by Emma Balfour, Consultant, Management Consulting
This Friday August 31st is Wear It Purple Day, and everyone is encouraged to wear something purple to mark the occasion. Wear It Purple is an Australian not-for-profit organisation started in 2010 to show LGBTIQ young people they are loved and supported, and have the right to be proud of their identity. As a young queer person, I want to reflect on what that means within the context of LGBTIQ culture.
Corporate support for the LGBTIQ community is a mainstay of many firms now, including KPMG. But for the LGBTIQ community, uncloseted acceptance in the workplace is still a relatively new phenomenon. In the past decade opinion has shifted around marriage equality, queer vocabularies and identities, and more visibility for trans and gender non-conforming people. It can still be hard though for us in the LGBTIQ community to come out at work. I’m very lucky – I’m young and I’ve grown up in a society that is a lot kinder than it was (despite what is felt and said in online commentary).
But aside from corporate support, what does LGBTIQ corporate culture look like? Can corporate culture be ‘queer-ed’? What sits in the overlap between LGBTIQ culture and corporate culture, and how can we celebrate that?
LGBTIQ culture has its roots in resistance, occupying the clandestine crevices in the fringes of society. Nightclubs, drag shows, secret Sapphic bookstores, consciousness-raising groups – being queer and happy was itself a form of protest. Recently, LGBTIQ subcultures have burst into the mainstream zeitgeist with vigour, and we find ourselves asking: can the mainstream celebrate queer culture in an authentic and meaningful way?
I posit there is one unifying element across LGBTIQ subcultures and the history of LGBTIQ political advocacy that corporate culture can celebrate: the practice of a self-made family. Drag queen and television host RuPaul explains: “You know, we as gay people, we get to choose our family. We get to choose the people we’re around. I am your family, we are family here.”
Queer spaces can act as de facto families for those whose actual families may have rejected them or not understood them. The idea of family as a conscious, iterative choice is further reflected in the struggles that rainbow families endure to get married, and to adopt children – the two-and-a-half kids of the nuclear family does not always come easily to LGBTIQ people. Queer family, and conversely familial queerness, is at the heart of the LGBTIQ community.
And that is why Wear It Purple Day is such a fantastic celebration of our community. It is a show of familial solidarity that we extend to all Australians.
So, this Friday, I want you to come to work not thinking that this is just another diversity initiative – it is that, certainly – but I want you to reflect also on what wearing it purple actually means: it is a celebration of your corporate family.
I made a conscious choice to join KPMG because I knew that the people here would accept me as one of their own – as one of their family. I’ve chosen to be here. I’ve chosen to be out. I’ve chosen KPMG as my work family. And to show my work family and all young queer Australians that I’m here for them, I’m going to Wear It Purple.