My Story of Coming Out at Work | #VillanovaHRDStory
Happy National Coming Out Day, a day when people like me, who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, celebrate when and how they made the decision to share a piece of who they are with those around them.
For me, it’s a reminder of the many years I battled with when and how to “come out." Everyone’s coming out story is different. For some people it’s easy. For others it can be an unbelievably complicated and difficult process – a constant struggle of wanting to tell the world who you are but being afraid of rejection and lack of support.
Photo Credit: Daniela Castillo
Fear of the unknown was what held me back from publicly disclosing my sexual orientation. Deep down I always knew my family and friends would still love me, but what if they didn’t support my lifestyle? What if, to them, my sexual orientation was "just a phase” or a fad? These questions were stapled to my mind growing up. People often assumed I was gay because I was a “tomboy.” For instance, when all the girls in kindergarten showed up to the Halloween parade as Disney princesses, I came as ... well, Spiderman. I always knew I was different, but I never knew that it was okay to be different. I’ve had my fair share of encounters with people who made me feel less than because I didn’t fit their description of what a woman should look like, speak like, and act like.
As I reflect on the nature of my coming out story, I can’t even remember the exact date. I came out to different people at different times in different ways, including in the workplace. During my master’s program at Villanova University, I discovered alarming research that indicated a large percentage of people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community are closeted in the workplace due to fear of discrimination. One of my biggest fears was not being able to be myself - unapologetically - at my place of work.
I consider myself privileged because that fear was put to rest once I began working at Cella. It took me a few weeks on the job to determine if I felt 100% comfortable disclosing this information, but it almost became natural, which was a surprisingly foreign feeling for me. I was able to discuss my personal life outside of work without judgement, which is a very big deal. I felt seen and valued for what I brought to the table; that what truly mattered was my ambition, skill set, integrity and character, not how I identify or who I’m attracted to. The gratitude I have for this type of unwavering support is beyond words. It’s encouraged me to be confident and feel secure with who I am as a person.
I’ve since come to the realization that it’s more than okay to be different, and it’s also okay if people do not accept me. I just have to accept me; I have to love me, and I have to come out to people when I am ready and no sooner than that. Coming out can be difficult but it will always be courageous.
Daniela Castillo, MSHRD, SHRM-CP, is a Creative Recruiter based out of Philadelphia, PA and is a part of the Villanova HRD Class of 2020. She is also an active member of Cella's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council.
Blog Credits: Cella Inc. Insights Blog