Home » Archives by category » Gender Identity
Celebrate LGBTQ+ Representation on National Coming Out Day

Celebrate LGBTQ+ Representation on National Coming Out Day

​National Coming Out Day is observed on Oct. 11 to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people “coming out of the closet” and being their authentic selves in public, with friends and family, and at work.The driving belief behind the day of awareness is that as more people reveal their identity and more people know someone who is LGBTQ+, homophobic stereotypes will be dispelled. Nearly half of LGBTQ+ workers say they are closeted at work, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The top reasons for not being open at work include fear of being stereotyped, not wanting to make people uncomfortable and concern over losing relationships among colleagues. Brian McComak, a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant; speaker; and author, spoke with SHRM Online about his early experiences coming out at work. He also addressed the power of LGBTQ+ representation in an organization, and how much has changed—and not changed—for people making the decision to come out in the 25 years since he first did so. McComak is the founder and CEO of Hummingbird Humanity, a consulting firm that cultivates and champions inclusive workplace cultures and leadership. SHRM Online: Tell me about your first experience coming out at work. McComak: I came out at 21 years old, and then went back in the closet at age 24. People need to understand that coming out is an ongoing process. It is not a one-time event, but is repeated many times throughout a career, sometimes several times a day. It’s something that those of us who have an invisible story to tell make a choice about sharing with each new employer, each new colleague we meet. The first time I came out at work, I was working for AMC Theatres in operations. I worked with a wonderful group of people there, and I began to tell them that I was gay. My co-workers were very supportive, which I think is a typical experience in service industry environments.Eventually I decided I wanted to change careers, so I went back to school and got a master’s degree in human resources and change management. A day before my 25th birthday, I started a new corporate HR job at Red Lobster. When I walked in that first day, I went back in the closet. I wasn’t sure that being out in a corporate environment would be accepted. At lunch, on my first day, someone asked me if I had a girlfriend. A simple question, but it sparked a collection of questions I had to answer internally. Do I come out? Is it safe to come out? Will they accept me? Will it affect my job and my career? I chose to say “no” and brushed off the question, keeping that part of myself hidden. A week later, I was talking with my new boss who mentioned his husband. “Wow,” I thought, “he just came out to me.” Feeling safe to do so, I came out to him and then learned there were many members …