Pride Month with Gary Stamper
Pride Month with Gary Stamper
Pride Month is when we celebrate, support, and embrace our LGBTQ+ team members and the community. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) are central to Velocity’s purpose and core values – and we are committed to these across all levels and areas of the company.
In honor of Pride Month, a handful of our employees volunteered to share their personal experiences in coming out and what it means to them to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
The final story comes from Gary Stamper, a Carrier Account Associate who joined Velocity in 2021.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you wanted to participate?
I am a son of the South, growing up in an area where it was best to stay hidden in a closet and accept the side-eye gazes and under-breath name-calling. Growing up in a state known as Sportsman’s Paradise, it wasn’t easy to live my truth. After years of struggling, I finally decided that no one could decide my success and happiness except me. Once I came to that conclusion and chose to live my truth, my life became my own. I was the maestro of my own music.
I wanted to participate in this forum to share with the current LGBTQ+ generation that things do get better. You do not have to be the person others want you to be. All you have to be is yourself. Those who love and accept you will be your new universe; you do not have to live in shame or feel criticized by anyone. You are the one who gets to decide your journey.
Can you share what it was like for you to come out to your parents and immediate family? Emotions, thoughts, feelings, etc.
People knew I was different but would never come out in the open and say that I was gay. I’m a social person and the life of the party. I have always been everything people want me to be, except straight. My mother died before I came out, although I believe in my heart of hearts she always knew. She was always kind to me, but my brother, the all-around athlete, was always given more attention. Rightly so, he was particularly good at sports while her other son was good at cooking and entertaining. My mother never mistreated me and accepted me the best way she could.
My father was another story. My father was a recent widower when I decided to come out. It was too much for him. Rather than face the truth, my father chose to ignore me completely. Over the years, he’s come to accept who I am. We are working on creating a stronger bond.
What advice would you give a parent whose child is coming out? Allow your child to be who they are instead of who you want them to be. Encourage individuality. Never ignore or disown your child.
Can you share a professional/personal situation where you felt supported and understood and could be your authentic self as an LGBTQ+ person?
After being shunned by my father for a while, I had to rethink special days like holidays when the family gathered to celebrate. Fortunately, I found support and love from a few family members who loved and accepted me and discovered an entire community of friends in the same boat as me. Together we formed our own family. Holidays are no longer sad and lonely. I have the family I created, and as I work on healing old wounds with my dad, I would very much love to have him join our gatherings occasionally. It has been a journey for my dad and me, we are still working on a better relationship, and it has been a slow but productive process. I hope one day to invite him into my family of love even though I was exiled out of my family of blood.
What does an ally mean to you? Unconditional love and support of a person.
Can you share a situation(s) subtle or apparent that you’ve had to face as an LGBTQ+ person at work or outside of work?
Silent discrimination in the workplace. I applied for many jobs and never got past the first interview. I could tell by the demeanor of the interviewer they preferred to have a straight person as an employee because many people still have the stigma attached that hiring a member of the LGBTQ+ community will cause problems in the workplace and make others feel uncomfortable somehow. In short, the LGBTQ+ group is still going up against a large group of people that feel uncomfortable around us because they were taught that we are all deviants who cannot control our sexuality, even long enough to do a job. This sort of discrimination is silent and outright ignorant.
This is why one of the main reasons over 54% of LGBTQ+ workers still hide their identity at work. “When sharing the same day-to-day anecdotes with coworkers, LGBTQ+ people are seen as over-sharing, or forcing their “lifestyle” upon coworkers. At worst, LGBTQ+ workers’ stories are seen as inappropriate, where the same stories told by non-LGBTQ+ workers are simply (seen as) harmless personal facts,” according to a Human Rights Campaign Foundation report.
While we have come a long way to gain a seat at the table, we are still very unrepresented in the workplace. Many do not give us a chance to show them that we are dedicated employees who will be loyal to the company. This is unfortunate because data has been telling us for years that companies do better when they have a diverse and inclusive culture – more importantly, the benefits of having LGBTQ+ individuals as part of the workforce.
- They help attract and retain top talent
- They have higher purchasing power and brand loyalty
- They have better retention rates and more loyal employees when they work for companies that are committed to and promote LGBTQ+ inclusiveness
In the past, LGBTQ+ people didn’t have actual representation and participation in our society. Now, they do, and it was only possible with the advancement of humanity and abandoning the retrograde thoughts of the past. Today’s youth represent a significant and relevant part of the public opinion and are very cautious about the inclusion policy that a company is taking regarding LGBTQ+ people. The inclusion and promotion of LGBTQ+ employees in companies mean being active in media, expressing how the company is inclusive, and promoting LGBTQ+ rights and visibility.
Workplace inclusiveness must include both direct and day-to-day experience of the organization to feel supported: personal experience and the enterprise perception (LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace).
What does Pride Month mean to you?
Every month is Pride Month to me. I am proud of who I am. Pride Month is a fantastic time to recognize how far we have come as a community and pay tribute to those generations of LGBTQ+ who had to hide and were persecuted.
What are you most proud of as an LGBTQ+ person? What do you hope others take away from Pride Month?
That I survived. So many people never see that things will get better, and unfortunately, they end their lives. I hope that others will see that you can be yourself, successful, and happy on your terms.