On a crisp fall day four years ago, I biked from my Chicago apartment to the train station, took a train 70 miles northwest, and then climbed back on my bike for the final 12 miles to my hometown, Poplar Grove, Illinois.
I was coming home for the purpose of coming out.
I pedaled down the driveway as I had done so many times before, yet that day I felt like a stranger. After parking my bike out front where my parents would see it when they arrived, I went inside, fixed myself a cup of tea and tried to calm my nerves. I walked through my childhood home, looking at photos on the wall, wondering if everyone would still love me once I came out as gay. I sat down in the dining room in silence – no music, no television – and waited.
Rubber tires crushed gravel and the garage door opened. My parents came inside, excited to have me over for dinner as a surprise. I helped cook and then we sat down at the table. I broke into the conversation when I could, and I told them. My mother's face was in faux shock. My father was in tears.
It hurt to see my father cry. Later that night, he pulled me aside to share his thoughts and concerns about coming out. His tears, he explained, were out of fear that being gay would hinder my ability to secure a job in the finance industry that I love. (At this time, I was a recent college graduate working at a tea store while job-searching.) His perception of the industry was, in part, shaped by the machismo-fueled representation of the industry so often shown in popular culture. He told me he didn't want me to be the "one man out."
Today, I can say that his biggest fear was no fear at all. Two years ago, I joined U.S. Bank, which the Human Rights Campaign recently named a "Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality" for the 11th straight year. While working at a bank has provided me with the intellectual challenge of a career in finance, working at a "Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality" has allowed me to bring my whole personality to the office. I'm truly proud to wear my U.S. Bank Pride T-shirt because I know that I represent a company whose core values – such as drawing strength from diversity – align with my own.
As I had told my father after my first couple of days on the job, this just feels like home.
Jermain Garcia is a senior analyst in collateralized debt obligations for U.S. Bank Global Corporate Trust Services and an executive board member for the Chicago chapter of the bank's Spectrum business resource group for LGBT employees and allies. For more stories and financial resources specific to the LGBT community, visit usbank.com/LGBT.