Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa proudly supports diversity and embraces the LGBTQ community: our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender travel enthusiasts, team members, and friends. As a result of receiving a perfect score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation‘s 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), Borgata is now recognized as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality,” joining just 407 major U.S. businesses which also earned top marks this year.
Furthermore, Borgata is thrilled to partner with the Independence Business Alliance (IBA), Greater Philadelphia’s LGBTQ chamber of commerce. On this National Coming Out Day, we sat down with IBA’s Executive Director Zachary Wilcha on the importance of visibility in the LGBTQ+ community.
National Coming Out Day was founded in 1988. Now that it is 2019, why is it still important to have this kind of a day? I think that today, more than ever, it’s important to establish a time to let people know how important it is to come out, to encourage folks to be themselves, and to celebrate the out and proud identities of LGBTQ+ folks in all aspects of life. Coming out is the best way to create allies for the LGBTQ+ community because it’s harder to oppose the out people you know and love, but more importantly, it’s vital for LGBTQ+ folks to live their lives authentically as who they are in order to be the best version of themselves. Secrets can be corrosive. Coming out empowers those who think they can’t. And even now in 2019, it is a political act. National Coming Out Day’s continued legacy is letting LGBTQ+ know that when they do come out, there’s a community of like-minded folks who will be there to support them and guide them through the process of self-actualization.
Share with us as much of your own coming out story as you feel comfortable doing. I am very lucky that my own coming out was greeted with support from friends and family. It took my parents some time to get used to the idea and to mourn any specific heteronormative ideas they had for my future, but I always knew that they loved me while they navigated their own processes. I came out slowly to friends throughout law school when I was in my early 20’s, though I had been a practicing homosexual before that. I never take for granted that I constantly had a support system of incredible people who not only accepted me for who I was, but also celebrated me. I should say, though, that even with all the support I was lucky to have, the process was not always easy. Some of my relationships with less accepting folks in my life did fall apart, and I was certainly adversely affected when it came to some professional opportunities. (Now, I make a living due in part to my gay identity. It gets better!) Coming out is a process that never actually ends. I still come out to people every day, with varied results in how people receive it, but I do my best work and am my best self as someone who leads with my truth, and I never regret that.
What resources are available for those who might want to come out but are frightened or intimidated to do so? There are so many resources online to help those who are ready to come out but haven’t yet. Many national organizations like GLAAD, The Trevor Project, PFLAG, and more have resources available. There are also many resources right in your backyard, most likely. Schools often have Gay/Straight Alliances and workplaces often have Employee Resource Groups dedicated to providing support for LGBTQ+ employees. Wherever LGBTQ+ folks are, they are rarely the lone member of our community! I’d also be remiss if I didn’t encourage folks to check out local networking groups that bring together like-minded, friendly folks in the same space. My own organization that I run, the Independence Business Alliance, acts as the local LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, and that means we have monthly networking events where folks of all identities are welcome to come and learn how to thrive professionally and personally with the support of community friends.
Why do you think it is important to have as many visibly out individuals as possible? Coming out is important for so many reasons, including visibility. The more people who are out and proud, living their lives authentically, the better it is for everyone. Studies show that the rights of the LGBTQ+ community have expanded so quickly in the past decades because of increased visibility of the LGBTQ+ community. The more out folks that allies have in their lives, the easier it is for us to change the hearts and minds of the more resistant. The numbers don’t lie, unfortunately, and we need allied support in order to expand and maintain our rights. So, we must always enlist the support of others in our fights. Coming out and being visible also honors the hard work of activists that came before us while creating new paths of opportunity for those that come after us.
Why are programs like OUT at Borgata important for the greater LGBTQ community? Programs like OUT at Borgata are a perfect example of corporate allyship and support. Not only is Borgata showing their support by developing programming and opportunities for fun getaways for folks in the LGBTQ+ community, but they also walk the walk by providing safe and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ customers and employees. It’s incredibly meaningful when companies like Borgata encourage equality by investing in communities. OUT at Borgata shows that Borgata is a place for everyone, where everyone can be themselves while they are enjoying themselves. An intentional welcome like this is a vital part of a commitment to inclusivity.