Being an LGBTQ+ intern at Avanade: Feeling seen and heard
- Posted on August 21, 2018
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
As a queer woman of color, I often assume that my experiences and voice go unheard and unseen unless I demand that the space is made to validate them. And for the most part, this has been the case in both my professional and personal life.
But my experience at Avanade has been different. I’ve been serving as an intern as part of Avanade’s People Ecosystems team under the HR department since October 2017 and will be finishing my internship at the end of this month, August 2018. Since this is my last month, I wanted to reflect on something that’s important to me.
I identify as a cisgender female (pronouns: she/her) and my fiancée identifies as non-binary (pronouns: they/them). We’ve both found that most of the time, my partner is the first out non-binary person that straight, cisgender folks meet. This unfortunately leads to a lot of internal pre-emptive conversations around social gatherings: Is my partner out about their identity? Who fields which unintentional, yet completely invasive gender questions? If there aren’t any gender-neutral restrooms, which one does my partner feel safe going into? Or, is it just emotionally easier to pass as their assigned gender at birth and avoid the conversation all together? This has, unfortunately, yet understandably, led to many instances where my partner would rather avoid the social situation and not attend the event.
What a difference a pronoun makes
I’ve never hidden my fiancée’s pronouns, and in fact, I use them in hopes that others will pick up on the subtle difference and ask me about it. Gabriel Shirley, my supervisor and career adviser at Avanade, was the first manager I’ve ever had who actually picked up on the cue and asked about it in an incredibly thoughtful and respectful way. It was a few months into my internship, during our weekly one-to-one call, when he pointed out how he noticed my usage of gender-neutral pronouns for my partner. He asked if those were accurate, and upon confirmation, then asked what pronouns I prefer to go by. Let me repeat that for the people in the back: Unprompted, my supervisor asked me which pronouns I prefer to go by.
After our call ended, I couldn’t help but cry. This was one of the first moments where I felt validated professionally and personally at the same time, where I had truly felt seen and heard as an LGBTQ+ professional.
Asking about pronouns has become second nature to me, as someone who regularly navigates the LGBTQ+ community and volunteers with gender-diverse folks. But I recognize this does not exist outside the community. Most of the time gender is inherently assumed or violently forced upon others. In the case where assumed pronouns do not match a person’s gender identity, correcting pronouns can “out” individuals, opening them up to potential violence, societal rejection or even job loss. The identity of the person I love is consistently questioned, invalidated or ignored – so a small act of verifying pronouns felt momentous.
Gabriel was the first person outside the community who bothered to ask this question and provide a safe environment to respond. I’m not sure if he fully understood or saw this act as radical, but it will forever stand out in my mind as an example of true compassion and leadership.
The value of bringing your authentic self to work
I share this because it’s the small instances that have the largest impact on individuals. I share this because the level of LGBTQ+ comfort in the workplace is at 50%, which is still too low in my opinion. I share this because I know my story of finding that comfort may be unique to Avanade but it’s certainly not unique to the world. There are still so many LGBTQ+ professionals out there who are afraid to share their true authentic selves, and that’s a loss for everyone involved.
I hope my story can be shared and provide insight into creating a better experience for others. I’m very grateful that my time and experiences at Avanade have been so supportive, and I strongly believe this will continue to be the case for Avanade’s current and future workforce.
LGBT+ and LGBTQ+ are abbreviations that refer to people with diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity. They include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and other sexuality, sex and gender-diverse people, regardless of their term of self-identification. The abbreviation can vary and can include additional letters, such as I (intersex) and Q (queer/questioning) or even appear in different order (e.g., GLBTI).