Proud, Safe and Thriving at Work
A Pride Flag by the Door
Finding a workplace as an LGBTQ+ person has always caused me anxiety. Being in a safe place where I can be myself is important to me, and I feared that I would have to alter my personality to fit into a professional work setting, because I’m more flamboyant and feminine than most men.
I’m a gender-fluid, twenty-something millennial, queer person who has recently graduated from a three-year college program here in my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario. I am of French Canadian and Maltese heritage.
During my studies, my profs would prep us on portfolio building, interview skills, and job hunting. This was a nightmare to me. When I started my studies in 2016, I got hired at Bay Used Books as a part-time summer student. I quickly developed strong relationships with the owner, the manager, and all of my co-workers (some of them also belong to the 2SLGBTQ+ community). Working here was a relief for two reasons: 1) It didn’t feel like work to me, because I love working with books and readers, and 2) because it was a safe place for me to be myself and openly gay. The number one thing that made me feel safe there was a sticker of the pride flag in the front door.
A Sense of Community
After I graduated, I decided to stay at the bookstore and got hired full time. With all the marketing and social media skills I had picked up in college, I became an asset to the team, and have helped the bookstore create a bigger sense of community with its readers. I’ve been there for almost six years now.
My employers and co-workers are very open-minded, accepting, encouraging and supportive. Near the end of my college studies, I started dabbling in the performance art of drag and have been doing it for about two years now. I go by the name of Emma Daniels. I’ve even been asked to emcee and host events like the local Wordstock (Sudbury’s Poetry Slam) and Sudbury Pride’s Gay Cabaret as Emma. The owners and my co-workers at Bay Used Books often come to see me at my gigs!
The arts community is so diverse, and I see a lot of 2SLGBTQ+ people participate at these types of events, which gave me the comfort to get out of my house in full drag even if it’s not easy being openly gay in public for me. I always have the fear at the back of my mind that a confrontational or malicious incident can happen at any moment. I think of people like Matthew Shepard. Especially in a smaller city like Sudbury, where there aren’t as many support groups or a large sense of community compared to Toronto or Vancouver.
A Safe Place to Work
Having a safe place to work is really important. Whether it’s your day job or a side hustle. Something so small like a pride flag at the door can speak volumes of that business or workplace. It says, “we understand that you don’t feel safe, but you’re safe here.” There are many things that businesses can do to make sure their employees feel safe, comfortable, and welcomed at work.
I know that I’m lucky to have found my workplace. I know that not everyone feels comfortable being themselves at work, that they are made to feel like being queer is somehow unprofessional, and that the 2SLGBTQ+ culture and lifestyle have no place at work. I desperately want this to change.
If I’ve learnt anything from being myself at work it’s that I’m a better employee when I’m not struggling to be someone else. I’m happier and more efficient. I can easily boost morale and create long-lasting relationships with my customers. Being queer is not a hindrance to a business. Being hateful is.
Cory Gaudette is a gender-fluid poet based in Sudbury, Ontario. They are currently working on their second book of poetry and some personal essays. Find them on Instagram @emma_danielsxo
Find the feature article," A Pride Flag by the Door: Creating Safe, Supportive Workplaces for Trans and Queer Workers," in Our Times' Summer 2021 issue. Please consider signing up for our e-newsletter!