Feeling Pride at Atomic

I am a bisexual man, and last November, I came out to everyone at Atomic.

In any other job I’ve worked, I likely would have endlessly vacillated and probably just mentioned it in passing to a few coworkers. “Who needs to know?” I would have asked myself. And I would have kept quiet.

The rainbow flag waving in the wind at San Francisco's Castro District
Rainbow by Benson Kua. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

But from my friends here, I felt support. Respect. I knew that in this environment, I could bring my whole self and freely advocate for all my siblings in the LGBTQIA+ community. What I didn’t expect was how much making that move would pay off for me personally.

The day I came out to Atomic feels like so long ago now. I was surprised to go back in Slack history and find out that it was actually just a little over half a year ago. I mentioned my own orientation at the same time I was sharing Invisible Majority, a report on the disparities bisexual people face in their lives and at work, on our internal discussion channel for inclusion-related topics. That very day, another Atom raised her hand and joined me.

Maybe it feels like so long ago in part because it’s been a long journey for me to get here. Well over two decades ago, I knew something was different about me, but the culture I grew up in told me that my “something different” was wrong. It took me many years of working through a good amount of internal negativity, followed by a long stretch of hiding my true self from everyone but my spouse and a few very close friends, to get to the point where I could finally be out as who I truly am.

Along the way, I’ve seen the struggles of many people who are kept at arm’s length for who they are or how they love, but love proudly nonetheless. I’ve heard so many stories of wedges driven between family members over one’s identity, and stories of acceptance within brand-new families made up of LGBTQIA+ friends. I’ve been saddened by people having to hide who they are because it’s the only way they can function in society, but heartened to know they still believe in themselves. I’ve learned a lot about the history of pain, struggle, and victory in the LGBTQIA+ community—my community—and I want to work toward a world where we are understood and celebrated, instead of feared.

Today, we have a small, but more-than-representative group of LGBTQIA+ Atoms across both offices. We’ve celebrated with each other how good it feels to bring our whole selves to work. We have and continue to critically look inward and seek to effect change to make Atomic more inclusive. We scrambled to find something ostentatiously rainbow-colored for me to wear on my birthday earlier this year. But primarily, we are together to be a community where we understand each other.

At Atomic, we offer benefits to all Atoms’ legally-married partners. We made our restrooms clearly gender-neutral. We specifically invite all Atoms’ significant others to our social events. We joined the Michigan Competitive Workplace Coalition with the goal of updating Michigan’s civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. (I was recently very happy to hear about progress toward that goal!)

But what has ultimately touched me most has been the love and support I’ve received from several Atoms since I took that step. These Atoms have made me feel more welcome as my real self than I know I would have felt working anywhere I have before.

Being out at Atomic has been a great experience. And I want everyone, everywhere, not just at Atomic but all over Michigan, the United States, and the world to have experiences like this—to be free to live, be and—most importantly–celebrate who you are.

That’s why I was personally inspired to write this post. Nobody asked me to, though several Atoms I spoke with about the idea encouraged me. I wanted to share my experience with my siblings in the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as my hope that you have an experience like mine, wherever you are.

Happy Pride. Be true to yourself. And give your love and support to everyone, no matter who they are, or how they love.