“I thought you had to choose one way or another because everything seemed to suggest so”
BY MYGWORK, IMAGE BY TYLER O’TOOLE
“Bisexuality is not just a stepping stone to being gay or an experimental phase. It is its own identity.”
myGwork sat down with Tyler O’Toole, ESG Finance Scores Analyst at Sustainable Fitch, to talk about her journey accepting her identity and showing up authentically and how we can all be allies to the bisexual community.
For Tyler, sustainability has always been a priority. Growing up surrounded by nature and witnessing the impact of human actions, she developed a love for the environment. Her childhood was spent moving between states – starting in Vermont, moving to Connecticut, and then later Texas, experiencing the differing cultural and political climates as she went.
“I didn’t come out until 2017, during my sophomore year of university. I had known before, but I grew up in a small town. It wasn’t explicitly said that you couldn’t be this way, but I’d never seen anyone LGBTQIA in my community and felt I risked being ostracised. This made me feel odd,” Tyler says.
It was listening to Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ when Tyler first realised that girls who liked girls existed – but even then, the song left her feeling like it wasn’t that acceptable. Her school was void of any LGBTQIA representation – not a single book in the library or conversation in the classroom.
Tyler eventually chose to come out at university, opting to tell a few girls in her sorority who she knew would gossip to such an extent that they would do all the work for her. In no time, she was out to everyone at school and knew she needed to come out to her family.
“I came out to my mom first because I wasn’t sure how she’d take it – this would be quite different than what she probably anticipated for me. I took her to a cafe to tell her, with friends of mine who knew sat around the corner in case it went wrong, and I needed support.”
Tyler’s mother received the news and asked only a single question: would Tyler be cutting her hair off? “It killed me inside because her first question wasn’t ‘How does it feel?’ or ‘Does anyone else know?’ She had a stereotype of how queer women looked and was concerned that her feminine-presenting daughter would suddenly resemble that.”
Stereotypes continued to play a role in how Tyler labelled and navigated her identity as time went on. Particularly, stereotypes around bisexuality led her to doubt her own identity. “I thought you had to choose one way or another because everything seemed to suggest so.”
Growing up in Texas and coming out had its challenges. Stares were a frequent part of being out with her girlfriend, Tyler says, and you’re aware that whilst you want to stand up for yourself, you must also consider your safety. The LGBTQIA neighbourhood in Dallas provided a refuge for Tyler at this time, but even that was fraught with difficulties. “Many people avoided those streets and didn’t want to be seen there.”
After her studies ended, Tyler moved to New York to join Sustainable Fitch, a part of the Fitch Group, to work as an ESG Finance Scores Analyst. The company bridges the gap between corporate interests and sustainability through ESG scores and ratings, encouraging companies to innovate and minimise their environmental impact and allowing Tyler to bring together her dedication to looking after the planet and her career.
New York also offered Tyler a completely different environment, where she felt comfortable being out, where people didn’t make assumptions about who she was or who she was dating. The inclusivity throughout Sustainable Fitch was a breath of fresh air – from the very beginning, Tyler could see how ingrained this was in the fabrics of the company.
“If you could see the amount of Pride flags across our offices, you’d instantly understand that this is a place of acceptance. Richard Jefferies, who leads my Scores team for Sustainable Fitch, is the Global Head of Fitch Pride Network and invited me to join the group on my first day without knowing if I was a member or ally. As our team has grown, so has the visibility of the community. I recently moderated a Pride Panel for Pride Month in NYC, and every single member of my team showed up to support both me and the community. That support meant the world to me.”
Sustainable Fitch is a workplace that prides itself on its people, who are passionate about sustainability and making the world a better place, Tyler explains. The depth and breadth of knowledge at Sustainable Fitch is unparalleled, and the team’s dedication extends not only to the environment and society but also to each other’s well-being.
“I’m proud to be a member of a team that cares relentlessly about, yes, the environment and society, but also for each other. We make space to check in on one another’s mental health, external communities, and how we can help at the workplace and beyond.”
Tyler understands how crucial allyship is in supporting the LGBTQIA community and hopes more people will act rather than just adopt the label. She explains that challenging harmful jokes or biases is a meaningful way to combat prejudice and make a positive impact.
“The easiest way to start is inclusive language,” Tyler notes. Simply replacing the usual he/she with they or addressing emails with gender-neutral language are small ways people can show up for the LGBTQIA community, she adds. Challenging our own assumptions makes life easier for everyone, not just the LGBTQ+ community; as a cisgender woman named ‘Tyler’ she jokes that she can’t even count the number of times people have addressed her with ‘him.’
“Remember the word “lead” in leadership,” Tyler says. “Model inclusivity, support local queer communities and listen with empathy to the needs of your people. Changes begin through conversation, so if you are struggling, just start there. “Recognizing your advantages and working to dismantle systems that benefit you more than others is hard. It is hard but necessary because the LGBTQIA community cannot do this alone.”
Looking forward, Tyler is hopeful for a world where conversations about LGBTQIA equality are no longer necessary – a society where coming out is no longer an ordeal and where love is celebrated without fear or judgement. Creating a world where everyone can show up exactly as they are will take everyone actively educating themselves and speaking out, particularly when it comes to bisexual allyship. We can’t do this alone is the sentiment – whether in the workplace, the streets or our homes, we all have the chance to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions.
“Help others acknowledge our existence. Bisexuality is not just a stepping stone to being gay or an experimental phase. It is its own identity. There are strong negative connotations about bisexuality, such as being greedy, promiscuous or unsure. Uniquely, biases against bisexuality are strong in the lesbian and gay communities as well, so allyship extends into the LGBTQ+ community. Checking biases and learning more about bisexuality is the number one way allies can work towards equality.”
Sustainable Fitch is a partner of myGwork, the LGBTQ+ Business Community. You can check out their job opportunities here. If you would like to find out more about DEI at Fitch, please take a look at their DEI and CSR Transparency Report.
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