National Coming Out Day- Stories from Wellpoint Care Network Employees
Wednesday, October 11 is National Coming Out Day.
The first observation was in 1988 and by 1990 it was being celebrated in all 50 states.
The annual observance celebrates and supports individuals in the LGBTQ+ community as they share their authentic selves with the world.
You can learn more HERE.
Wellpoint Care Network works to promote a diverse and caregiving environment to ensure that those we serve and employ are valued, accepted, respected and treated equitably.
Below are stories from three Wellpoint Care employees who have been brave enough to share their stories so we can honor and recognize the importance of the day.
It Never Stops
By Zander Dietterich, Resource Navigator
It Never Stops
Hi, I’m gay.
Hi I’m queer.
Hi I’m non-binary**
Hi I’m transgender**
Hi I’m genderfluid**
Hi I’m polyamorous**
I’ve had this conversation far too many times to count. Coming out is a constant, ongoing process. My coming out story is coming out to a guardian and having her yell at me for being deranged. My coming out story is how I didn’t even have to specifically say it to my group of friends because we were all queer and we didn’t need to vocalize it. It’s my mom being fine with the idea of being with another assigned female person, but siding with my grandfather’s disgust when two men kissed after winning a game on TV. It’s every single time, near every day, that I correct someone on my pronouns. It’s having to explain that I have multiple partners and that’s not cheating.
It’s fighting back about all of the assumptions that everyone has about what gender, sexuality and relational identity should be. Existing outside of the hetero-, cis-, mono- normative** society is a constant coming out process in attempts to have one’s identity and mere existence respected. It’s… exhausting. It’s an added weight on my mental load every day.
Every day you may be a part of someone’s coming out process, part of whether or not someone decides to voice who they are. I cannot express enough thanks to the people I had in my life who made their support known, who educated themselves and expressed themselves in ways that opened the door for my whole self. They helped lessen the burden and weight I have to carry and I am so grateful.
**Non-binary: an umbrella term for gender identities that are outside of the binary of man-woman. Non-binary people identity as neither men or women, they may identity partially with the gender binary or complete outside of it.
**Transgender: an umbrella term for people who identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth
Cisgender: a term for people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth (ie: a woman who was assigned female at birth and still identifies as a woman)
**Genderfluid: a nonbinary identify that is changes, or flows, over time. It may change from day to day, month to month, etc.
**Polyamorous: a relationship style where people have multiple romantic, committed relationships where everyone is aware of and consenting to having multiple partners.
**Heteronormative: the idea that society pushes heterosexuality as the “norm” or “default” way of being, the assumption that a person is heterosexual (cisnormative: the assumption that a person is cisgender/that cisgender is the default, mononormative: the assumption that monogamy is the default)
Ally to my Brother, Glenn Robert
By Erica Wieland, Clinical Therapist
Hilarious, laughter, best friend, “little” brother are all the words I use to describe my brother, Glenn Robert. As a family, we moved frequently around the United States. Moving so frequently as a family did not allow me to make close friends. My little brother became my “best” friend. Playing Barbies together, playing dress up, having tea parties, creating tents and forts, reading books together, and walking to the local diners to have lunch together were the best days. We shared our dreams, hopes and secrets together knowing we could hold each other through anything.
I was attending a local college, and he was in high school. We were meeting to have lunch together and catch up. It was during lunch, he shared with me that he was gay. I smiled at him and told him that I knew. He laughed out loud. We spent that lunch talking about childhood memories and his theatre work. We remained close in the young adult years. Glenn Robert became a groomsman at my wedding.
Glenn Robert spent the remainder of his life in theatre. He became a local DJ in Chicago and loved working Drag Shows in Chicago. Later, Glenn Robert moved his career to Austin to be with his partner. When Glenn Robert walked into a room, everyone knew he had arrived. His favorite saying was, “The world is my stage and I want to live on center stage.” He did.
Eight years ago, Glenn Robert left this world due to complications of AIDS and lifestyle choices. I spent the last year of his life driving to Arkansas each month to spend the weekend with him. Glenn Robert lives forever in my memories and pictures of him are hanging on my refrigerator. Glenn Robert gets to hear my dreams, hopes and secrets as I share them with my husband. I know Glenn Robert is living on center stage, walking the runway, dressing like a star, and making the audience laugh.
You will be forever missed, Glenn Robert. I will always be your biggest fan.
The Journey of an Ally
By Kristi Scharl, Chief Financial Officer
Over the past few years, I have been paying closer attention to representation, or really lack thereof. Being a white, cis, straight female, it is rare that I don’t see myself represented on TV, in print, etc. A few years ago, I remember watching the show The Fosters. This show is about a lesbian couple and their blend of biological, adoptive and foster children. The show frequently displayed physical affection between the mothers, Stef and Lena. When I first started watching the show, I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable when their physical affection was displayed. and it bothered me that I felt uncomfortable. It should be no different seeing a gay couple kiss than seeing a straight couple kiss. I started thinking about how growing up, everything I watched only had straight couples. There has been more representation in the media today, but there is still a ways to go.
Fast forward to a family dinner I was at, and an in-law made a comment about how she’s ok with physical affection between a gay couple, but just doesn’t want to see it. In that moment, I was not an ally as I stayed quiet. I didn’t want to disrupt the family meal that night. That moment has stuck with me for many years. As an ally, there are times that it’s ok to do quiet work, but there are times that showing up and speaking out is needed. I should have spoken up at that moment. To me, when I think about why I am an ally, it’s simple. We are all humans. We all deserve to be loved, to be represented and to feel accepted. I have more work to do personally, to continue to grow as an ally. I am excited and proud to work for an organization that is working on its own journey and provides opportunities for groups to educate me and other employees on these important topics. A special thank you to the LGBTQIA+ affinity group for the events that you host throughout the year. You have been an important part of my ally journey.