Jacob Tobia, a recent guest on Keep It, one of my favorite podcasts, referred to Pride month as ‘gay Christmas.’ Everyone complains it’s becoming overly commercialized, but it’s important to remember the reason for the season.
I think it’s great that people are questioning the validity of the commercialization of Pride. The hard work of the LGBTQIA+ community has paid off, and our gay and lesbian friends, family, and colleagues are becoming more and more visible. That organizations (including Capco!) can capitalize on our Pride says a lot about how far we’ve come as a society since Stonewall.
Gallup found that most Americans are in favor of same sex marriage, and that moral approval of homosexuality rose from 44 percent in 2006 to 59 percent in 2013. Unconscious bias against gays and lesbians also reduced by 13 percent in the same period. We have a lot to be proud of.
But before we get all smug and complacent, I’d like to share a story.
A few months ago, I got a message from a protegee from my Big Four days. Tom was easily the most unique and intelligent person I ever worked with. In his very minimal spare time, he taught himself coding, built computer games, and trained our teams on VBA (Visual Basic for Applications). When I moved on to Capco, he hand-wrote a farewell note to me in SQL (Structured Query Language) that I had to decipher. An incredibly empathetic and thoughtful person. I still have the note.
Tom had contacted me to come out as transgender. She was now Layla and wanted me to know.
I was shocked. There had been no ‘signs’, as if such a thing exists. My immediate reaction was a tiny bit of sadness, mixed with fear. The precious person I knew no longer existed. Who was this Layla? I don’t know her. She took Tom from us. Logically, I knew this was silly, and of course it passed.
I was afraid that of the difficulties that an already unusual person would face. It’s not easy in this world to be different. While many people around the world are becoming more inclusive of transgender people, it’s still not good enough. According to Youth Chances, more than a third of trans youth in the US are physically assaulted, and one in four have attempted suicide. This is shameful, and we must do more.
In the next heartbeat, what I felt was pride. I could not be prouder of Layla. She’s always been incredibly brave, and this demonstrated it even further. I will brag for just a moment that I couldn’t be happier that she trusted me with her story. I consider it an honor and a responsibility to be an ally to her and all transgender people.
I chose to write about Layla today because I want to bring consciousness to the “T” in LGBTQIA+. How many transgender people do you know personally? I know at least one. How many opportunities do you have to be an ally? My guess is, like me, far too few.
I foolishly believed myself to be so accepting of everyone, I never dreamed I’d been as surprised or ignorant as I was. As a self-proclaimed Diversity & Inclusion champion, I really should have known better. It wasn’t until she came out to me that I realized I didn’t personally know any transgender people. As a certain Head of Human Capital recently reminded me, we need to make sure our social circles are as diverse as we believe our work cultures should be. I have a lot of work to do in this.
Layla told me that our former colleagues had been nothing but supportive. It didn’t surprise me – Tom had been deeply valued as a person, so it makes sense that Layla would also be valued. I was additionally proud to know that she would be welcome at Capco.
I hope that sharing my story – Layla’s story – will remind us all how far we have yet to go. 'The Disneylandification of Pride’, as Jacob Tobia called it on Keep It, can make us forget the reason for the season. In many places around the world, we have taken incredible strides in accepting of our gay and lesbian colleagues. I hope you’ll join me in committing to making sure that Capco is a place where our transgender colleagues can also be themselves at work.