—Written by Rashaun Bennett
On March 11, Davidson College was proud to host its Second Annual LGBTQ Alumni Career Panel. The panelists included Heather McKee ’87, Andrew Spainhour ’93, John Syme ’85, and Brad Johnson ’94. The panelists began by discussing their memories of attending Davidson and being LGBTQ in the workplace. The radical difference of Davidson, as it pertains to LGBTQ identity and rights was one of the recurring themes of the evening. The panelists marveled at the strides Davidson has taken in recent years to celebrate, support, and acknowledge LGBTQ identity on campus. Syme stated, “Davidson has changed more since the year 2001 than since when I was here in 1985 and that is truly remarkable.” Syme indicated that Davidson is not only moving in the right direction, but is rapidly changing to be on the right side of history.
The panelists also described their experiences in the corporate world and being LGBTQ, stating that many corporations have an anti-discriminatory stance toward sexual orientation. The company that Spainhour worked for was one of a handful of companies that came out against Amendment One. He added that the climate toward LGBTQ people in the public and private sector is largely positive. However, Spainhour did state that in NC it is legal to ask potential employees their sexual orientation and fire them based on their LGBTQ identity.
The students were able to ask more targeted questions about the panelists’ experiences in the workplace. One student asked if they felt that someone purposely tried to expose their sexuality with the intention to harm them or get them fired. The panelists stated that they did not feel that anyone purposely tried to “out” them. Syme joked that one of his fellow employees seemed very interested in finding out about his sexual identity and tried to pair him up with a friend of hers.
The panelists expressed optimism for LGBTQ people in North Carolina. They believe that gay marriage and equality will come to North Carolina. Spainhour expressed the importance of being true to himself and everyone around him. He stated, “I wouldn’t dream of going back to a workplace where I would have to hide again.” When a student asked the panelists if they felt that people should leave North Carolina, McKee responded, “I think the only way to win is to stay and fight.” McKee married her classmate, U.S. Navy Capt. Jane Campbell ’87, on a Pearl Harbor Day visit to Hawaii in December.
Ultimately, the panelist were hopeful in regard to being a LGBTQ person in the corporate, academic, and public fields. Although the path to full equality has not yet been realized, it is comforting to know that progress is being made.
Thank you again to all the panelists for sharing your thoughts, stories and insights.