Allison Steinberg's headshot

By Allison Steinberg
Vice President of Communications
for Military and Veterans Affairs program
Vice President

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Coming Out as LGBT Isn’t a One-Time Act

People talk about coming out of the closet like it’s show time at the Apollo, a one-time act where you make your grand entrance into public life as LGBT and you’re good to go. The truth is, coming out as LGBT is a lifelong process. Every time I check into a hotel, walk down a new street with my wife, meet someone for the first time or start a new job, I have to evaluate my surroundings to determine how safe it is to be myself. I have to gauge on a regular basis if and how and when to let others know that I’m a lesbian.

“People talk about coming out of the closet like it’s show time at the Apollo, a one-time act where you make your grand entrance into public life as LGBT and you’re good to go. The truth is, coming out as LGBT is a lifelong process.”

Allison Steinberg, Vice President of Communications for Military and Veterans Affairs program

Coming out at work can be especially arduous. My job is my livelihood, as it is for most people; it’s also where I spend the most waking hours. One wrong outing and I could be scrounging for my next meal. That is the fear I and many LGBT employees still feel, however more inclusive and protective workplace policies and mindsets have evolved in the U.S.

I first realized I was gay when I was 15, but was terrified and kept it to myself. It was before Ellen had come out on national television, before Will & Grace and before marriage equality. I came out to some friends and family some months later, around the same time Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten in Laramie, Wyoming, hanged from a wooden stake in a corn field and left to die because he was gay.

It wasn’t exactly an encouraging scene to want to come out into. Still, I was lucky. I lived in New York City. I found a youth group at the then Gay and Lesbian Services Center in the West Village and spent Friday nights on the Christopher Street Piers learning bad adolescent habits, but a strong sense of queer community.

In fact, my passion for LGBT equality grew such that I chose an internship with Dyke TV – a cable TV show by and about lesbians – over one with NBC, when I was in college, and started on a path towards a career in LGBT media and advocacy. I worked on the TV show for two years, and then at several LGBT magazines and news outlets and civil rights organizations including the ACLU over the next dozen years. I found great fulfilment in those roles where I was making a tangible difference in the lives of those most vulnerable. I worked with individuals who were stripped of their rights, their dignity, in some cases their freedom or their lives, just because of who they were.

I also, though, recognized the importance of singing to someone other than the choir. I knew that I could also make a difference working in an environment that wasn’t a progressive bubble and I knew it would be beneficial to my career and skill set to branch out and gain diverse experience.

Coming to JPMorgan Chase was one such move.

“In fact, for the first time, I don’t remember having to come out because the environment was so inclusive that I was able to weave in my personal narrative about my life with my wife, as naturally as anyone would their own families, without anyone blinking.”

Allison Steinberg, Vice President of Communications for Military and Veterans Affairs program

I was nervous about joining such a large firm and in particular at the intersection of what I superficially assessed would be a conservative arena – banking and military. But when I arrived and joined the Military & Veterans Affairs team at JPMorgan Chase, I was made to feel welcome immediately. In fact, for the first time, I don’t remember having to come out because the environment was so inclusive that I was able to weave in my personal narrative about my life with my wife, as naturally as anyone would their own families, without anyone blinking. And now I’m nine months pregnant – a time that feels most vulnerable in many ways and which could be a major sticking point in some work spaces - and my colleagues and the firm at large couldn’t be more supportive.

I see LGBT inclusivity all around me at the firm; in the leadership, in the programs and policies and in the general ethos of those with whom I collaborate every day. The company cares about LGBT equality and it’s evident in the tone that’s set from the top-down.

We’ve come a long way as a culture since I first came out nearly 20 years ago, and business is helping to lead the way. I’m so grateful to work for a company that is on the right side of history.

UPDATE: Allison delivered a healthy baby boy in May 2017.


About the Author
Allison Steinberg is a Vice President of Communications for JPMorgan Chase's Military and Veterans Affairs program. She has worked in communications and journalism for nearly 15 years, including at the ACLU, JetBlue and teaching Communications strategy at Hunter College in New York City.


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