Sunday is National Coming Out Day, and while I have been out in the profession since the start of my career, my face still isn’t the one you expect to see when you attend a panel discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Most attendees are probably wondering what’s with the chunky white guy. Well – I am queer, and if we’re having this type of discussion, my voice should be heard as well.
In mid-August, I was part of on an online EDI panel for one of the larger US firms. And once again I was the outlier within the group. They had done a great job of checking the diversity boxes regarding gender and ethnicity. Then there was me. And for the first time ever in participating on a panel, I felt like the other. I felt like I did not belong.
The other panelists were sharing stories about their struggles either growing up or on their path to becoming an architect. There were some really amazing and some really sad experiences. And me? I had nothing. Zip. I was the cisgender white male that fit the description of most people within architecture, with the exception of being queer.
What story could I possibly tell? That I haven’t had any issues coming up in the field? That I’ve had clients seek me out because they were looking for a gay architect? That I’ve never felt uneasy on a construction site?
As the profession has moved forward with equity and diversity, attention has been centered around what we see. Gender and ethnicity is visible, and we’ve had to recognize that we are by and large a group of middle-aged white guys. Clearly diversity in architecture is an issue.
However, queerness is an issue as well. While some will argue that queer architects have been assimilated into the profession and therefore not needing attention, that assimilation can be defined as closeted, gay, white men. And queer is so much more.
Queer architects risk getting lost in the discussion around equity, diversity, and inclusion because we aren’t always visible. Because we aren’t being included when diversity surveys are conducted. Or because we are afraid of standing out.
Except we have stories to tell. We have experiences to share – good and bad; challenges overcome; issues still needing to be addressed; and even the humorous incidents that occur because of our queerness.
We need to have our stories heard if for nothing else, the generation of queer architects coming up behind us. The ones accustomed to being who they are in very unapologetic terms. And perhaps aren’t sure what architecture in the wider world will look like for them.
Moving forward, The Big Gay Architect Blog will be sharing stories from queer architects. We will provide a platform where their challenges and triumphs can be heard. And from time to time, delve a little deeper into those experiences through The Big Gay Architect Podcast.
Queer stories need to be heard.
And we should be the ones telling them.