National Coming Out Day: Perspective from LGBTQ+ P&G Employees

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At P&G, we’re committed to creating a workplace where everyone feels empowered to be their 100% authentic self.
Where every talent is nurtured, and every voice is valued.

Today, on National Coming Out Day, we’re reflecting on the process of coming out – how it is not an event that an LGBTQ+ person experiences once in their life, but infinite times; how there are an infinite number of coming out experiences and each are unique; and how allies can be more proactive in creating an environment that makes it easier for everyone to be their full authentic selves.

As a company, we have been on a journey for many years to promote LGBTQ+ equality, brought to life in a series of films, including The Words Matter, Out of the Shadows and most recently ‘They Will See You’ and The Pause. P&G has a legacy of fostering workplace equality and employee pride, and we’re proud to show our support for the LGBTQ+ community year-round – especially on days such as National Coming Out Day.

One of the most important steps of meaningful allyship is listening to someone else’s story. And we’re so honoured to share the personal stories of 2 P&G employees and members of the LGBTQ+ community to further drive awareness and action.

Joia Spooner-Fleming, Vice-President, Global Grooming Research and Development

Joia Spooner-Flemming, Vice-President, Global Grooming Research and Development

I’m proud to be a Black & White, Innovator, Lesbian, Mother, Woman and Christian.

Whilst there is a uniqueness that comes with my intersectional identity – I represent a point of view that not a lot of people go through the world thinking or seeing – it is what I hope makes me special and effective…a great innovator and leader.

Maybe it’s my ability to move amongst so many different communities that makes people feel comfortable to reach out to me. I feel that brings responsibility for me to be a visible LGBT leader. I’m quite happy to accept that responsibility. If we can find the strength, then we can never underestimate the power that being visible has on the people around us.

I remember the first time I had a gay colleague whom I was managing, and it was such a humbling moment to realise the power that my own visibility could have on someone – he felt more comfortable being himself in the workplace, because someone else had helped me feel comfortable in the workplace. He flourished in his P&G career.

To our allies in all aspects of Equality & Inclusion, I’d like to say please assume that people do not know that you are an ally. Stand up. Be Vocal. Be Visible. You never know the power that can have on someone who doesn’t yet know how to be seen.

Looking back, I guess I kind of always had a little sense about myself to be honest. I think I just knew that I was different. Whenever all my friends had a crush on ‘that boy’ in 7th grade, I remember knowing that I didn’t feel the same. By the age of about 14, I knew that I was a Lesbian and that was fine with me. It was only the rest of the world that I needed to tell!

First, I introduced me to me, then I bestowed the privilege upon my friends and then my parents and brother. My Dad’s main concern was that he would be changing the rules around female friend sleepovers and watching tv together on the couch. I told my Nan that I loved girls the way that other girls loved boys. Who I wanted to fall in love with didn’t stop my Nan from loving me – ground-breaking in 1994!

I feel lucky for most of the reactions people had to my coming out. What a crazy thing to feel lucky for – that people didn’t hate me for being me. I’m privileged that of my most stressful memories of being a gay teen was that my date to senior prom insisted on eating lobster in her beautiful prom dress. Who tries to eat lobster in a prom dress?

As I grew up and experienced a wide range of changes in my life – from going to college, to starting new jobs, to travelling around the world with those jobs and meeting new friends, friends turning to more than friends and so on and so on – I began to realise that my job of ‘coming out’ was never over. It became a standard part of my introductions and thus my identity. It was also never the same experience twice – every one of my many coming out experiences has been different, with its own challenges as well as its own special moments bringing me closer to the people I love.

Joia Spooner-Flemming at the prom with her parents

Of course, for each of my many coming out experiences, the people I’ve told have also had their own kind of experience and what I’ve noticed is that people’s reaction to my coming out is fluid and susceptible to influence. Once I married, people seemed to find my gayness easier because marriage was something they could relate to. The same with being a mother – it’s amazing how powerful a unifier those experiences can be between people. Of course, I’m not recommending anyone has children to make it easier to come out… we all know you have them so they can look after you in your old age…!

What I also didn’t anticipate was that my children are also required to go through their own version of coming out as having two mums. I started thinking about that, at the beginning of every year, they will stand up in front of their friends and say ‘Hi. I have two moms,’ and because that will make them different, they will have to explain their family. I don’t think that is particularly fair, but it’s their reality. So with all of my coming out moments a door opens for more inclusion and understanding and nurturance, and that is why I wrote this story.

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National Coming Out Day – An Anonymous Perspective from a P&G Employee

Coming out..

Coming out is not just a phase, it’s not just a one-day thing, it’s something I constantly need to be reminded by society that I need to be doing. As a queer person, I sometimes find myself trying to avoid certain situations like family dinners. It’s just tiring having to explain myself and tell people that I might not look gay, but I am! I don’t even like the label, so having to explain myself for something I would have expected everyone to stop making assumptions on, would be great.

I’ve always been undecided about what I think for labels. I think the fact that I can look up to other people with similar ‘labels’ and feel a sense of community and belonging is great. On the other hand, I never felt like I wanted to be in any box. I am forever grateful to those brave enough to be visible allies and visible members of the community that give the rest of us courage though!

My family will still not acknowledge the fact that I am queer, nor talk about it with me. This might be part of the reason I choose to be less visible for the time being, but at the same time I truly believe that the more people are open about this and use the right language, the more I gain courage to be myself. At the end of the day, I know that the company benefits the most when I can truly feel safe to be myself and bring my full self to the workplace.

I feel privileged to work for a company that is a visible ally and always allows employee voices to be heard.