“I promised myself I would be out, proud, and live authentically as a bisexual woman at work”
BY MYGWORK, IMAGE BY LAURA MORRISON
myGwork sat down with Laura Morrison, Director in Global Business Services at Pfizer, to discuss biphobia, her experiences growing up closeted, and the importance of authenticity – in work, and beyond.
“Even before I could put a label on it myself, I knew I was different.” Those are the words of Laura Morrison, Global Business Services Director at Pfizer, recalling her experience growing up in small-town America. It wasn’t however just Laura who knew, she recalls being called names just for playing sports with the boys, long before she realised, she had an attraction to girls as much as guys.
“I chose to hide that part of me – it was unsafe to be out in the town I grew up in, and so I chose to hide that from my friends, parents, and so on.” Laura went through school only dating boys, desperately trying to bury feelings of difference or otherness lest anyone found out.
This complication was only further compounded after school, when Laura went into the US military – even before the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – the policy that forced LGBTQ+ service people into the closet at risk of being discharged if they were discovered. The risks to Laura were still great if she came out, and so she had no choice but to further bury her identity and disavow her feelings in order to get by in the environment she found herself in. This changed when she left, and it wasn’t until she was in her first, post-service professional career, that Laura was able to enter a relationship with a woman and say honestly: she was a proud bisexual member of the LGBTQIA community. Although despite this those around Laura would still minimise her bisexuality, she points out
“People are really quick to identify you as heterosexual if you date someone of the opposite sex, and as a lesbian, if you date someone of the same sex,” she observes, touching on the biphobia that people face from both within and beyond the LGBTQ+ community. “I’ve had a lot of coming out stories with every relationship I’ve been a part of – even now, proudly married to a woman, I still have to come out when people say, ‘Oh you’re married to a woman, you must be a lesbian.’”
All Laura wants in life is to be authentic and honest about who she is, even if this is the harder path to take at times.
It is these experiences that have shaped Laura’s worldview today. “Within this community is the first time I’ve experienced acceptance of myself just as I am.”
But it’s also where Laura has learnt the most about discrimination that people still face today. “I’ve had friends who’ve been fired just because of their gender or sexuality, who have been kicked out of their homes.”
Even first-hand – Laura and her wife are foster parents, and when they first attempted to get a license to foster, they were declined on the grounds that the agency didn’t support licensing for same-sex parents. This has served to galvanise Laura into throwing herself into Pfizer’s LGBTQIA network, as well as activism on a local and state level, to fight for equality for everyone, regardless of identity or background.
Laura’s journey to working at Pfizer reflects this. “I was dating a woman but was in the closet at work, as I didn’t believe my colleagues at my job at the time would accept or support it. So, when I went into my interview for Pfizer, I promised myself I would be out, proud, and live authentically as a bisexual woman at work.”
Laura went on to cofound the LGBTQ+ employee resource group at her site and now truly feels she can bring her whole self to work.
“I’m surrounded by incredibly intelligent, professional people who understand the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and who truly get why diversity is important.”
Laura feels there is a myriad of benefits to being able to be this authentic and open about her identity at work, as diversity brings with it a diversity of thoughts and skills. Productivity increases, rather than colleague turnover. A sense of belonging, innovation and sharing best practices emerges as a result – the business case couldn’t be clearer. But it’s not just the business case either – the mental health benefits of being able to live in tune with your own values only add to the sense of fulfilment in your own purpose, as well as satisfaction and passion for the work you are doing. “It’s something that can leave you with an immense sense of peace at the end of the day.”
Allyship, and education, is a key parts of that. “Far too often I bring up an issue of discrimination that’s happening either to our community or within our community, and people simply aren’t aware. Unless you know the facts of the issue, it’s difficult to consider how this might impact a friend, or family member, or colleague.” We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves, to do better for those we love, and to enable ourselves to better reflect on the behaviour of others as well as ourselves: Are there aspects of our behaviour that we need to address? Laura imparts the quote by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Biphobia is a particularly pertinent issue, as Laura mentions, given that it occurs from beyond the LGBTQIA community – but also in many cases, within. “Bisexuals make up the majority of the LGBTQ+ community, yet research suggests we are less likely than gay or lesbian peers to be our true selves, or to be out to friends and family.”
Bi-erasure is rife, which merely leads to reinforcing outdated and harmful stereotypes about the community – myths such as the suggestion that bisexuals ‘haven’t picked a side’ or are ‘more likely to cheat’; these have no basis in material reality, yet persist: reinforced by the straight, as well as lesbian and gay community at times. “For me, it’s really important to address my own experience, truthfully, and shine a light on the bisexual identity in an authentic way by telling people that the bottom line is that bisexuals don’t fall into society’s moulds or expectations of us. There’s no one way to feel or to love, we just have to default to be ourselves.”
Laura’s answer to biphobia? Unity. “There is a lot of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation emerging around the country, around the world,” she says, “and it terrifies me, particularly about potential backlash or the risk of losing our rights, especially our trans community who are being targeted the most. I believe we must stand together as a community and unite to fight these injustices – transphobia, biphobia, homophobia, and so on – or divided we’ll fall.”
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