Coming Out Stories, a Celebration of LGBT Journeys at Tepper

When you think of October, perhaps you think about the arrival of fall, the superfluity of pumpkin flavored foods, or the thrill of Halloween. There’s more to October than that, though; it also happens to be LGBT History Month, and on October 11 is National Coming Out Day. These more serious topics are celebrated by Tepper MBAs in a yearly event called Coming Out Stories.

Why do we come out?

Coming Out Stories, sponsored by Out&Allied, allows three current MBAs to stand up in front of 150+ of their peers and tell their own coming out story. We do this because it is National Coming Out month and coming out among our social groups still matters. But there’s other reasons, too; we do this because it is legal in 28 states to fire someone for being LGB and in 30 for being trans and because 10% of LGBT people have left a job because of an unwelcoming environment.

We think of coming out as a personal journey, but the reality is, it isn’t purely personal. We put pictures of our families at our desk, we invite our partners to work social events, we ask our coworkers how their weekends were. To hide these things or not engage with our coworkers leads to them thinking we’re rude or standoffish or uninterested in being friendly. Then we are stuck with an impossible question: risk discrimination or risk alienating our coworkers? The reality is, identifying does impact our work, so we must talk about this issue as professionals. This is a huge part of why Coming Out Stories is so important to the entire Tepper MBA community; we get that all of us want to come to work authentically and as our whole selves, and this is how we support that mission for those who identify as LGBT among us.

Terrifying? Yes. Rewarding? YES.

I was really afraid to stand up and tell my story to my peers. The story of my life is filled with truths about my experiences that I do not often share. They are painful truths– even ugly, to some– but they matter deeply to me. It is hard to talk about how your parents reject you for your sexuality. It is hard to talk about how you have hidden part of yourself that few others have to hide. It is hard to confront the years of shame and how that shame continues after you come out. To know that I would stand in front of so many people and reveal some of my scars was utterly terrifying.

Things that scare us, though, are often the most important things that we do. I am so grateful I was given the opportunity to be vulnerable. I am so grateful for my peers that have reached out to me in support before and after my speech. The heartfelt thank yous, hugs, and stories shared in return have meant so much to me. This experience let me share and celebrate my history with my classmates, and it was deeply rewarding.

Excerpt from my Coming Out Story

Coming out is not easy. Not the first time, not the hundredth time. I’ve come out a lot over the years, to people who have said slurs to my face, to people who have said gay marriage is ruining America, to people who have faded away once they know. I’ve also come out to people who then loved me more deeply and truly, to people who knew before I did, to people who humble themselves to understand me. This is the first time, however, that I’ve come out to so many people at once and with such vulnerability. It’s deeply terrifying. I’m glad I’m doing it with you.

We’re here today because this is not only a deeply personal topic, but also because it intersects with the professional. All of us will step out of these shining new halls and back into the real world someday soon. And if you carry just one thing with you from this speech, take this: The best allies help us to bear the ever-present discomforts of identifying. They take on their own discomfort of opposing hurtful policies and behaviors. They utilize their social capital to uplift our voices. I ask of you, know what you value. Know your compassion. Do what is right for no reason other than that, and do it with kindness and an open mind. Be willing to be challenged on your perspective. And above all, just go through life with me. Enjoy the little moments we share. Laugh with me as I joyously discover that men’s suits have eleven useful pockets! I give you my authenticity, and that is all I ask for in return.

This is my coming out story. Thank you for being a part of it.

1 reply
  1. James Williams
    James Williams says:

    As a 1990 MBA graduate of Tepper (then GSIA), I am so proud to see a proactive, highly visible LGBT student-led organization. Standing in front of your fellow MBA students boldly coming out sounds so right for 2018, but I know from personal experience that every coming out requires courage and self-confidence. I regret that I did not come out to my Tepper classmates, not even my closest friends, during my tenure in the program. Building strong bonds that can last a lifetime is one of the greatest benefits of participating in the Tepper experience. Ironically, I felt that coming out would damage my Tepper friendships; but without being open about who I was, my class friendships were shallower and not long-lasting. As a result, there is no one from Tepper that I maintain friendship with to this day. Congratulations to all of you out LGBT Tepper students for making the right decision that allows you to be yourself, build lasting relationships, and prepare for the real world.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *