Being out and proud at work is normal now – right? Let’s explore that myth together. Every day – there’s an opportunity to be ignored, dismissed, or even worse – fired, if you say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time, and your colleagues or clients don’t agree with something they’re seeing, reacting to, but not saying to your face. So – how can we work together towards a culture of inclusivity and acceptance that sees the work behind the worker, and acknowledges the unique and special perspective LGBTQ people bring to the workplace.
During pride – I wanted to take a moment to ask our employees – what does being out and proud at work mean to you in your career journey? Where did your story as a gay person lift you up? Drag you down? And what would you share with yourself if you could go back and give yourself a boost when the world wasn’t ready for you? I am privileged to work with and support a work culture of inclusivity, contributing thoughts here from a few members of our team: Michelle Kramer-Pino, our Head of Production, Dave O’Brien, Head of Product & Creator Education, Alex Beach, our Production Coordinator, and Greg Duffy, Head of Business Operations.
Where did your story as a gay person lift you up?
“I have found that being a part of the LGBTQ community has given me the space to empathize with others in the workplace and think outside of traditional constraints when it comes to problem-solving. It’s given me a point of connection with others. I have also found a job through OutinTech, an LGBT organization.” – Greg
“Being a part of intersecting marginalized communities, my existence and experience in society has always been “outside of the box”. I believe that living my life outside of the norm has given me the ability to analyze the norm; to observe flaws in outdated systems, while giving fresh suggestions that are still palatable by those used to thinking “inside the box”. – Alex
“It has ingrained a perspective of inclusivity and an awareness when there is a lack of representation across the board.” – Michelle
“In college, I thought I needed to choose an LGBTQ-friendly career path. Most of my out role models worked in higher ed student affairs, so I thought that was the right path for me. Secretly, I always wanted to work in film, TV or digital media, but I believed that was impossible. I also got involved in LGBTQ activism in college and that landed me at a dinner with (then Representative, now Senator) Tammy Baldwin and (ACT-UP founder) Larry Kramer. I asked them, if I wanted to have the most impact on equality for LGBTQ folks, what field I might pursue and, having heard about my love for movies, Larry said immediately, “We need more movies. Stories about us that we can be inspired by and that straight people can be moved by.” I turned to Tammy, and she said “Every day as a politician, I try to tell stories. Larry’s right, stories have a way of connecting people in surprising and powerful ways. Whatever field you choose, find a way to tell stories.” I was both incredibly inspired, and also a bit frustrated as I prepared to graduate with a degree in Psychology…from University of WISCONSIN…but as life would have it, I did end up working in movies, TV and digital media. My identity as an LGBTQ person was a pivotal part of that journey. I do think it has made me a more compassionate and dedicated storyteller and educator…allowed me to uncover interesting factors of stories other people might not see and so on.” – Dave
How has being LGBT affected your career journey in a challenging way?
“Coming out every time you start a new job is always a fun challenge. People make assumptions and say, “do you have a [insert boyfriend/girlfriend, implying a heterosexual relationship]”, and as LGBTQ people we always do the calculation – “is now the right time to say something?” :Should I just let it go? I don’t want to make this about me or my sexuality.” Like other marginalized groups, we have more micro-decisions to make amidst more mental chatter.” – Greg
“The immediate judgment I have received from people in power, has been hard to navigate. For a long time I felt that in order to be treated equally I needed to present a certain way. So I ran RIGHT back into that closet. I was not confident so my work suffered. I was afraid to suggest things so my reputation as a valuable employee suffered. It made me a very shy and insecure person. I’ve learned that making yourself small to make others comfortable is not the way to handle judgment or adversity. I was trying to make myself fit my job but your job should fit you!! You have to live your truth and your community will find you. The moment I started looking for an inclusive work environment, I found one.” – Alex
“I think the biggest thing is the added level of stress that it creates in new work situations. There is a level of thought that goes into the way I communicate about who I am and my family. I try to not overshare and I have always hated, especially earlier in my career, that it is easy to get cornered into coming out.” – Michelle
“There were a real lack of role models as I was growing up, both in terms of the images on screen and the faces behind the camera. Folks like John Waters, Jamie Babbit, Paris Barclay became apparent to me as I got into film school but I had been mostly unaware that there were people like me working in Hollywood. When I was starting out as a producer and director there was very little encouragement for LGBTQ stories. I recall an instructor in film school who, after reading my script asked, “but does it HAVE to be about two men?” Thankfully I had some great mentors along the way who encouraged me to keep working at it.” – Dave
What advice would you give to yourself looking back based on what you know now?
“Lean in earlier! Celebrate earlier. No time like the present to let your light shine.” – Greg
“Based on what I know now, I would tell myself to just BE and EXIST. I understand that your career is important, but you can find inclusive environments and workplaces that want and value your unique experiences.” – Alex
“The best thing you can ever do is be authentic and true to what you believe. Always have a strong moral compass.” – Michelle
“I’m not sure. I try to be grateful for the path my life has taken and not focus too much on what I should or could have done differently.” – Dave
What has surprised you about your LGBTQ career journey?
“I never thought I’d find a family of people that have walked beside me throughout my career, and the LGBTQ community, particularly the OutinTech community has been that for me.” – Greg
“How similar it has been to other people’s journeys. When you are experiencing something it can feel so isolating but the more I talk to people in the same intersections of identity that I exist in, the more I realize that I’m not alone. We experience similar things and can be an amazing source of support for each other. We can also become GREAT professional connections and build our own type of professional network.” – Alex
“It has made me a stronger person, more aware manager and instilled a strong pay-it-forward and mentorship driven attitude in me.” – Michelle
“Ultimately that going after what I was dreaming of doing was possible. I think if you’d told me in college I’d be doing what I do today I wouldn’t have believed it…also because I didn’t realize I’d enjoy it as much as I do.” – Dave
How has being LGBTQ affected your perspective on working in media and entertainment?
“Working in music and entertainment my whole career, it has been my goal to uplift LGBTQ voices because we still live in a world where most entertainment is cis-white-heteronormative. There are so many stories to tell, and it’s up to us to get them out there.” – Greg
“It makes me look at projects in different ways. When it comes to casting I always want to be diverse. When it comes to the projects that I’m working on; what is the message? Is it offensive to a marginalized group? Am I representing a community correctly? Do I have an expert in the room, or at the table with me, to let me know if I’m doing something wrong culturally or offending any marginalized group of people? It just makes me want to protect, portray and represent correctly. I want use media to share new things with people so they are more understood and therefore accepted. If I could make a project about being a Black gender-fluid person and one person saw it, resonated with it, and it helped them exist confidently as themselves, that’s all I could ask for.” – Alex
“It goes back to my first answer, that there is an awareness around representation both in front of the camera and behind it. Are we ensuring that all people have opportunities no matter what you believe, who you love or what you look like.” – Michelle
“Our stories continue to be a critical component of the fight for our humanity…which is still ongoing although sometimes we forget. It’s allowed me to develop a gratitude for intersectionality…an ability to put myself in other peoples’ shoes and acknowledge my OWN privilege in ways that I think have made me a better human, a better storyteller and a better educator. We need to always be looking for the stories that AREN’T being told, stories about queer people of color, trans people and other communities that have experienced even more struggle than I have.” – Dave
I could not be more proud of all of our employees for creating a culture of inclusivity for everyone from all backgrounds – and I am especially proud of LGBT members who are not only contributing – but who are thriving in their roles at CreatorUp. Together – we are building a new kind of community and company that puts inclusivity first.
If you are LGBTQ and interested in joining our creative network to work on some amazing creative projects – we would love to interview you! Just send me a DM – and I promise, we’ll be in touch.