On Campus

Celebrating National Coming Out Day at HBS

Rainbow Flag

On October 11th, HBS will celebrate National Coming Out Day (NCOD), a non-holiday replete with embroidered rainbow stickers, colorful brochures, and, for RCs replica watches, a thoughtful note from your L&V rep.  But for many, the relevance of NCOD and that of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender experience at HBS remains unclear.

Dating back to the late 1980s, NCOD commemorates the second national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) march on Washington, D.C.- a political rally whose platform included the legal recognition of same-sex couples, increased HIV/AIDS research and education funding, employment protection rights, and an end to apartheid in South Africa.

The world has changed in some significant ways since 1987. Ten nations currently extend marriage equality to same-sex couples. A majority of Fortune 500 corporations include sexual orientation and gender orientation in their non-discrimination policies.

For Garrett Hall (OA), co-president of the LGBTSA, National Coming Out Day is a celebration of being one’s authentic self and engaging the broader community in dialogue: “The rainbows on name placards aren’t just pretty stickers; they symbolize support for a community whose point of difference is initially invisible to others.”

For many LGBT students, being “out” at HBS is a non-issue. One RC remarks, “Everyone in my section seems to roll with it and is comfortable. [Being gay] is not a big deal at all and I’m happy to discuss it in FIELD class.” He expects an academic institution of this caliber to offer an affirming environment with students who are open and somewhat educated on LGBT issues.

However, familiarity with LGBT people is not a given. Another RC is surprised by the amount of “informal educating” he does in his section //www.replicaforbest.co.uk/replica-breitling-watches-sale-for-uk.html. “I find myself coming out more and more here and speaking up for small things,” he notes. “People ask a lot of questions and I’m happy to answer, but I don’t want to be a token or spokesperson. There isn’t just one gay perspective.”

There is no one LGBT experience at HBS. Indeed, the acronym conveniently ties together disparate identities. Some of these identities are largely absent at HBS. To the author’s knowledge there are no transgendered students at HBS and there is currently only one out female in the LGBTSA.

Monné Williams (OF) is aware of her position as a minority among minorities, but like others, sees being a member of the LGBT community as just one of many facets of her identity. “Yes, I am queer. But I’m also a woman, a person of color, and a first-generation college graduate among other things.”

Williams is also a co-president of LGBTSA and embraces the role. “I’m happy to be visible because I want students and prospective students to know that this is a welcome place for lesbians and bisexual women.”

Like many aspects of life at HBS, the experiences of these individuals are not necessarily reflective of the world at large in the world at large. One RC reflects, “[At school] being out and gay means I get to go some random diversity recruiting dinner for some company. That’s not really how the world works. There are really important issues facing this community that we don’t discuss at HBS, not even among us in the LGBTSA. We’re too busy talking about banks and consulting firms.”

Facts corroborate these assertions. Gays and lesbians lack employment discrimination protection in 29 states.  According to a 2006 study in the medical journal Pediatrics, gay teens are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide. Homosexuality is explicitly outlawed in over 80 countries and in some extreme cases is punishable by death.

Perhaps closer to the managerial interests of HBS students, there is evidence that hiding one’s sexuality is an impediment to productivity. Hall asserts that being out provides, “a level of authenticity that makes you more valuable as section mate, team member or manager.”  Living a lie, and the preoccupation thereof, demands much energy and time- resources that might be better spent growing a business and achieving personal fulfillment.

Statistically speaking, there must be dozens of HBS students who chose not to disclose their sexuality.  Hall, Williams and others recognize that this is a personal choice.  Rather than a force to push students out of the closet, National Coming Out Day should be seen as one of several ways to jumpstart dialogue, show support and bring awareness to the complex set of issues and challenges that LGBT people face.

Placing a rainbow ribbon on one’s name placard does not instantaneously eradicate homo- or transphobia from HBS or the workplace, but it suggests a level of support and inclusivity for an often-overlooked community.

October 11, 2011
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