For me, personally, I always knew I was “different” from everyone else. From an early age, I really was unable to put my finger on just what that difference was. Growing up, I lived in a generally accepting, “talk about anything” kind of household. I had a very normal childhood including two great parents, a solid family, and a nice array of friends. Fortunately, this laid the groundwork for me to be able to comfortably determine what my “difference” was.
I attended a rather large, suburban school district in Pittsburgh. I specifically remember in 8th grade, a friend of mine started saying that he was gay. He was not quiet about it either—he didn’t care who knew or who found out. Brave for 8th grade, right? What’s even more surprising is that a relatively young student body generally accepted him for who he was. Throughout high school, we had other openly gay students and the majority of the student body was accepting. I cannot recall a time where there was heavy gay centered bullying, verbally or physically. While I personally did not jump the gun in 8th grade, that did provide some additional support for me in my journey.
I think most people have a dream or an idea of what he or she wants to pursue as a career once “all grown up.” I went back and forth between a school teacher and a broadcast meteorologist. Well, I ended up pursing accounting! I volunteered with a non-profit organization while in high school. Volunteering in general is great, but I can 100% say that my volunteer service allowed me to figure out who I was as a person and who I wanted to be career wise. As I worked with this organization as a general assistant, I started working closely with the Treasurer. I began to like the work and it came to me easily. As luck would have it, my one year volunteer “gig” turned into a part-time paid position. While all of this was going on, my personal life was still functioning on the side. At the age of 16, I started to “come out.” One of my closest female friends and I were on the phone. It had been on my mind for quite some time and now, I was sure. When I found the right time in conversation, I said, “I’m gay.” I’ll never forget her reaction. She was excited—she was excited that her best friend was gay! Her positive reaction gave me added confidence. I went on to finish high school and with my experience at the non-profit under my belt, I was able to pursue a degree in accounting. From the time I came out to my friend, throughout finishing high school, and completing my degree, everyone close to me in my life gradually found out about my sexuality. I didn’t rush to tell everyone all at once, I did it when I felt it was appropriate for each individual person. Fortunately, I have yet to receive a negative reaction.
With my degree completed, I knew I wanted to keep my job search in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Pittsburgh is a great city on many levels. Fortunately, we have a nice size gay population and acceptance in Pittsburgh is generally a non-issue. The city itself has a domestic partner registry, which is the best thing the city can do on a legal level until the state of Pennsylvania (or better yet, the entire country) “sees the light,” but I digress! It’s comforting to know that I live in a city that wants to be as fair as it can be to all of its residents. Most employers in Pittsburgh can easily boast about their commitment to diversity in the workplace, including sexual orientation. Also, most employers have received high rankings on the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index. I got my first “real” job in Pittsburgh in January 2010 and I’m still at my employer currently. I work for a company that has roughly 30 full-time employees. While it may be a smaller company with a generally older employee base, I can safely say it has been a pleasure to start my career at. As a company, our handbook recognizes same-sex couples in regards to healthcare benefits and discrimination based on sexual orientation. Before even getting to know my co-workers, that was comforting. I like to keep my professional and personal lives separate; I have always been a “private” person in that regard. However, once you work with certain people, naturally, some become friends and personal lives get discussed even as
“water cooler talk!” While I am single, most of my co-workers have met my best friend and roommate, Matt. Most of my co-workers have assumed that Matt is my boyfriend or partner, whatever term you prefer. While Matt and I are strictly friends and it is presumptuous of my co-workers to assume otherwise, it warms my heart that they are so accepting. Any event out of the office, one or more co-workers usually say, “Is Matt coming?” or “You should bring Matt!” I could easily clear the air and say, “Matt and I are not together!” but I enjoy the fact that they view my relationship status as they would for anyone else. When I do find the man of my dreams someday, he will be introduced accordingly, but until then, Matt and I appreciate the open-mindedness!
My entire story is added proof that you can be anything. I dress and act like a professional while at work, therefore, I am treated like one, regardless of my sexuality. Your confidence in yourself in any career path will help your co-workers and people in general take you seriously. Fortunately, we are going in a positive direction as a society. We have a lot further to go, but any little bit of positive progress is a good thing. Allow yourself to be anything you want to be!