Starburst Celebrates National Coming Out Day!

In honor of National Coming Out Day, we sat down with two members of our Starburst Pride to learn more about their personal journeys and what this day means to them. Read their interviews below!

Last Updated: December 1, 2023

Tyler Shapiro

Product Marketing Manager | Washington DC, United States

Q: What’s your coming out story?

TS: For as long as I can remember, I knew I was gay. More specifically, late middle school was when this thought became louder and louder by the day. Even though I knew who I was deep down, I had an incredibly difficult time accepting myself. I struggled for many years with my identity, spending much of my energy conforming to behaviors and appearances that I thought would be more palatable for folks around me. Personally, I didn’t feel like I had any community or support system in place for me to learn acceptance, celebration, or any sense of connectedness.

Over the years, thanks to friends and growing communities, I was able to slowly start accepting myself. I decided to come out during my freshman year of college. It took stepping out of my high school bubble to realize a few things – that I was more than worth it, and that I owed it to myself to be 100% Tyler moving forward.

Q: What does National Coming Out Day mean to you? 

TS: To me, National Coming Out Day is a day to reflect on and celebrate our coming out stories. It is also a day to remind ourselves that every journey is unique. While we can learn from and listen to one another, we must remember a few important things:

  • Not everyone is ready to come out, and not everyone is in a safe environment to come out 
  • Coming out does not just happen once – it is a process that happens over and over again
  • Community and coming out looks different for everyone

Q: What’s it like being out in the workplace?

TS: I studied biomedical engineering in a past life. This space often came with small working environments that didn’t have much of a focus on workplace culture. Some of the experiences definitely were not easy, and put a lot of stress on my mental wellbeing. Whether I was working in fume hoods or quietly cranking out hours of data analysis, I never truly felt like I had a voice in these spaces. I spent many years codeswitching to try and fit in – deepening my voice to “make myself sound more straight,” avoiding certain gestures or body postures, etc. 

When I made the jump to tech, it was a huge, unexpected breath of fresh air. I found an environment where I could be my whole self: loud, proud, creative, and compassionate. Being unapologetically myself at work helped me flourish, both personally and professionally. It’s been 5 years since I started working in tech and I haven’t looked back!

Q: How has your experience been at Starburst?

TS: One of my favorite parts about working at Starburst is being a member of our employee resource group, Starburst Pride. Starburst Pride is a group that aims to create a safe and welcoming environment for members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community. We promote diversity within the workforce, create events and spaces for folks to connect and learn from each other, and drive impact to not only our organization, but externally to communities at large (volunteering, donations, etc.).

Q: Do you have any advice for other members of the LGBTQ community who may or may not be out? 

TS: If I were to give advice to other members of the LGBTQ+ community, whether out or not, take all the time you need and give yourself grace throughout the journey. Life is not linear, and nothing is set in stone! There is no blueprint – do everything that you need to do to feel comfortable and completely you. Invest in communities, activities, and people that pour back into you.

My advice to allies is to listen, learn, and give back. There are so many ways to support the LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities at large. More importantly, you don’t need a national day to show up! Allyship can and should be practiced year round.

Levi Gibson

Senior Cloud Alliances Manager | Idaho, United States

Q: What does National Coming Out Day mean to you? What’s your story?

LG:  It’s a day to celebrate the courage of those who have come out as LGBTQ+, and to show support for those who are still struggling to do so. National Coming Out day is also about having a safe space to be authentically yourself.  

Although I came out officially years ago, I still find myself in “coming out” situations every day.  Every time I find myself referencing ‘my husband’ to a new friend, coworker, or stranger I know they are realizing that I am gay. In those moments, I either receive acceptance, judgment, or  hate.  Today is about having the space to be fortunate enough to be in those situations and feel accepted and safe.

Q: What was coming out like for you?

LG: Coming out of the closet was one of the worst experiences I have faced.  I was raised in a conservative family in rural Idaho. When I came out, I lost connections with some family members, and was placed into conversion therapy. The experience was terrible, and I still struggle with memories of that period of my life.  

As years went on and my family came to accept me, I then saw my family face hate for accepting me. It is easy to look at the LGBTQ+ community now and assume that there is always someplace to find acceptance; however, it wasn’t that long ago when that wasn’t the case.  And there are still a lot of places in the world, including America, where safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people don’t exist.

Although coming out was so challenging, it really did pave the way for who I am today.  My now husband, Tyler, was with me through the whole thing.  As I was there for his coming out too.  We were married in 2016, after same-sex marriage became legalized.  We now have a fantastic life and are dads of a beautiful daughter. 

Q: You’re both a parent and a member of the LGBTQ community, what has the intersection of those identities looked like? Has it played a role in the workplace?

LG: Coming out was incredibly hard, and took time.  There is an internal timeline of understanding who you are, and then a secondary timeline of being comfortable enough to be that person.  I am lucky enough to be married to my highschool sweetheart, Tyler.  I am so thankful for the acceptance I now have in life, and I know a lot of that has to do with generations of the LGBTQ+ community before me paving a way towards acceptance.

The intersection of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and also being a parent is the community you find in both those scenarios.  The LQBTQ+ community is amazingly supportive of each other, and is a place you can always seek support when you need it.  Being a parent is a lot the same.  The connection, support, and community you can click into is awesome. Even if it has room to grow!

Q: What’s it like being out in the workplace? How has your experience been at Starburst?

LG:  Starburst has been an amazing place of acceptance.  My first career in technology, I had to remain in the closet.  Even through being relocated across America with my husband, and working with coworkers for years, I felt I had to remain closeted.  Here at Starburst, I have never felt that way. My relationship and family has been accepted and encouraged since the first day. 

I also have a lot of pride that I [believe I] was the first LGBTQ+ Employee to adopt here at Starburst.  Our HR team worked hand-in-hand with me and our adoption agency to ensure Starburst’s benefits reflected equality for LGBTQ+ employees. 

Q: Do you have any advice for other members of the LGBTQ community who may or may not be out? Any advice for working parents?

LG: My advice for anyone in the LGBTQ+ Community who is not out, is to stay safe. Take time to find a safe space and support. Once you find that, coming out will be easier.

My advice for working parents… hummm, to be honest, I should be getting advice there and not giving it! I am so tired all the time! 🙂

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share or add?

LG: When I was struggling coming out, I remember someone telling me “it gets better.”  I think I could picture it, even in the struggle, but only now do I really know the truth to it.  So for anyone out there who is still struggling, please know it does get better.  And for those who have walked this before me, thanks for helping lay the path. 

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