I belong to a marginalized group. I won’t bore you with the details. It’s not that I think you’re indifferent, I just know that my story isn’t unique. There are millions with stories like mine. The size of our diverse family is unknown because we have all been prevented, temporarily or permanently, from living authentic public lives.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” — Theodore Parker; Martin Luther King, Jr.
For years, this quotation has informed my vision of the future. Lately, however, I find myself questioning whether the trajectory traces a smooth line. Perhaps it more closely resembles a parabolic wave. How many undulations will I endure in my lifetime?
Hard-won civil rights are being attacked with frightening regularity. Regression, not progress, feels like our future.
If I’m being honest, on the worst days I contemplate an alternative perspective: that the line isn’t curving toward justice at all. I consider the possibility that the line is straight, and we may never realize equality. The net result of this realization isn’t one of despair, but instead a shift in my focus. I discard the long view of an unknowable future for the immediate emotional needs of those around me.
The truth is, in the broad spectrum of our experience, my story isn’t particularly compelling. My wounds are scratches; others have been maimed by theirs. Trans women of color are murdered with appalling frequency.1 LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers2. Hate crimes are a daily occurrence in this country.
Something is missing from the annual statistics of human rights organizations: psychological violence. The daily labor of keeping a secret casts a pall that tarnishes everything it touches. Every minute of every day is self-policed out of fear that a careless word or gesture might give you away. Everyone you love must be kept at arm’s length. Years of shouldering this burden transform you into your own jailor, and you learn to deny yourself the loving relationships that every human being needs to survive.
Shame is corrosive to the one who bears it. A secret, if left to fester, will destroy its keeper. Isolation will suck the marrow from your bones. There are forces at work in the world that seek to reinstate secrets, shame, and isolation as the reigning masters of our lives. Back to the days of furtive underground establishments, of legal discrimination, of daily fear.
But they forget the richness and the power of our history. We are the inheritors of a proud legacy, and we sit on the shoulders of the courageous souls who came before us. We are artists, writers, musicians, dancers. We are architects, mathematicians, scientists, historians. We have long imbued the human experience with vibrancy and beauty, and we’ve done it in the face of crushing isolation in societies that didn’t understand us. We have been here since the beginning, and we will be there at the end.
I know it all feels bigger than you can manage on your own. You’re just a drop in the sea of humanity, subject to the machinations of vast institutions and unfeeling socio-economic forces. But you have the power to shape the spaces you inhabit. You have a sphere of influence, and you decide what will flourish within that sphere. You can carve out a place for love, for kindness, for courage and fairness. You can work to make your space safe and just.
We created an LGBTQ+ resource group at PagerDuty to counter what feels like a global slide towards fear and reactionism. It sprang up organically — just a handful of people exploring the process of creating a community that we hope will serve and protect. And the response from PagerDuty has been overwhelming, with encouragement coming from every level of the organization. I hope to see the formation of more groups in the coming months, representing other individuals underserved by our industry and by our larger society.
At the end of the day, we are all here to do a job, and that is the primary reason why we come to work every morning. But the things that keep us showing up day after day are not monetary, they are ideological. A public avowal to respect and care for one another, a pledge to support efforts made to carve out a space for safety and justice.
Everyone deserves to feel comfortable at work, and we’re committed to ensuring that all of our employees do. We are making a space for advocacy in our workplace, where we can come together, in spite of our differences, and support one another in the fight for everyone’s equality. The spaces we create with love and compassion shift the trajectory of our future.
I still regard the future with skepticism. I know that we may come to the end of things and find that the arc was a straight line all along. But as long as I have hands to hold, I can find the courage to keep moving forward.