At every company, (except at Axon) I have suffered various moments of shame. I hid this from various colleagues when sharing my stories about the weekend or vacations. I would edit the parts about my husband from those stories. This is the discomfort I was facing in the workplace. Most of the time it is not intentional. I edited or stifled myself out of shame and fear. It was shame and fear due to lack of conversation about this topic. It was shame and fear caused by assumptions made by me based on religious and/or political affiliations expressed by people. What I wanted was the companies (and its people) that I worked for to be empathetic, and understand that a hetero-normative environment is an uncomfortable space for people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community. Even companies that support equal rights for all can have people who bring an unconscious bias to the work environment. I believe this is caused due to a lack of conversation around this topic. The traditional training in workplace behavior seemed to recommend avoiding discussions about sexual orientation. In my experience, the topic of sexual orientation is considered inappropriate for the workplace environment. This in my opinion leads to people making assumptions which likely leads to anxiety for all parties involved.
So, let’s have an open discussion. I am an ambitious and passionate creator who is also gay.
After working with varied levels of discomfort for a decade (and throughout college), I decided that I was going to break out of this shame and ensure that my next company would be one where I would be able to share my stories without editing, hesitation, or discomfort; just like my straight colleagues. I ensured this by breaking one of the commonly accepted golden rules of interviewing – do not share your sexual orientation or personal information. I have interviewed several straight candidates in my career who share stories about their wives, husbands, or children without hesitation or fear of bias during an interview. There is almost a sense of unconscious privilege. I decided to do the same. During my interviews, I included stories (when appropriate) that included my husband in the narrative. I wanted to work for a company that did not have a bias. It was my way of interviewing the company and the people I would be working with. I would judge their reaction.
I currently work at Axon. There was never a moment during my interview or now as an employee at Axon that I felt uncomfortable or sense any form of bias against my sexual orientation. I learned about the culture and saw that the people at Axon embraced anyone who would bring passion, talent, ambition, and drive to help achieve the mission of protecting life.
At Axon, I truly feel equal to my straight colleagues. My anxiety and shame about sharing some parts of my personal life with my colleagues is non-existent. The company embraces the need for diversity, and even trains all the employees to be aware of unconscious bias. The fact that I am writing this is a testament to the comfort I feel at Axon. I have not had this before in my professional career.