Coming out is never easy. It often comes with a burden of anxieties and fears of judgement, especially in a work environment. However, for those who decide that they’re ready to show up as their most authentic self, it can be life-changing to be able to come forward with pride in their identities–especially when met with a bounty of support from those around them.
Intel’s own senior strategic finance specialist Sophia Drozdowski became an accidental advocate when she came out as a transgender woman last August. After posting a message to LinkedIn about her transition, Sophia found that many connections in her network appreciated her honesty and vulnerability. Though there were some negative responses, overall, Sophia was pleasantly surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response. Rather than engaging with negative comments, she focused on her supporters and chose to use her newfound platform to spread awareness. She’s been enjoying the opportunity to engage and encourage others in similar situations.
When asked about her greatest moments of fear, she mentioned coming out to Peter, her manager, which was an experience that ended up being a moment of true support, learning, and connection. "When I told Peter that I needed to talk to him, he thought I was resigning,” Sophia said. “But the discussion that followed was wonderful, and I couldn’t have asked for a stronger advocate or person of support.”
The discussion that followed, as Sophia described, was “wonderful.” Despite warning that he might not always know exactly what to say, Peter showed up for Sophia as an advocate, person of support, and as someone ready and excited to be educated. He eagerly reviewed the learning resources she sent him and came back with questions and enthusiasm for Sophia’s future–both at Intel and outside of it.
Sophia has words of wisdom for anyone who’s thinking about coming out, professionally or in their personal lives. “I want you to know you’re not alone and you never will be, at the very least you’ll always have me!”
Sophia also added that “there’s no right or wrong way to come out of the closet, but the world appreciates vulnerability. The world is friendlier when you’re vulnerable.”
That goes for managers too– embrace your vulnerability, just like Peter did. Often, you’re not going to know what to say or do, or what the best way to support is. However, if you’re willing to learn, communicate, and be a vocal advocate for your employees, that is a great way to start. In Sophia’s own words, “Vulnerability can really be a power.”
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