“Being Out at Work” Event Teaches Diversity and Equal Rights

“Being Out at Work” Part of National Coming Out Day

default article image“Nobody’s gay in mortgage banking!” joked John Paul Nicolaides, Area Sales Manager of Wells Fargo & Co. He was one of the speakers at “It Gets Better: Being Out at Work” last Tuesday, hosted by the University as part of National Coming Out Day.

The event began with a video of college presidents throughout the United States that held a positive outlook of being out at work. They spoke of more doors opening than closing through the experience, and the transition from being bullied at school to leading a University that prepares future social workers.

At the conclusion of this video, four guest speakers were introduced, including of John Paul Nicolaides of Wells Fargo. Nicolaides described their company as “openly accepting of our community.” Furthermore, he asserted that “I can take pride in a company that takes pride in me.”

The first speaker to share her story about coming out was Babs Casbar Siperstein, Executive Committee Member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). She was the first transgender individual to appear on the DNC’s ballot.

“If gays and lesbians are second class, what am I?” Siperstein said she often asked herself prior to coming out. She did not come out publicly until 2007.

Frederick C. Rafetto, Attorney at Ansell Grimm and Aaron PC, spoke next. Rafetto came out professionally within the last year after admitting that he felt uncomfortable bringing his partner to a law firm event, and through inspiration from his friend, Hudson Taylor.

Taylor wore a Human Rights Campaign sticker on his helmet during wrestling matches in college to show support for the gay community. Hudson then went on to create Athlete Ally, a sports resource encouraging all individuals involved in sports to respect every member of their communities, regardless of perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, and to lead others to do the same.

At one time Taylor did not have money for a lawyer concerning legal issues surrounding this campaign, so Rafetto offered to assist the cause, leading to trademark representation for the nonprofit organization. Rafetto later came out in a TriCity News article concerning Athlete Ally.

Bryan Hackett, an alumnus of the University and guidance counselor at Asbury Park High School was next in sharing his personal and professional experience.

Hackett said that his life did not start until attending graduate school at Monmouth after graduating from Villanova University’s undergraduate program. He expressed much gratitude for the accepting staff at the University.

“At first the school seemed apathetic, but behind that lied a refreshing, carefree, accepting attitude,” Hackett said.

Nicolaides of Wells Fargo was the last to speak.

 He explained that coming out at work becomes a nonissue once one gets the ball rolling. Moreover, he said an individual’s situation at home will determine whether or not coming out is going to be easier or harder. Nico laides said that he was excommunicated from his family for several years.

When applying for a job, Nicolaides said that members of the gay community should pick a company that wants diversity.

“It’s great when you can bring all of you to work and not leave part of you home,” he said.

He listed the most important aspects of coming out at work as being ready by practicing with friends ahead of time, not becoming overly defensive or aggressive, and embracing the saying, “I challenge you to be inclusive and embrace diversity.”

“This is my life, my chance, and I want everything out of it,” Nicolaides concluded.

A question and answer session followed the four speakers.

An array of questions were asked, such as “What advice would you give for young graduates looking for jobs in culturally different areas of the United States?”

Siperstein answered that only 15 states have laws which protect transgender individuals, and 29 states allow employers to fire gay employees based on sexuality.

Dr. Nancy Mezey, Director of the Sociology Program and Director of the Institute for Global Understanding, found the event to be successful.

“With approximately 100 people in attendance, most of whom were students, and a lively Q&A at the end, as well as good food thanks to Wells Fargo, we were pleased with how the evening went,” Mezey said.

“I hope that gay students in the audience felt supported and hopeful that life does get better, and I hope that the heterosexual students who attended will feel empowered to stand up for those who face discrimination and disrespect,” she added.

As a reminder to students, Safe Zone stickers appear on doors on campus as a support area for all students.

“It Gets Better: Being Out at Work” was sponsored by All Lifestyles Included, The Institute for Global Understanding, Student Activities, Sociology Club and Wells Fargo.