The Day Job. And the Gay Job.

My husband and me

I was raised Muslim, and it wasn’t until I traveled 6,000 miles away from home to join Hult that I felt I could be open without fear of having to hide myself. When I first joined Boeing—a company over 100 years old—I wasn’t sure about the culture and how safe it would be for me to bring my whole self to work. Would I have to go back to hiding my ongoing relationship with my now-husband whenever conversations about life outside of work came up? And then I learned about the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance (BEPA).

I joined BEPA to learn and grow as well as foster a safe space for others to do the same. Fast-forward eight years and I’m now chair of the BEPA chapter here in Portland, US. We focus on community engagement, professional development, and networking opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community and allies. We’ve worked with organizations such as The Trevor Project on suicide prevention. At BEPA Portland, we increased our membership tenfold in 2021 and I’m so excited for what lies in store for 2022 and beyond.

“The tragedy of George Floyd’s death led to increased visibility of the injustices in our systems. [Within Boeing, we now talk a lot more] about racial injustice, Black Lives Matter, and many other employee identities.”

The tragedy of George Floyd’s death led to increased visibility of the injustices, inequalities, and inequities in our systems that were already there but unfortunately not as visible previously. In response, Boeing, as a company, has doubled down on its equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts. We’ve had a lot more conversations in the workplace, both within our working groups, at a site level, and at an enterprise level—conversations about racial injustice, Black Lives Matter, and many other employee identities. You can’t just log on to work and eliminate a part of your identity that is intrinsic to who you are. So, topics that were previously taboo in the workplace are becoming more commonplace. It’s not that they’re not still uncomfortable. But I think we collectively understand the importance and especially as leaders have to become comfortable with having these conversations because that’s how you break down boundaries and find meaningful ways to move forward together.

Regardless of how you identify, chapter membership of Business Resource Groups (BRGs)—such as BEPA—is open to all Boeing employees. You’ve probably heard the term “ally,” in the context of the queer community. Well, that also applies to LGBTQ+ folks within the community. For example, I identify as a cis gay man. I also identify as an ally to the trans community because I don’t identify as trans and I am actively doing what I can to support and provide visibility to that community. Similarly, we also have Boeing Women Inspiring Leadership (BWIL), and I am an active member of that BRG because I identify as a man and want to do what I can to support the leadership, visibility, and engagement of women in the workplace. Because when we all help each other, we all rise together.

“I’m also an active member of Boeing Women Inspiring Leadership, because I identify as a man and want to do what I can to support the leadership, visibility, and engagement of women in the workplace.”

What is unfortunate sometimes is when folks miss the mark on the messaging. If you take Pride Month or Asian Heritage Month or Black History Month—there are individuals commenting on LinkedIn, saying, “This is all performative,” or, “You’re just doing this because you feel obligated to do so as a corporation.” They don’t see that we, as a company, and we, as a collective global society, can be better in our empathy and understanding of different communities. And I think that’s where the challenge is: trying to bridge that gap. What I would like to see, and fortunately, I am seeing, is a lot more women coming into the industry as well as into leadership roles within engineering, operations, and manufacturing. And again, I want to see more. I would love to see more women, more people of color, and more out (queer) leaders among the senior and executive ranks. It gets a little more complicated with the queer community because it’s not really visible. And that’s why I try to be intentional about it when I meet new people. When the conversation comes up like, hey, what did you do last weekend? I don’t hesitate to say, “I did this with my husband.” People acknowledge it and move on. And this is how it should be. I just want to acknowledge it and move on. So that’s one way I actively out myself. Boeing interviewed me back around May of this year for a post on Pride Month. At first, I was a bit uncomfortable at the thought of outing myself to the entire company. But after, I started getting contacted by people I’d never interacted with before. I had several employees across various sites coming out themselves to me. They weren’t even out to teammates or outside of the workplace. They trusted me and confided in me with that information. For this, I was both grateful and hopeful. Grateful that I felt I succeeded in growing the safe space for others to bring their whole, authentic selves to the workplace and continue to explore what that means for me. Hopeful that this space of physical and psychological safety will continue to expand its reach for generations to come.

“[Representation at senior leadership level] is complicated with the queer community, because it’s not really visible. That’s why I try to be intentional about it and actively try to ‘out’ myself when I meet new people.”

Of course, there were the people asking, “Why can’t we just focus on building airplanes?” But there was also just overwhelming love and support. And just gratitude to Boeing for sharing this publicly and investing in a story like this. There was gratitude from existing connections and new acquaintances to me: someone who is outing myself, not just as a gay man, but then also the intersectionality of the complexities that come with being a gay man who is of South Asian descent and raised Muslim. So, in short, if it feels like the right thing to do, do it. If the heart and intention are there, push forward.

Get Involved

Stay close to your network and give back to your community by becoming a chapter leader or Hult Alumni Committee member.