way…so I thought it was time for me to do something about it.
I often questioned whether I was the person who could make this happen. I was still new(er) than most people at SEP and I was very early in my career. How could I start my own group?
I brought the idea up to my guide, and she encouraged me to go for it (I knew she’d say that!) Naturally, I started to panic. Where do I start? I turned to my SEPeers to brainstorm ideas, and then Invest with Pride was born. The inspiration for the name comes from something our President (and soon-to-be) CEO, Raman says we should “get people here, keep people here, and invest in our community”.
It’s been a crazy ride, but it’s coming together. Before starting the group I reached out to a few people for advice and even got involved with Pride In Tech (https://twitter.com/PrideINTech) here in Indy. We have amazing support from SEP, and I have a great team of people helping. Diversity and inclusion is very important at SEP, and I hope with our creation of Invest with Pride we can motivate others to start their own employee resource group.
Invest with Pride aims to encourage SEPeers to be their authentic selves by establishing an inviting and inclusive space. Our LGBTQ members and allies will commit to inspire one another and build better community ties through awareness and engagement.