It was my junior year of college when I finally decided to text my best friend one night, “I’m gay.” Though it was a freeing experience, I knew I’d have more choices to make about coming out going forward. During my first internship, I really wanted to receive a fulltime offer that would help make my senior year much less stressful, so I made it a goal to hide my sexuality. Everything I said and did was calculated, in hopes that I would “cover” my identity. I justified being “in the closet” because I didn’t know who was making the final decision and their views on the LGBTQ+ community.
When I returned to the UConn campus that fall, I focused on starting to fully embrace my identity. I had my first boyfriend who really pushed me to be my authentic self. I held his hand in public. I proudly told people I was a gay male, and I didn’t let the nerves win. This led me to begin challenging the idea of being closeted at work. I began to realize that if a company didn’t embrace the unique perspective I was bringing to the workplace, then ultimately they didn’t deserve to have me on board.
I received a return offer and started my actuarial career in June 2014. This time, I went into the office with a renewed perspective. I decorated my desk from day one to show my love for my community. I had rainbow flags at my desk, a Little Mermaid statue (my favorite Disney princess, of course), and signs that reminded me to be proud of who I am.
I won’t pretend that every day was easy. There were times where I felt excluded from the office conversations between all the straight men, and I really wanted to fit in. The few times I brought up topics that interested me, I felt looks come my way. In fact, one of my straight male coworkers told me how uncomfortable he was when I chose “Who is your favorite Disney princess?” as our team’s question of the week. I quickly turned this back on him and let him know that our weekly conversations about the New England Patriots made me feel similar, and I think a light bulb went on for him.
It wasn’t until I left my first company that I really became passionate about making the insurance industry and the actuarial profession a place where LGBTQ+ individuals can thrive. At that company, I took a role to lead the LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG) and consistently pushed for educational opportunities that helped better the organization. I was met with support from my direct management and the company as a whole. I have met so many amazing people that are members of the community and allies that make me realize how comfortable I am being myself in this profession.
A few months ago, I started a third new job. When I was interviewing, I made sure to reference my partner and the work I had done with the Pride ERG. I wanted to make sure that this was a company I would feel comfortable working for. When the hiring manager started asking questions about my work with Pride and my partner, I knew this was the right fit for me!
Starting a job and a new career can be daunting. Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community can make this even more challenging. Since this is often a facet of our identity that is not visible, we are faced with a decision about being our authentic self. And though it is hard to be LGBTQ+ in the insurance industry at times, I don’t at all regret being out, open, and proud. Below are some tips and tricks that I live by and might be helpful for others!
- It is okay to bring your authentic self to work each and every day, if you feel safe doing so. (I don’t hide my sexuality, piercings, tattoos, etc.)
- You can factor in whether a workplace will be accepting of your identity when you decide to accept an offer of employment.
- Accept that the LGBTQ+ community is often not fully understood, and what might feel like an attack by someone outside could be used as a teaching moment.
- Know that there are so many wonderful LGBTQ+ actuaries and allies out there to speak with. You are not alone!
- Speak to a member of the LGBTQ+ community in the profession about their own experience, because each one is sure to be different.
- Become a member of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance of Actuaries (SAGAA). This group is there as a resource for LGBTQ+ actuaries and allies. SAGAA has a Linkedin page (https://www.linkedin.com/company/sagaactuaries/), an Instagram handle (https://www.instagram.com/sagaactuaries/) and a website (https://www.sagaactuaries.org/) that will be launching soon!