In honor of National Coming Out Day: Read Dane Hites’ Story
I was raised in a very conservative home and was taught the religious tropes that are always shared when it comes to homosexuality. And for many years, I believed them. When I was about 6 years old, I saw a boy on TV and told my mom he was cute. She said boys don’t say that, and I felt a little twinge of guilt.
As I grew up, I embraced the religious lessons I was taught including a strong desire to give back to people and call out injustices everywhere. I sang in church choir, I volunteered on mission trips, and read religious texts from cover to cover. My heart hurt through this period because I was not living in my truth.
I came out to myself at 20 driving home from church watching a thunderstorm in the distance. I remember clearly the bible verse “God is Love” and everything became suddenly clearer to me. I came out to my family a few years later and our relationship was shattered for a long time. After about three years, we reconciled and built a better relationship.
I took that desire for advocacy to work toward equality in everything I do. I am proud to bring my true self to work every day and to work in an environment where that is accepted and celebrated. As leader in UNITY, our LBGTQ+ Employee Resource Group, my hope is that we can continue the work to make our company look more like our community.
Read Ashley MacPherson’s Story
As an LGBTQ+ person, you come out many, many times in your life. I may have come out for the first time in 2003, but there are times that I still come out today.
I was very lucky to have open parents who accepted me when I told them that I had a girlfriend and was in love. They opened their hearts to my new relationship, letting go of the 20+ years of preconceived daydreams they had of me marrying a tall, dark and handsome gentleman. On our wedding day, my Dad walked me down the aisle, and my Mom walked her down the aisle, and she and I committed ourselves to forever.
At work, coming out was more of a process. I started in the creative world, where being gay wasn’t a big deal. Once I moved into the corporate world, I wasn’t as confident, so I sat back at first. I occasionally heard comments in the workplace that didn’t make me feel safe—usually from people who didn’t understand how hurtful their words were. Luckily, things have improved over time. Thanks in part to company initiatives, such as diversity training, and heightened visibility in the media and culture, I feel that people today are a lot more open, and aware of what they say.
I am now out at work and have been for almost 10 years. After my wife proposed to me on Catalina Island, for a while I was too nervous to wear my engagement ring. I kept it in a ring box in my purse during work. But I was so excited to be engaged to her, I kept pulling the ring out and looking at it throughout the day. One day, I decided I just couldn’t hide something that was such a large part of who I am, so I put the ring on my finger and have been out at work ever since.
I’ve come to a point in my career where I feel like I’m bringing my authentic self to work. That only happened when I was fortunate to have leadership and a work culture that embraced who I was—both personally and professionally. That was not always the case, and not everyone has that today. Looking ahead, I’m excited about the continued diversification of the workforce and look forward to a time where everyone can prove themselves through their work, without feeling as if they need to compensate for who they are and who they love.