On June 10th, Out Leadership held its first two modules of the OutNEXT virtual programming, module one in the morning for the Europe & North America audience, and module two in the evening for the Asia & Australia audience. The topic of the modules was understanding our resiliency as LGBTQ+ leaders, presented by Chris Frederick, Out Leadership’s Managing Director of Global Events, Kelly Ver Haeghe, Events Coordinator for Out Leadership, and Jane Barry-Moran, Out Leadership’s Manager of Programs and Partnerships. The events were split into two parts, a 15-25 minute presentation from the three panelists, and then a 30 minute open discussion for all the attendees in smaller breakout rooms.
In the presentation portion of the module, the panelists talked about the meaning of resiliency. They focused particularly on how it manifests in the workplace with the objective of enabling participants to analyze their own lives and their strengths in order to understand how to share their stories. Ver Haeghe spoke about how LGBTQ+ people are often more resilient than they think they are because of the situations they inadvertently have to encounter and overcome throughout their lives simply by nature of their identity. Within the workplace, that resiliency oftentimes manifests through the act of covering, which Barry-Moran explained as “navigating away from conversations or experiences that would require you to share part of your identity you would like to avoid.” They expressed the need for companies to practice allyship toward their employees through the creation of environments that allow LGBTQ+ employees to be their full, authentic selves, touching on the aspect of COVID-19 and quarantine that in many cases, makes covering more difficult for individuals.
The panelists then contextualized this lesson of resiliency into the world’s current climate, stressing the need for the LGBTQ+ community to practice active allyship with the Black community and the Black Lives Matter movement. Understanding that racism, nationalism, and xenophobia are all systems of oppression that push people to the margins of society – a position which LGBTQ+ people have also been in (and are still in) – members of the LGBTQ+ community must then accept that they have a duty to stand with the Black community now, just as those in these marginalized communities have stood with the LGBTQ+ community before.
In the breakout rooms, panelists asked discussion questions to the group, opening the floor up for people to share their stories. They asked questions about moments in which people have felt like they needed to be resilient, how being virtual has changed people’s ways of doing business in the context of covering, and how their experiences as LGBTQ+ people could be used to help others within the community and in other marginalized groups. People shared stories about them having to navigate living at home with their same-sex partners while working on zoom where their coworkers and bosses could see the people in the house with them and not knowing when to cover and when not to cover, or how coworkers would react if they realized the person was queer. Some people expressed relief, saying that it has actually been easier to cover online than in person where their safety may be in jeopardy. People also shared their beliefs about our different communities – the LGBTQ+ community, the Black community, the immigrant community, etc. – and how they are not really separate, because many people identify across these communities and so if one truly believes in the right to LGBTQ+ freedom and equality, then they need to believe in that for all LGBTQ+ people. And that means they must understand that the fight for Black liberation, for Muslim liberation, and for any other kind of liberation is their fight as well.