Coming Out and Opening Doors in the World of Tech

Paper-cut art I made for Pride 2019.

I’m gaaaAAYYYY

I just turned 37, and 8 weeks ago, I started my journey as a student in the Flatiron School Web Development Fellowship. I had been trying for over a decade to make a living as an artist, but I was languishing. Right before the pandemic closed down New York City, I applied for the fellowship, and after interviews and technical challenges, I was fortunate enough to be selected.

You were born that way

After what felt like an immeasurable eternity, my Mom sighed and said, “That’s okay, you were born that way.” I was shocked hearing those words come out of my Mom’s mouth, and what followed was a 2-hour long phone call where I finally told them about my partner Joel and our two little girls (rescue dogs to be exact, who completely rule our lives). During that phone call, we laughed more than we cried, and I had finally opened the closet door and walked out.

Nothing gay at all about this photo.

Open these doors

Flash forward to three years later, and I am opening more metaphorical doors. Every time our Flatiron School instructors demonstrate the use of Pry and Byebug (the Ruby debugging tools that allow developers to interact with code), they say “by placing a binding.pry (or byebug) in this section of code, we now have the ability to open these doors.”

Where are the women? Where are the gays?

It is well-documented that white men, especially young white men, dominate the tech industry. On average, white men make up about 64% in the United States (worldwide, men account for 72%). In the United States, women are underpaid and disproportionately underrepresented, making up about 25% of all computer-science related jobs and only 14% in software engineering.

Paper version of fashion illustrator René Gruau’s poster for Rouge Baiser.
  • transphobia and homophobia
  • socioeconomic barriers
  • harassment
  • pay inequality
  • pressure to remain closeted (more on this below)
  • lack of support and resources to foster an inclusive environment
  • toxic masculinity and heterosexist climates that promote stereotypical gender roles
  • lack of awareness about LGBTQ issues amongst those in the sexual majority (heterosexuals)
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Back to the Closet

In a STEM workplace, even LGBTQ individuals who are out in their personal lives find themselves going back into the closet at work due to stereotypical, heteronormative norms and a competitive climate. In a study surveying LGBTQ professionals in STEM fields, researchers found that there are “complicated negotiations of self for queer professionals,” and these individuals often find themselves living a double life.

Perfection is Boring

It took me 33 years to come to terms with my sexuality, and for that duration of time, fear and insecurity were constant roommates. Those roommates moved out when I walked out of the closet, but they simply moved about a block away — just around the corner but not always in sight. When I received the news that I had been accepted into the fellowship program, my ex-roommates decided to make daily visits again:

  • “You’re too dumb, you’ll never catch on to the material.”
  • “You’re gay, people are going to find out and they’re going to judge the hell out of you.”
  • “You’re ill-equipped and completely unprepared, what are you doing here?”
A Rails app I would like to implement.

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❤ Dottie & Coco ❤

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