Chair of UVA LGBT Committee Talks Progress and Promise

Q. You’ve been a part of the UVA community for some time now. What are your thoughts about how UVA has evolved in its support of LGBTQ issues and communities?

A. I remember vividly when President John Casteen added sexual orientation to our non-discrimination policy in 1991. That was especially memorable for me, as a relatively new employee who was concerned about the possibility that being openly gay could cause me to be fired or limit my ability to be promoted.

I was inspired by notable faculty members, like Bernard Mayes and Charlotte Patterson, who were early advocates for our community. It gave me the courage to come out at work and I had a positive experience when I did. I was really worried about coming out to my boss, but he assured me that it would not be an issue. In fact, he promoted me twice after I came out.

I’m glad I was able to share that experience with President Casteen years later when discussing LGBTQ issues with him. His policy change had a major impact.

By the early 2000s, I talked about being gay during an interview for a new job at UVA because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to be an issue, and I wasn’t going to hide it from anyone. That was when Yoke San Reynolds, our since-retired vice president and chief financial officer, hired me as an assistant vice president in her office. When the Diversity Council was created, she asked me to represent her VP area, because she did not want LGBTQ issues to be forgotten. That really sparked my interest in advocating for diversity of all kinds. Yoke San continues to be an incredible ally to the LGBTQ community, and she remains my mentor and friend. 

However, I still encounter employees and students who are hesitant to come out to family or colleagues. Members of our community continue to deal with these issues, even with all the progress we’ve made.

Q. Why is that continued evolution good for the institution and all members of the University community?

A. We all benefit from defining diversity as broadly as possible and making everyone feel welcome. I want these communities and other minority groups to thrive at UVA, find their peers and support systems, and enjoy the sense of belonging that I have. Of course, I acknowledge that my journey was easier as a white cisgender male, who had accepting parents and mostly supportive supervisors.

Our new students and employees need to see themselves represented in senior leadership, health care providers, faculty, staff and peers. That’s why it matters when we had our first LGBTQ dean, VP, or Student Council president. In a perfect world, it shouldn’t matter, but people need to see that it’s possible for us to excel and work in a variety of fields.

Q. What’s next for the committee?

A. First of all, we’re looking forward to having an in-person welcome reception for faculty and staff again this fall. We’ll be improving our committee website to add links to other local and national resources. I want to share information about the history of our community at UVA. There are some additional benefits issues to explore. I want all members of the LGBTQ community to feel part of the broader UVA community.

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