SEATTLE — Through her work at Seattle advertising agency Wongdoody, Jessica Obrist’s job description sounds about right.
“Sort of a senior project manager, but I’m interested in helping processes change, helping people change,” she said.
Jessica was married to a man for 11 years before divorcing and realizing that things had changed. She wasn’t straight.
Her family had already had a feeling but she wasn’t sure about everyone at work.
“I remember having reservations about changing how I talk about myself,” she says. “I think everyone goes through that. You live in this sort of fear. Will they accept me? Will they still treat me the same way?”
When Jessica’s new partner sent flowers to her workplace one day, she had that conversation with her coworkers who accepted her without hesitation.
“I am living a happier life because I know my coworkers have my back, and I know my coworkers have my partner’s back,” she said.
Recent surveys have found that 46% of LGBTQ+ people are not “out” at work. Thirty percent have faced discrimination in the workplace. Nearly 20% of those who have come out at work say they are happier there.
Hoping to foster a sense of community, Seattle advertising company DNA started an Instagram campaign called “Come Out To Work.”
It features personal videos of people who have done just that – the positive and the negative.
“Everybody has their own story and every story is different,” said DNA founder Alan Brown. “For some people it was joyous. For some it was painful. One person was outed at work, so it wasn’t planned, but it turned out okay for him. The emotions run the gamut.”
The campaign posts a new video every day. The posts include Seattle author Dan Savage and four-time Olympic gold medalist Daniel Kowalski's story is expected in the coming weeks.
Brown acknowledged coming out at work is risky but certainly worth consideration.
“You should be able to come to work and bring your whole self,” he said. “That’s the idea. You should be looked at as a worker and a member of a company based on the work and the output you produce.”
Jessica, who calls herself a “fierce, fat, queer fem” in her Come Out To Work video, said she hopes her story will bring a change for the better.
“I’m grateful to those who came before me," she said. “There needs to be more of us who are outspoken, who use our privilege so other people can have that same joyful experience that I had. I think that’s kind of the point of the campaign. If you take the risk, let people surprise you.”