Op/Ed: “We Just Hoped and Prayed That We Had Employers Who Supported Our True Selves.”

“An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions.” —Justice Gorsuch

We get up, get dressed, and we go to work. We should be judged by our Microsoft skills, not by our brunching game. We identify by the clothes we wear, the way we style our hair and the pronouns we use which create our identity inside and out. We identify as Mr. This and Mrs. That, but it helps people understand us and learn just a piece of who we are as a person. If our business cards don’t match who we truly are, who exactly is punching the time clock every day?  What if my colleagues never knew about my wedding this fall? What if they never knew how passionate and active I am in creating LGBT friendly spaces?

I would be living a lie.


I am fortunate to live in a community that supports LGBT rights through fundraising, events, and philanthropy. I have the opportunity to chair my company’s local LGBTQIA employee resource group and bring about awareness within my industry, while creating friendships and professional development opportunities. As we were building the group, we discussed it with our known “out” colleagues. I asked an older male coworker who said “Eric, it’s so nice that you get to be like that at work, but you didn’t live through the Lavender Scare”—a time when our own government openly inquired on sexual status and could terminate employment accordingly. To see a strong, successful man still carry that damage with him was quite telling. Never able to discuss vacation plans with colleagues. Never able to invite his partner to work functions, dinners, and gatherings. How often was he perceived to be ‘different’ or ‘not possessing the skills necessary’ for even more opportunities?

Prior to this ruling, almost half of the states in our country allowed companies to fire an employee for being LGBT. We just hoped and prayed that we had employers who supported our true selves. With the SCOTUS 6-3 ruling, we finally told our LGBTQIA community that they’re protected for being who they are, and we told our trans brothers and sisters that they too are worthy of legal protections in the workplace.

Kansas City is full of such kind hearts. Our cities have been passing non-discrimination ordinances to offer legal protection, a charge led by several prominent voices such as Brett Hoedl and Michael Poppa. Our LGBT Chamber of Commerce—and the efforts of the policy and advocacy committee led by Leon Harden—have been building rapport within the business community to shape hearts and minds in the business sector to bring about awareness and empathy to our colleagues. Our Kansas City leaders should be celebrating now more than ever.

This was monumental on several levels, but most notably is the protection, recognition, and authorization to bring that true authentic self to any occasion.

Eric Thomas is an Independence, Missouri, native and a graduate of UMKC. He resides in Brookside with his fiancé and two golden retrievers. He serves as the Board President for the AIDS Service Foundation, as well as the Sponsorship Director for Stonewall Sports KC. He is passionate about creating community within the LGBT world and KC metro at large where people are allowed to grow and thrive.