I think the first part of coming out to me was really coming out at school. The second was coming out to my family. And the third is the continued journey of coming out every time I start a new job or make new friends.
I first came out when I was 15 years old. I went into college very out. I joined a fraternity very out. I never hid my sexuality. When I did get into my first couple of jobs after college, I was actually in the audit practice, in the accounting finance world. At least back then, it was still a very predominantly white, male-dominated industry.
I was told by a senior manager in my second job that I can be gay, just don’t be gay at work. I think that’s the first time I truly understood and realized what it meant to not be included. And that’s the moment that I realized anywhere I work from now on, I will be out in my interview and I will make sure that they have some kind of affinity network, or at least have the desire to create one.
It is scary still if somebody may not want to hire you because you are gay. But to me, if somebody doesn’t want to hire me because I’m gay, I don’t think I belong at that company.
I joined Zillow back in November 2018. I joined because I really believe in working on a product that’s going to change the world and disrupt an industry. And to me, Zillow Offers was that group that was doing that. I really do think that we’re fighting the good battle. We’re really trying to bring ease and simplicity to the both home buying and selling process.
On my first phone interview, I asked if there are any affinity networks and more specifically Pride. And luckily, I was actually interviewing with one of the individuals who helped start the Pride Network here. For me, that’s very important.
If you’re going to work long hours, you don’t want to be sitting in a room where you can’t be yourself. You don’t want to sit in a room where you have to think twice about responding to a question like, “Hey, what did you do this weekend?” And you don’t know if you can answer that you went to a gay bar, or you went to a restaurant, or to a city that is associated with the LGBTQ+ community.
I think the most important part of the LGBTQ+ network at Zillow is really making anybody who’s starting here feel welcome and feel like they belong here. It’s about teaching others what we’ve gone through and teaching others about our culture. There’s not a time that I don’t bring up on our team meeting something of historical value, or talk about different examples, or walk them through why the color of the flag looks a little bit different than they had seen before.
To me, it’s about not only making a welcoming environment for others, but also educating and teaching others. I’ve always said: The answer to hate isn’t love. To me, the answer to hate is education and teaching others. I think ignorance is what creates fear, and we fear what we don’t know. Therefore, if we know and we understand, there’ll be a little bit less hate in this world.