Creating an LGBTIQ-friendly Corporate Family. Something to celebrate on Wear it Purple Day

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?

Emma Balfour

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.

9 thoughts on “Creating an LGBTIQ-friendly Corporate Family. Something to celebrate on Wear it Purple Day

  1. Thank you for sharing such a personal and thoughtful perspective, Emma.
    In a post plebiscite Australia, I love the notion of the “self-made family” being the glue that bonds the LGBTIQ community. Glad to hear that your KPMG Family have been so welcoming and supportive!
    PS. Congrats also for being the first person to quote Mama RuPaul
    in a KPMG publication! Hope you start a trend.

    1. Hi Matthew! Thanks for your support, I had a great time writing it. I’ve been wrestling with this as a concept for quite some time, so being given the opportunity to pin it down in words around such an excellent day like WIPD was a real privilege. And I hope Ru is proud of me somewhere under her forty-tonne wig 🙂

  2. Thanks so much Emma for sharing. I couldn’t be prouder to work for an organisation that empowers amazing young queer people, such as yourself, to be visible and heard.
    A lot of LGBTIQ people fought the good fight for us to have such an amazing celebration like Wear It Purple Day. Each day I wear my KPMG Pride lapel pin, I am reminded of how far we as a family, which includes our amazing allies, have come and that we need to continue to strive for acceptance through understanding.

    1. Michelle – I love the pride pin, too! I’m so lucky to be able to be able to wear it and write proudly like this, and so incredibly thankful to all the queer activists and advocates who have come before me who have fought for it. I’m glad my words have resonated with the KPMG community, and that I’ve been given the opportunity to contribute my voice.

  3. Thanks Emma. My son is Bi. He is now twenty and is confident in his sexuality. He still encounters prejudice but has learned to handle it well.
    Initiatives like this one help everyone learn and accept others as they are. So thank you and the others involved for driving change.

    I will be wearing purple on Friday!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Jefferson!

      I’m so glad your son has such supportive and accepting parents – my own parents certainly still struggle to understand my bisexuality sometimes.

      I absolutely agree with you – initiatives like these are a great way to drive LGBTIQ advocacy, and I am so thankful to be in a workplace that celebrates that. Very excited to rock the purple tomorrow!

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