This morning, I received e-mail from a colleague in a faraway country, who recently had acted as an IBM ambassador to the colleague's nation, including its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The e-mail related good news, that the local IBM Country General Manager (CGM) sent the colleague an instant message, thanking the colleague for the colleague's leadership and inviting the colleague to lunch -- a big deal, given the position of the CGM, who is typically IBM's ambassador to client's among the nation's government and other top clients.
I wrote back as follows:
I must tell you a story...which you are free to share with [the CGM] or not, depending on how you want to maximize your time with him:
[The CGM] was a participant in the CGM Academy that I co-facilitated in October.
He would never remember this because it was just a quick comment in passing, but during a break, he noticed the ring I was wearing on my wedding finger, and said that it looked interesting. It is interesting, as it's inscribed on the outside in Hebrew, "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."
In response, at most, if I remember correctly, I said, "Thank you. My parents had the same one. It's a Hebrew inscription."
I felt anxious at that moment about being more so myself with him, which was too bad, as I felt I had built a small bit of rapport with him up to that point, and even a bit afterwards, though there was a layer of shame on the rapport for me after I failed to tell him the whole story of the ring, i.e., that it was the same as my parents' and that my partner Pat[ricia] and I were so pleased to find a pair of them for ourselves.
He seemed like an open, good person, and yet I froze with internalized homophobia. I should have followed my hunch. Look how warm the [instant message] exchange you had with him was, and promising, too, all because you demonstrated visible leadership.
I can imagine some people saying, "Sarah, what more did you need to tell the CGM? Why are you so down on yourself?"
Pat is so important to me, primary, really, and yet I felt myself holding back my reference to her. I'm reminded of Kenji Yoshino's marvelous book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Human Rights. Yoshino advocates being our whole selves without trying to cover up dimensions that are perhaps less socially palatable.
How do you summon bravery?