Paul Kaiser: Why I Volunteer
August 19, 2012
In 2002, I took my first real, full-time, grown-up job. I worked as an assistant for a Catholic university in my hometown of Saint Louis, Missouri. While I am gay, I was not out. In fact, I did not know if I would ever come out. I had not witnessed the open, hostile discrimination that so many others have, however I certainly did feel the unspoken condemnation and disgust of this ‘lifestyle choice’ from family, friends, in school, and now at my workplace.
What I did not realize at that time, was that discriminatory repercussions of coming out at my work (be that denial of a promotion, harassment from coworkers, demotion, or even outright firing) were – and remain – 100% legal. That is because Missouri is one of the 29 states where it remains legal to discriminate in the workplace based on sexual orientation and 34 states where workplace discrimination is allowed based on gender identity or expression.
At my first opportunity, I made my move out of Saint Louis and away from home, friends, and family. I lived (and came out) during the three years that I spent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, while there, I worked for another religious university. I continued to feel the threat of being entirely myself in a professional setting.
Finally, in 2010, I moved to Denver, Colorado.
Almost immediately I became involved in the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Colorado. I volunteer because I believe HRC is the most effective organization at creating positive change for LGBT individuals at the federal-level. For example, in the area of workplace discrimination, HRC is actively pursuing federal legislation known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). In tandem to their very successful work in the public arena, I also volunteer because I believe HRC is a critical player in moving the business community toward a more inclusive and supportive position in regards to the LGBT community.
I encourage you to join me in volunteering with HRC Colorado in our collective pursuit of justice and equality!
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