Celebrating 25 Years

Remind us why you started Out & Equal and how it came to be?

I was denied ordination in the church simply because of who I loved. It was my own experience of workplace discrimination that drove my passion to create Out & Equal. I felt strongly that no one should have to choose between a career we love and the person we love. Since there was no federal law to protect the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace, I saw the need to begin conversations with companies about creating internal policies within each corporation, so that LGBTQ+ employees would be free to come out and to thrive, starting in the U.S. and expanding globally.

Twenty-five years later, is this where you saw us as an organization? A Partnership community? A movement? As a society?

In the past 25 years, we’ve seen significant progress with policies and perceptions moving toward inclusion and equality in the U.S. and around the world, including Marriage Equality, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and expanded federal protections. 

In culture, we’re seeing an even greater shift, which I attribute primarily to the advancements we’ve made within the workplace and with corporations globally. A supermajority of Americans supports LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections, LGBTQ+ representation is on the rise, and you’d be hard pressed to find a company that doesn’t lead with inclusive practices.

And while I’m proud to acknowledge so much of what has been achieved, these past few years are a stark reminder of how fragile that progress is. It’s disappointing and disheartening to see a surge in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and rhetoric that is in complete contradiction to where a majority of our country and society are.

It’s why the work of Out & Equal and convenings like the Workplace Summit remain so incredibly important. It’s why I love this year’s theme of “We Are,” a rallying cry that is reclaiming and reenergizing our movement. 

As I reflect on what Out & Equal has accomplished in the past 25 years, I couldn’t be more confident about its future. The team is in smart and capable hands with Erin’s leadership illuminating the way. I know she and the entire leadership team will continue to push the organization and the movement forward.

What would you say to yourself 25 years from now? Where should we be? Where could we be?

It’s so important to remember that we all deserve respect, dignity, and safe spaces to grow and thrive. On the days when things seem insurmountable, we must support one another and hold on to hope. As our Summit theme this year so beautifully captures, we are powerful, we are galvanized, and we are resilient. And we are not alone. We are all in this together.

You created The Outie Awards—our recognition program now more than 20 years running. Why was recognition so important then? Why do you think it’s important now?

Recognition matters, because representation matters. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, it is incredibly important to celebrate our community succeeding and thriving, despite the adversity we face. Our community needs to see that we are valid and valuable. We are leaders and changemakers. Let’s keep recognizing, elevating, and celebrating the stories of those who are driving change in both incremental and really big ways.