I was born and raised in a suburb of St. Louis. There was very little diversity where I grew up, and knowing I was different, I didn’t come out until later in life when I took a job in St. Louis.
In Missouri, there are no statewide workplace protections for LGBT residents or recognition of same sex unions. But I proudly call St. Louis home because the city has workplace protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity. Out & Equal’s overarching goal is to promote safe, inclusive workplace equality. In the St. Louis Regional Affiliate, our focus is on engaging employers in our footprint and helping them develop anti-discrimination policies, LGBT inclusive benefits, and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), as wells as bring the St. Louis community together to share best practices. St. Louis also has several LGBT friendly social and residential areas and an annual Pride Festival that is the largest in the Midwest. One more thing about St. Louis: We have the greatest sports fans in the country!
So it was no surprise to me that Michael Sam, the first openly gay collegiate football player, was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Not only does this reinforce the true inclusiveness of our fine city, but sends a message to all NFL teams and employers that being LGBT does not impact a person’s talent.
I’m lucky that the commitment to diversity within my workplace is welcoming. The courage it took for me to come out was reinforced by the fact I knew that I could be myself at my job and in my city without fear of bias or discrimination.
I’m proud that Michael Sam can have the same experience at the St. Louis Rams. The fact that his jersey is now the second-most popular selling jersey in the 2014 draft class makes the statement that cultivating an inclusive workplace is good for business!
I am awed that my home team has stepped up in the biggest way to welcome a talent such as Michael Sam. Our LGBT Community has never felt more supported. My hope is that this inspires other young LGBT athletes to step forward and be themselves.
Rams players have heart, our fans give unconditional support, and you can bet that my season pass to the 2014 season is proudly in my pocket!
Out & Equal St. Louis affiliate
Upcoming Out & Equal St. Louis Events: We have several opportunities available to get involved in St. Louis and help us drive these initiatives, including our upcoming participation in both the MetroEast Illinois Pride celebration (held in Belleville, IL the weekend of June 21st and 22nd), and the St.Louis PRIDE festival (held at the Soldier’s Memorial in downtown St.Louis the weekend of June 28th and 29th.) For more information about our local affiliate and upcoming programming, please contact our Regional Affiliate Co-chairs, Laura Morrison and Michelle Smith. And, don’t forget to check out our Official Website or like us on Facebook to see more about our upcoming activities.