When he began working at Babson, Weerapat “Go” Attachot (he/him) had a discussion with his parents. Since he was starting a new job, they had some advice for him. “You should be careful at work because you are gay,” they told him.
His parents were afraid he might face retribution for his sexuality. Perhaps he would be bullied, or even fired. Attachot, an assistant professor of accounting, understood why they felt that way. He knew all too well the source of that fear. “Being openly gay for most of my adulthood,” he says, “I have been bullied verbally more times than I care to remember.”
Ultimately, Attachot decided not to follow their advice. “I decided to be myself,” he says. “I decided to be openly gay on campus.”
Not every workplace, however, is as accepting. Being open about who you are is not always easy for members of the LGBTQ community. Bringing your true self to your job, to your community, can be hard if you feel like your true self isn’t welcome.
That’s why the Supreme Court decision on June 15 was so monumental. In a 6-to-3 ruling, the court stated that the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
For Babson’s LGBTQ community, the ruling was a victory that was a long time coming, and it was made extra sweet for having happened during Pride Month, a special time at the College for reflection and celebration. When Kaitlyn Sleyster ’21 (she/her) heard the news, she was staying with her partner and her partner’s family. “We were all so excited that evening that we proposed a toast to the decision,” she says, “and we talked about its impact on our lives.”
The Supreme Court decision does no less than reaffirm one of the foundational promises of America—that all people are created equal—a promise the country has not always been able to keep. “It’s a huge deal. It shows that the court recognizes that the LGBTQ community has the same unalienable rights as others,” says Anjali Bal (she/her), assistant professor of marketing. “Our country should be defending the rights of everyone to succeed and prosper.”
“For many years, I never used my preferred name or pronouns in fear that I would be judged for being my authentic self. This decision gives me more confidence to be out and proud.”
Duruo Murray ’21 (he/him)
Bal has been outspoken about LGBTQ rights for a long time. Growing up, she had many friends who identified as LGBTQ. “I’ve seen how many people I love have been discriminated against,” says Bal, who was bestowed the Faculty Pride Award at Lavender Graduation this year, a recognition she calls “the highest professional honor I have ever gotten.”
Bal says the Supreme Court decision is about personal liberty. “This ruling supports the idea that people have the right to be who they are at work without concern of losing their livelihood,” she says.
For Sleyster, the decision brought a “sigh of relief.” As it is, looking for work and starting a new job can be a stressful experience for anyone, but being LGBTQ only makes it that much more fraught. When she searches for a job, Sleyster spends a lot of time researching how inclusive a company’s workplace is. “It is disappointing to find an exciting opportunity but be worried that the company culture would require me to hide parts of myself,” she says.
As a person who identifies as transgender, Duruo Murray ’21 (he/him) says the work environment can be difficult to navigate. “I never felt entirely comfortable with being out in the workplace,” he says. “For many years, I never used my preferred name or pronouns in fear that I would be judged for being my authentic self.”
Murray now feels a sense of freedom. “This decision gives me more confidence to be out and proud,” he says.
The Fight Continues
While the ruling may be a great leap forward, Michael Lara (he/him), Babson’s assistant director of LGBTQ+ and Identity Programs, cautions that there is still work to do and progress to be made.
That was evident at Babson’s virtual Pride celebration last week. Capping off Pride Month, the event featured plenty of fun, including dancing, trivia, and a scavenger hunt. It also included a reading of the names of the 16 trans or gender nonconforming individuals, many of them people of color, who are known to have lost their lives due to violence so far in 2020.
“The fight continues,” Lara says. “I’m encouraged by the Supreme Court decision and the victory for our community, but let us not forget that lives are on the line. It is imperative that we keep on pushing.”
Posted in Campus & Community