Every year, National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is on October 11. We’ve made enormous strides for equality and acceptance since the inception of NCOD 34 years ago. Yet even in 2022, sharing one’s sexuality and gender identity can be a challenge for many members of the LGBTQ+ global community for a variety of cultural, political, religious and personal reasons. In many parts of the world, coming out continues to be a deeply courageous act of LGBTQ+ activism.
Be it in one’s community or in the workplace, coming out is the first step to living authentically and having pride in one’s identity. Google is committed to creating a culture of inclusion that supports all of our employees around the world, including members of the LGBTQ+ community – no matter how they identify.
A key part of creating a workplace that recognizes and celebrates diversity is offering a platform where people can share stories about their personal experiences and truths. We want to extend an enormous thanks to the four Googlers who have opened up to share their stories for this year’s National Coming Out Day. These stories represent just a small fraction of Google’s diverse and vibrant LGBTQ+ community.
“Coming in” before coming out
Jean Illyria (she/her), who works in our Singapore office with Google Customer Solutions, says she first used technology to come out as a trans woman. “If you’ve ever played a role-playing game, you’d know how it feels to experience the world through this third-person view, responding to events and making decisions for your virtual character based on a story you’ve crafted for them,” she says. “The experiences you have are real, the emotions you feel may be real, but it’s all very much unreal. My life felt like a game, so naturally, I first came out while chatting in a game. The anonymity and the appearance of my virtual person seemed to make it much easier.”
Ever since surrounding herself with people who accept and support her, Jean has been able to focus on living life to the fullest. “Coming out may seem like a huge milestone and a rite of passage for LGBT folks, but don’t come out just for the sake of coming out,” she says. “Instead, focus on what coming out would do for you, and consider the costs and benefits of doing so for your individual situation. Start by prioritizing what’s been dubbed as ‘coming in’: Learn to accept, embrace and celebrate your identity for yourself.”
I'm a better employee, teammate, and manager because I can be my authentic self at work.
Coming out at work
California-based Googler Marnie Florin (any gender-neutral pronouns, such as they/them and ze/zir), who works in people operations, first came out as queer and then as nonbinary. Because Marnie uses gender-neutral pronouns, they need to come out to every new person they meet to avoid being misgendered. For Marnie and many nonbinary people, being misgendered is painful; it pulls them out from what they're doing and creates feelings of disconnection and rejection simply because of who they are. This is especially taxing when working at a large company, which is just one example of why allyship is so important.
It took two months for Marnie to come out when they joined Google in 2014. “I agonized over how to do it: Should I tell everyone in person, should I have my manager do it, should I let people find out organically? Ultimately, I decided to send an email to my larger team and the responses were so incredible,” they say. “It was so freeing to stop hiding such a significant part of my identity. I'm a better employee, teammate, and manager because I can be my authentic self at work.”
Deciding when the time is right
Working in London, Nayem Chowdhury (he/him) is from a traditional Muslim immigrant family and worried about coming out. He says he spent so much energy hiding his true self — energy he believed he could otherwise spend enjoying life.
“It’s particularly hard to manage different levels of authenticity at work and in your personal life, so it was very liberating to come out at Google,” he says. “In fact, I was out at work first. It’s given me access to so many amazing people and opportunities through LGBTQ+ employee resource groups, and it gave me the confidence to come out to my parents.”
Nayem says it’s crucial people come out only when the time is right for them, and not feel pressured to do so. “Go at your own pace and do it your own way,” he says. “I regret not coming out to my parents sooner as I thought I had to do it face-to-face, but I kept putting it off. I eventually did it over email, which suited me much better.”
Learn to accept, embrace and celebrate your identity for yourself.
Being an example to others
Googler Guilherme Saconatto (he/him), who works in Brazil as an account executive, said he didn’t know just how much he yearned for community and felt like he was compartmentalizing his identity before coming out. “Before coming out, you don’t realize how lonely you are with your secret,” he says. But when he came out to his close friends and they were supportive, he says, “It felt like being welcomed into a new world.”
Guilherme says coming out doesn’t just affect an individual — it impacts the LGBTQ+ community around the world. “There is nothing more freeing and rewarding than being able to remain faithful to ourselves at all times,” he says. “The queer community needs our heroes and role models visible to allow ourselves to aspire to reach higher. Visibility is still one of the most powerful tools in changing society.”