While on the L heading to work last week, I received a tweet from a BBC reporter who wanted my input about why LGBT people view gay bars/clubs as safe spaces. In the wake of the Orlando shootings, I’d already been giving that some thought and eagerly offered my assistance–though curious as to exactly how I could help.

He asked me to answer two questions in two separate 30-ish second videos recorded on my phone.

Question 1: why are gay bars/clubs viewed as sanctuaries to the LGBT community?

Question 2: what are some specific memories of my first time at a gay bar?

As I pondered the questions on the train, I pulled out my iPad and started writing about the first time I went into a gay bar in Chicago. I was a visitor here only for the day in 1991ish, but the experience still remains as vibrant and textured in my memory as anything that happened last weekend. You can read about it here.

I was excited about the opportunity to contribute to such a powerful message–needed now more than ever. As I sat on the train I thought about moving to Chicago after that first visit and going to my first gay club, dumbfounded by the sea of “sameness” I found–a kind I’d never felt before. It was awesome and somehow trivial–commonplace–at the same time. It was a sense of connectedness and belonging I’d never known. It was familial.

I was lucky enough to be in the live audience of Pride Across Borders last week, a celebration of LGBT diversity across the globe, sponsored by my employer Accenture and our partner Proctor & Gamble, hosted and by our CIO and LGBT Global Lead Andrew Wilson. It was motivating–and served as a powerful reminder of how committed Accenture is to being a safe space for our diverse workforce around the world. It was a privilege and an inspiration to hear our leaders talking about–and living–the values of inclusion and acceptance. I’ve long felt at home in the halls of a company I’ve worked at for nearly 20 years.

Likewise, it was a privilege for me to offer my thoughts on the topic of LGBT clubs and bars as “safe space” and “sanctuary” because–for a long time–it was the only place we felt we could reveal our authentic self.

Video by James Stringer, BBC News

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Also published on Medium.

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