Jill Schlesinger on living as an out and proud American

CBS News asked noted figures in the arts, business and politics about their experience in today's civil rights movement, or about figures who inspired them in their activism.

Jill Schlesinger, CBS News senior business analyst, radio host

Please share an experience in which you realized that the U.S. has/has not achieved equality in race, gender or sexual preference, and its impact on you.

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Jill Schlesinger
John Paul Filo/CBS
Early in my career owning and operating an investment advisory firm, I got a request from a client: he did not want to own stock in a company because it extended health benefits to gay partners. In that moment, I had to make a decision: try to land a big client for my fledgling business, or come out, be true to myself and forgo the new client. In a split-second, the choice was clear: I told the client that he would not want to hire me because I was a lesbian and he should seek advice elsewhere.

LGBTQ individuals have had to make these kinds of choices almost every day of their lives. Living as an out, gay person, you may be asked to stand up for your own civil rights in seemingly innocuous ways. But the cumulative effect of brave, out individuals -- your parent, your sibling, your child, your friends, your co-workers -- has contributed hand-in-hand with the activists, who are constantly moving the frontline to full acceptance and equality.

Living your life every day as an out and proud American adds up to a sum greater than what the individual may realize. While often daunting to many, depending on personal circumstances or geography, the sheer act of being yourself can be liberating and instructive for you and those around you.

As long as there are LGBTQ people living in fear and anxiety in their day-to-day lives, we know we have a long way to go, while grateful for the progress that we have seen.


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