I have a rainbow sticker on my laptop. To be precise, the sticker is a rainbow silhouette of the Great Lakes. The sticker is a clear, visible reminder of Midwest roots: I can point out my hometown and where I grew up, I can show people the tiny peninsula up north and explain where I went to college. However, this rainbow sticker is much bigger than a visual reminder of my roots in the Midwest. It’s a symbol of my pride.
Being proud of who I am isn’t the only reason the sticker is displayed prominently on my laptop. I don’t care if the entire company knows that I’m gay. That’s not the point. It’s a signal. I want to send out this rainbow beacon to anyone who might be a member of the LGBTQ+ community at Handshake and is unsure if they belong. I want to signal that I am someone they can turn to, someone they can they can talk to, and someone who might be able to understand what they are going through, and not worry about outing themselves — for all these reasons, I’m letting them know: I’m here.
I remember starting at Handshake two summers ago as an intern. I moved from the Midwest to San Francisco. I was so excited about meeting other gay people and possibly having someone to share stories with who would get it. But it turns out, I actually had a really hard time figuring out who I could talk to about being gay at work.
Marching in San Francisco Pride Parade with the Trevor Project during my summer internship at Handshake.
I wasn’t worried about people being homophobic or treating me poorly. I knew that wouldn’t happen here at Handshake. I just didn’t want anyone’s perception of me to change if they found out that I was gay. I dreaded that awkward moment when I said something about going on a date with another guy and whoever I was talking to didn’t know how to respond and then things get awkward…
As an intern, I was heads down trying to learn and grow during the summer months. I was committed to delivering high quality work and was overwhelmed trying to navigate what I should or shouldn’t say, or who I could openly speak with about my identity.
So, I added that rainbow silhouette of the Great Lakes sticker so others might not have to go through the same thing.
Two years later, Handshake now has an Employee Community or Resource Group for our LGBTQ+ employees. We have a community where we can be open about our identities, share stories, and build awareness within the company. Now, if you’re new to Handshake, you don’t have to see my rainbow sticker to know that there are gay people here. If you identify as LGBTQ+, you are welcome, you are supported, you are not alone. You belong.
I know that I’m not the only LGBTQ intern or employee who’s gone through this. That’s why I’m so excited to be working on experiences in Handshake that highlight employers that support LGBTQ+ employees. From internship reviews that highlight employers with LGBTQ+ resources and representation, to student and alumni Questions & Answers (Q&A) about being out at work. I’m glad that I get to work on helping future students find opportunities where they can be comfortable, supported, and celebrated at work.
Happy Pride, everyone! 🏳️🌈
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