Jake Little, co-chair of the LGBTQ+ employee resource group at Levi Strauss & Co., shares his thoughts on National Coming Out Day.
This year is the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, a day of observance for the LGBTQ+ and ally community. The day is based the idea that homophobia can only exist in an environment of silence and ignorance, and by “coming out” we put faith in the bonds of family and friendship. When we come out, we act from a space of truth and authenticity to show the world the fullness of our humanity – by so doing, declare that we are worthy of dignity, respect, and love.
Indeed, it has been these many acts of bravery and truth over centuries that have brought us to this moment in history where LGBTQ+ people have the legal right to marry the person they love. In the Bay Area – and at a company like LS&Co., a pioneer in the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the workplace – it is easy to forget the importance of coming out.
But in many parts of this country and the world, LGBTQ+ people continue to face stigma, persecution and limitations on civil liberties. Coming out carries with it a significant amount of personal, professional and social risk. Even in San Francisco, trans men and women face employment discrimination and threats of physical violence every day. LGBTQ+ representation on corporate executive teams continues to lag, and in 26 states it is still legal to fire or evict someone because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.
Ultimately, coming out is still vital, simply because it is an expression of authenticity. While coming out carries particular weight and significance for LGBTQ+ people, I believe coming out is a process everyone goes through. All of us face pressure to conform to what society says is normal or acceptable, and we all risk something when we show vulnerability. Creating a life where we can express the fullest and most authentic part of ourselves is the greatest journey we can undertake – changing the world starts from the Inside Out.
That’s why when we formed our LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group recently at LS&Co., we named it “Inside Out” – because our identity as a community is realized through an inner transformation that manifests itself through the powerful act of coming out. That inner transformation allows us to show our authentic self to the world, and bring our best self to work every day.
This week, on Oct. 11, Inside Out invites you to come out. Come out as a member of the community. Come out as an ally. Come out in whatever way allows you to more fully express yourself. When we all feel able to do that, we can create a company – and a country – where our empathy, originality, courage, integrity propels us to create an outsized impact on the world. It all starts with a transformation from the Inside Out.