The Break Room : LGBQ at Work

This is the podcast adaptation of the seventeenth episode of The Break Room! This one’s focused around being LGBQ at work – next week will be focused on the “T” in LGTBQ. A huge special thanks to our hosts, Dr. Dixon & Dr. Nikki! Part of the Living Corporate network, The Break Room is focused on mental health, wellness and healing for Black folks at work. You can expect real talk from real experts about the real ways Black folks can protect and heal themselves from racialized trauma at work.

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Dr. Brian Dixon (00:11): Howdie. Hey everybody, welcome back to The Break Room. I am Dr. Brian Dixon. Well, let me introduce The Break Room. So The Break Room is a podcast about mental health for black folks at work. And so I’m Dr. Brian Dixon. I’m one of your co-hosts for this evening. I’m a psychiatrist, child and adolescent psychiatrist in the pseudo great state of Texas, in the city of Fort Worth. And I’m super stoked to be here tonight with my co-host, Dr. Nikki.

Dr. Nikki Coleman (00:40): I love the pseudo-great state of Texas. That you start saying that. The so, great state of Texas. Hello everyone. I am Dr. Nikki Coleman. I am a licensed psychologist. Again, here in the full state of Texas, the full great state of Texas. And my specialty is counseling psychology, and I work with adult clients particularly black women and couples who are having relationship issues, sexuality issues, and I also do diversity, equity, and inclusion training as the other part of my day job. So, we’re excited to be with you again. I’m still calling us the dynamic duo. Would just got a little bit of shade.

Dr. Brian (01:20): Just a little bit, because Dr. Jide and Dr. Lawanda may get a little jealous, and we don’t want to make them jealous.

Dr. Nikki (01:29): No. We don’t, we don’t.

Dr. Brian (01:29): Well, we are super stoked that y’all are here this evening. We have a great show for y’all because it is Pride Month, and we are talking about LGBQ. We’re going to talk a little bit about trans and gender. I think next week, and being transgender and the transgender experience. So we’re not forgetting about y’all. Y’all are definitely on our mind and we’re super pumped that we have a whole month for us. So, to remind everybody about what we do in The Break Room, we always start off with, The Tea, which is always something that, something in the news is going on that we want to talk about. And we’ve got a go one for y’all tonight. And then we move over into whatever we’re talking about for the day. And so, being LGBQ at work, is what we’re going to hit on, some of the big themes. Especially how they relate in the intersection with black folks. And then we’ll go to The Last Nerve, and we have a good Last Nerve tonight as well. So, I’m going to kick it over to Dr. Nikki, who is going to give us, The Tea.

Dr. Nikki (02:26): The Tea, as I just took a sip of my tea. This tea, I’m excited to actually have a little bit of conversation with you about because it’s fascinating to me. So we all know we’re coming out of, slowly, and also sort of officially coming out of the pandemic, also known as the pandemonium, or the panini, or the panorama. also. It’s just what I heard.

Dr. Brian (02:50): I love it.

Dr. Nikki (02:51): [inaudible 00:02:51] up. But what happened in the pandemic was that you had a vast number of people move into a work remote culture. We had to work from home to keep people safe, to keep people alive. And there’s sort of this split that is happening in the world of work, where some businesses and organizations are recognizing, this is pretty cost-effective, it’s worker friendly. And it actually, can, not at all, impede our productivity. It might actually even increase our productivity.

Dr. Brian (03:31): Correct. Yes. Increase productivity. Yes ma’am.

Dr. Nikki (03:32): But then, there’s a whole other side, a whole other sector that is saying, you must come to work now. That is my boomer voice and I recognize I’m being very ageist in doing that, but I do think there’s a theme, I think, around people of a certain generation and a certain sort of worldview. That are really demanding folks to come back to work, to be back in the office and this idea around visibility being equated with productivity. But, workers are saying, no, no, no, no, no way. They’re saying no, thank you.

Dr. Brian (04:11): They be saying, no, no, no, no, no.

Dr. Nikki (04:17): No, no. Exactly. And so, it’s really fascinating why I haven’t had to contend with that. That tension just yet. I’m not quite sure what my organization is going to do. I am very much in the camp of work from home. There’s some parts of my job I think that would be ameliorated if I were face-to-face in some parts, but I don’t need to be there to do my job. And it’s just very fascinating how there are droves of employees that are leaving organizations and companies and moving to places where they can work remote, because there’s so much more flexibility. I think it’s much more employee and consequently, unfortunately, human friendly. Recognizing you being there at 8 o’clock at your cubicle, don’t really mean that you’re going to get more work done before you leave at five.

(05:10): And so, if I can do carpool for my kiddos or get laundry done, or be there to receive the repairman or whatever, while still doing my work, that creates a whole different dynamic and people’s ability to should on to their identity, I think, and still do work. So I’m fascinated to see what happens, who’s going to win out. Because this is really a power dynamic or the institutional leaders that are not, are like, from my cold dead hands. And where the demands of the workforce really shift what’s going on.

Dr. Brian (05:50): Yes. So I think that’s a great question too. It’s been really interesting to see also wages. So wages have been stagnant for decades. And even though there was all this shady stuff going on about, oh, well, if you pay people to stay home, if you’re giving them unemployment benefits, they’re going to be incentivized to stay home. And from everything I’m reading and seeing that theory isn’t is not actually panning out. People aren’t doing that. Instead people are saying, I don’t want to, especially our frontline workers, our essential workers, I don’t want to necessarily go back. Because either number one, I can do something and try to find a way to work from home, or there are other jobs opening up, or you need to actually pay and protect the people that are there. And yes, I’m, that totally makes sense. You should be innovating. So you should be providing personal protective equipment. You should be providing security if you need to. You should be educating your customers and consumers to not be acting a fool because. Don’t take it out on the cashier it ain’t their fault. And so, I’m pumped. This is like a Rosie, the Riveter kind of thing. Because people are, screw this shit. Yeah.

Dr. Nikki (06:57): Yeah. I don’t have to take this. And I think about the work and the actual work environment, well, one, so many corporate spaces went to these open plans. Where nobody has their own desks ,and nobody’s in the office. And I’m like, these are cesspools for all the germs. And we’ve learned this the very hard way. So you’re going to have to spend money one way or the other. You’re going to spend money retrofitting these spaces, or you come up with some sort of hybrid program that allows certain percentage to people be on certain days and other days. And I’ve read some stuff about people saying you can work from home, but not on Monday and Friday. Let me tell you something, if I want to fly to the Caribbean, I can leave Monday evening, be gone Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and come back Friday.

(07:43): I don’t know, I think it’s just such an antiquated perspective, and a real reflection of, for me what this pandemic has demonstrated is one, how global we are really. We are really a global society. Something on the entire, other side of the world can literally halt everything, for life, as we know it here. But also, we are more interdependent in that way too. But lastly, workers as employees, we have more leverage than I think the systems allowed us to believe that we had, up until this. And so now, one of my favorite sort of stories is the Wizard of Oz, The Wiz, all the variations. And I feel like people are, oh, that ain’t nothing but Richard Pryor on the road back there.

Dr. Brian (08:30): Wait, did you just give the movie away? Come on now, Dr. Nikki.

Dr. Nikki (08:34): Yeah, right. Oops. But I feel people are, you’ve got to talk to me like I matter, because now that I know that I do. So, we’ll see.

Dr. Brian (08:43): Yes, I thought it was really interesting as well. That within the course of a year we’ve created a new verb. Because the new verb is Zoom. Oh, are you going to zoom today? And you’re wait a minute. That did not exist 13 months ago, 15 months ago.

Dr. Nikki (09:01): That’s chilling.

Dr. Brian (09:01): Oh my gosh, it’s been the longest year ever. But it proves to me that human beings can learn. Americans can learn, we don’t have any excuse for the stupid that we keep doing. We now know that we need to incorporate more learning from home for education. And we know we need to incorporate more work from home because we can. We just don’t want to pay for it. And now’s the time when we talk about our washcloth reparations, now’s the time for us to get it done. That’s all I gots to say.

Dr. Nikki (09:33): Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely true. So that’s a little tea we wanted to sip on, but let’s switch a bit because it is Pride Month. Love it.

Dr. Brian (09:44): Yes. And so, to set up our discussion for today. So Dr. Nikki is going to be leading us in our discussion as I knocked things off of my desk y’all, I’m sorry.

Dr. Nikki (09:54): It’s okay.

Dr. Brian (09:54): And so we’re going to talk about what it’s like to be LGBTQ at work. And we’re going to delve into some of the intersectionality. We’re going to delve and talk about some of the rules and regulations, not about us being out at the workplace, but what protects us in the workplace. And so, I’ll kick it back over to Dr. Nikki, and then I’m just going to be the fly that flips around and throws in my 2 cents. So take it away.

Dr. Nikki (10:20): Far, far more than that. So, I like to never assume that everybody’s on the same page. So we’re talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer people. And sometimes you might see the full acronym being LGBTQIA+. And we want to represent everybody across the sexual spectrum. And sometimes, sort of anything that is de-centered of heterosexual is what we include in this LGBTQIA+ spectrum. And what we wanted to do specifically, because we want to first let’s disentangle these ideas around sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender. And so, part of the reason why we’ve set up our shows over these next couple of weeks is to sort of pull that apart. And so we’re going to talk about the LGBTQ, I’m sorry, the LGBQ. I was like, did I add the T by accident, because I’m so used to it?

Dr. Brian (11:18): I know.

Dr. Nikki (11:18): But we’re going to intentionally talk about what role sexual orientation and for me, I think this is what this will pull us into some of our ideas around stereotyping, as well as around intersectionality. And what that might look like in the workplace. What are some potential stressors or different experiences of navigating the world of work when you’re black and LGBQ. And then, next week, we’re going to specifically talk about the experience of our trans brothers and sisters. And what that experience around gender difference in gender identity plays out in the workplace. So just want to that for folks that we’re being intentional about how we are disentangling these concepts.

(12:00): So first I want to talk about sex and sexual orientation. And basically when we talk about LGBQ, we’re talking about who you’re attracted to, who do you feel romantic connection to? Who do you feel sexual connection to when you think about partnership and building your life with someone? And what is the gender of that person?

(12:24): And so, oftentimes we’ll talk about same sex loving folks. So women who love being with other women, as lesbian; men who love being with other men, gay; people who are sort of able to be with someone regardless of their gender, we’ll talk about them in terms of bisexuality. And there’s folks who are able to be with other people, regardless of sort of whatever body they’re in. And we can talk about them as pansexual. And then, there’s Q, for all the folks who are, I’m not that, but I’m also not that, but I’m also not that either, but I’m not heterosexual. So I’m going to go over here and hang out with these people because they’re super cool.

(13:03): And so, that’s all that we want to talk about. But part of what has happened systematically, systemically and historically across time, is that we as a collective have, I think, added on a whole lot of extra baggage and expectations, stereotypes about folks based on their sexual orientation. And so, part of what I love about Pride Month and about just the LGBTQIA+ community is, it’s a community that’s self-identified and said, oh, you don’t want me over here? Well, cool. I’m going to go over here with people who do want me, and we’re going to have a good time, and define ourselves and build a culture and uplift ourselves when you will refuse to. And so this really comes into play, I think a lot when we talk about the intersections thereof, of being a racial, ethnic minority, so to speak.

(14:02): So being a black person and we know about, and we’ve talked a lot about on this show, the experiences of anti-blackness and the context of living in a white supremacist culture. And then you add on the experiences or build into the experience of being marginalized in terms of your sexual orientation. And so, you have the intersection thereof of potentially being marginalized and experiencing oppression with regard to your race, as well as your sexual orientation. And so, that can oftentimes look like, and I think the term marginalized is really important to use here because oftentimes that can look like not feeling connected to, or safe, or seen, or valued within the black community because of your queerness. But also not necessarily feeling centered, or valued, or seen inside of the community, because of your blackness. And sort of navigating life at those margins.

(15:03): Learning one, I think we talk about in terms of mental health, we think about identity development. So we think about what’s the process of me figuring out who I am in the context of me experiencing all of this potential discrimination within groups, as well as between groups. And then, we could extend that and think about what that might show up like in the workplace. That can oftentimes look like micro-aggressions. Just very clear stereotyping. And that can even be extended to as we know, and can talk about how stereotypes and expectations about those due to anti-blackness can limit our career potential. Can sideline us, marginalize us in the workplace. Saying things can happen once you start adding in this layer of sexual orientation. And so the opportunity for challenge, for a certain level or a specific experience of stress and navigating difficulties in the workplace becomes exponentially fraught, I think sometimes. And yeah, go ahead.

Dr. Brian (16:22): I have a question, Dr. Nikki. Because, with my blackness, I can’t hide my blackness. I show up to work, you see what I look like. And so, especially when it comes to identity development at work, because at work, you have your job description and they tell you what to do for pretty much anywhere you go. How do we blend all those things together? Because I bring my blackness in with my job description. And that has it’s own stuff. But okay, I’m also gay. So what do I do? Does that mean that I have to let people know that I’m gay? Do I need to keep it to myself? How does that all play in?

Dr. Nikki (16:59): Yes, I think that’s an interesting question. So we could talk about visible identities or visible indicators, and then invisible ones. And so what you’re talking about is terms of sexual orientation as being invisible. Cultural identity. And I think it’s a nuanced conversation. So let me say it this way., there could be an argument that one should be out and proud as an indicator of their mental wellness with their sexual orientation. But there’s also the recognition that, that comes at a different cost for folks. And I would specifically say for folks that are black and brown, that comes at a different potential threat or a different cost. Not only in terms of your community, your race, or ethnic community, but also particularly in the workplace.

(17:50): Because for me, this is how I think about it. At the end of the day, everything is about relationships. Whether you excel or whether you fail in the workplace is about your ability to connect with other people. And oftentimes for black folks, that’s ability to not be seen as threatening. With our anti-blackness oftentimes that threatening is labeled as aggressive. We’re so aggressive or I don’t know, there’s, I guess, a potential that we’re going to be violent or we’re so straight forward. All of these sorts of negative things. And in my experience, the threat around sexual orientation has just been otherness. I don’t quite know how to talk to you. I don’t want to offend you, because our heterosexist bias is so strong. Our cis-gender bias is so strong. And for me, I think people sort of shy away or pull back from, because, either for some folks still there’s this presumed fear around homophobia. If I’m too close with the gay guy at work, are people gonna think I’m gay? And then that’s a threat to me and my masculinity, because we know that plays a role in how you’re able to show up at work and succeed.

(19:02): So all of that said, I think to answer your question simply is, it really depends on the individual, and also knowing the culture of work, and the place that they work in. I know you’re going to talk a little bit more about rights in a little bit. So I have to think about the state of Texas, and we’re an at-will employer.

Dr. Brian (19:24): Yep.

Dr. Nikki (19:24): And very clearly, someone can fire you just because. They’ve said, hmm, you’re not a good fit here. Hmm, you’re too difficult to manage. Ooh, you’ve been subordinate, whatever. You’re gone. And I know that that is a real concern for LGBTQIA+ folks here in the state of Texas. Especially when we’ll talk more next week about trans folks. If I start to show up at work as my full present self, who here will I offend, that I didn’t know? That I didn’t even know I would offend? Because all of a sudden now that I’m being more present, I trigger you. Whatever your unresolved stuff is, and you can take that out on me. And so I think it is important for us, especially as mental health professionals to always think about context, and always think about nuance. Ideally, optimally, we want to have workspaces in all of these companies that have these DEI initiatives. The, I stands for inclusion.

Dr. Brian (20:21): Okay.

Dr. Nikki (20:22): The I stands for inclusion. Just want to remind you. We should have spaces, processes, capacity for folks to be able to show up as full versions of themselves. With that also meaning, how you may show up as a gay black man, does not mean it looks like how the other gay black man shows up. That don’t make you less black, that don’t make him less gay. Y’all just present in a way that is authentic to you.

Dr. Brian (20:49): And that’s the hardest part. Oh my gosh. It’s super hard. So there’s a documentary called, I think it’s called the Butch Factor or maybe the Adonis Factor. I can’t remember. But essentially they make the, yeah. They make the point. And one of the people in the movie was wearing his pink pumps, and he was walking up and down the Castro District. Oops, can you still hear me? Oh, I think you muted, Doctor. Nikki.

Dr. Nikki (21:13): Yes.I muted myself.

Dr. Brian (21:13): Oh, okay. Okay. No, no, no. Okay, good. I was just like, wait a minute.

Dr. Nikki (21:18): I was going to type, and I know sometimes that can be…

Dr. Brian (21:21): Yes, you go ahead and type out. I’ll talk for a little bit. And so, in this movie one of the points that they made towards the end is, there was a a wonderful guy who was wearing his pink pumps up and down the Castro District. And he made the point of, what is masculinity? And when I wear my pink pumps, that to me says masculinity, because I am courageous. I am accepting myself. I am authentic to myself. And when I first watched it before, I was, truly embracing who I am. I was, Ooh, super feminine. And if I saw that in my workplace, I’d be, Ooh, that makes me uncomfortable because I have my own internalized homophobia, and all this stuff. Well, then, after watching that video and giving it some thought, and going to therapy myself. I was, wait a minute, being your authentic self is, “being a man”, whatever that means.. That has its own toxic connotations.

(22:13): But it’s the idea that it’s different for everybody. So yes, you can be that black gay man that is, get your nails done and your manicure and the whole nine yards. Or you can be the black gay guy who has the beard, or you could be the black gay guy who is doing whatever you’re doing, as long as you’re authentic to yourself. So I think that’s brilliant.

Dr. Nikki (22:33): So that brings me to this piece around professionalism. Which makes me just, I feel every time I say the word, it just gets caught in my throat. Because for me, it’s such codified, what they call a dog whistle. That’s what it is. To me it’s such a dog was so for white supremacy. And so, I’ll say some institutions are more conservative than others. And professionalism looks like all of these intangible ways that a white supremacy culture tries to police you in your presentation, in your speech, in your interactions in your dress. All of those sorts of things. And so, there’s been conversation in more conservative spaces around, is it okay for a male employee to have their nails done? Is it okay for a male employee to dress in clothing that is not connected to masculine clothing?

(23:37): And so could you be sanctioned for that? And even if you’re not actually sanctioned in the workplace, are you ostracized? Are you marginalized or are you somehow left off the GroupMe, out of the Slack? Just, somehow, all of a sudden, you were not included in that Slack. I’m so sorry. All of these little ways. And so, I do think that there’s an individual decision for you. One, to wrestle with what your identity is. And one of the other things that has always beleaguered me about our overall society is we have this really limited notion that, you work on figuring yourself out through maybe college. And then after that you’re supposed to be set in stone. Do you know how much life there is past 22, 21? Folks is living to 90 something, 100 and something, that’s a lot of set in stone.

(24:33): So one, I think we just all need to have a little bit more flexibility around allowing ourselves, as well as others, to continue to play and grow and figure that out. Number one. So you have your own process of identity, and then how do you navigate that in the workplace? And sometimes I think there are folks ,no, and we think about the big population. Some folks are more risk-aversive, and some folks are more risk-taking. And so, I think, oftentimes those of us that are more risk-taking are on vhe Vanguard, we sort of push the limits, and make people uncomfortable just by us being us. I’m using us very [inaudible 00:25:15].

(25:19): And so, part of what I think mental wellness is, sort of being aware of the context. And knowing what you can do and what you can’t do. Playing with those limits and figuring that out all the other side. And I know you want to jump in, but I don’t know how to say this. Cause I think this is also important on the other side. I also think you are well within your rights to determine if a place is so oppressive, or so exclusive, or so demeaning to who you are. So I’m not encouraging anyone to suffer micro-aggressions in silence, or to suffer stereotyping in silence. But learning where that line is for you. I think is an individual decision.

Dr. Brian (26:05): And so, Dr. [inaudible 00:26:06] was going to throw out to you, because I actually had this conversation with a different person. We were talking about what it’s like to be out at work and that sort of thing. And it was a white guy. So there are lots of mannerisms and I don’t know, jargony things that we do in the gay community. That to me, is very clearly culturated from black women. So, the yeesss child, and yaahhs, and all this kind of stuff. And so, at work, some of these things are happening, and there are one of my white male friends, gay friends who are doing that. And I’m just, ugh, sometimes that makes me nervous because I don’t know what to say. Because that is, first off, there’s the heteronormative. Okay. That’s not professional, because we’re supposed to be very straight-laced. So I don’t ever want to be, no, you can’t do that because of that. But then I see it as a black guy. I’m, yeah, that’s, it’s kind of our thing. And then I’m, well, is it our thing? And then I’m, oh, should I just not say anything? So yeah, I’d love to get your take on that.

Dr. Nikki (27:09): Yeah. I find this fascinating. Somebody called the other day, somebody called it a black-cent. Why, [inaudible00:27:17] black-cent. And I was, hmm, I don’t have to really sit with that language, and that description. So I will say, so I have a nine year old daughter and she is very fem. She is high fem. She likes all things associated with femininity. And so we, she discovered RuPaul’s Drag Race last year in the pandemic. And so, we watched and she’s just fascinated. And we have people that we root for who, do we want to, and all that sort of stuff. And so, watching that, has been more of, sort of, I’ve had this internal conversation around, is it a celebration of black women? What do they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery? Or is it mocking? And to your point, I think at some point it gets so extracted and distorted. I don’t think that they think about it in that way, but it feels very familiar to me as a black woman. And so, I think part of my response to your question would be to say, would you be talking like this, if you weren’t having the conversation with me?

Dr. Brian (28:34): A good idea, a good point. That’s very good.

Dr. Nikki (28:36): Yeah. Does your gayness show up in the same way among other white folks as it does with me? I’m just curious. And for me, I always start with the question. I almost always start with the place of curiosity because that actually is where you can have conversation or dialogue. And it allows you to at least begin to be open to hearing their other perspective. And also, you’ll get a lot of data from the other person’s response. Do they get defensive? Do they try to change the subject? Do they deflect? Do they stop and actually think about it? Do they try to gaslight you? That gives you a lot of information about their intentionality, and how much opportunity there is for dialogue, for growth, for discussion, if you start off with a question.

Dr. Brian (29:26): So then you have to model that for me, because my first instinct is to go, what the hell? What are you doing? But that’s very judgmental, and that’s not, yeah. So how do you model that for us? What would you say?

Dr. Nikki (29:38): I’m going to use it. I’m going to be stereotypic. You know, Chad, the other day, you were in the break room grabbing a cappuccino. And I said, I love hazelnut creamer and you hit me with a yaasss queen!

Dr. Nikki (30:03): And though I’m making this up on the fly. I’m sure it feels very resonant.

Dr. Brian (30:09): Oh, it happens all the time.

Dr. Nikki (30:10): It definitely stood out to me. I was curious about that reaction. It just felt a little bit big for that moment. And I was just wondering, is that typically how you engage with other gay folks in your community? Just curious.

Dr. Brian (30:27): I like that. And that was very subtle. Yeah, it was very opening, and yeah, I like that. Okay. Thank you for modeling that.

Dr. Nikki (30:39): Because the other thing is, let me say it this way. And this is what I still always teach, especially when we talk about unconscious bias. Not all biases are unconscious. Some of these are just straight-up conscious. But I think sometimes folks are engaging in bad behavior. Not because they want to, but just because they don’t know what else to do. And I’m not giving any passes because what I always say is, if you step on my big toe on purpose, it hurts. But if you get up and walk past me and you step on my big toe, it still hurts. So the impact is the same on me. But if the relationship is important, and for whatever way that you want to define that importance, but if the relationship is important, then it’s worth poking at, to peek at a little bit more.

(31:32): Because again, you’re going to get a lot of data. If Chad says, not you with this shit. Unless you go, okay, Chad going over there with your hazelnut, I see you. I know everything now I need to know about you, Jay. But if Chad goes what, oh man, I don’t know. I just saw it on RuPaul’s Drag Race, you get data. So that’s why I always say, when you start off with the question, when you start off as effortless about it as possible, as non-threatening as possible, you’re going to get information. And then, it is up to you to navigate accordingly, to continue to move through that situation in a way that benefits you best.

Dr. Brian (32:18): Love it. Love it.

Dr. Nikki (32:21): What else haven’t we talked about?

Dr. Brian (32:23): I think this is a great segue into LGBQ folks knowing their rights at work. So yes, unfortunately in some states you can still be fired if you’re a transgender, which we’ll talk about next week. Generally, nobody should be doing those those types of thing,s firing you for any reason, unless you live in a state that can do that termination thing at will, like we live in Texas. Depending on where your rights are, I just do some basic housekeeping stuff. So for every person, when you get hired on, at whatever job, figure out where your allies are. And keep in mind, HR is not your friend. They’re there to protect the company, but they do have written documentation of what your rights are.

(33:14): And you should really, really always refresh yourself on those. And then what your benefits are. So y’all, every company, depending on how big the company is, some companies are really small and other companies are huge corporations. But there are lots of benefits that I don’t think we as black people, and especially us as LGBQ people take advantage of., You just have to ask. And so if there are certain health policies, so anytime that a company goes and buys a health plan, so Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Cigna, all of those insurance companies that I hate. Your HR is your advocate. So if you get a really shitty plan, or the plans don’t cover anything, or if the plan is not covering your spouse, or if there are these weird, what we call carve-outs. Where they’re carving out mental health, or they’re carving out different things, ask your HR. Your HR is your intermediary between you and that benefits company.

(34:09): And if you’re paying the benefits, you need to get as many benefits as you can. If you’re paying your premiums every month, get as many benefits as you can. And with that said, we do, especially again, black folks and black gay folks. We do a really terrible job of involving our family in end of life planning. Now, sometimes, it’s because our families are assholes and have disowned us. And that whole thing happens, unfortunately. But if you can get term life insurance, so big companies can buy term life insurance really, really cheap. And then you can also buy your own term life insurance, so that you don’t leave behind a burden for the rest of your family. And I think just we as black folks, sometimes we forget that we have the power to do that.

(34:54): Whole life insurance is its own thing. Talk to your financial advisor and the co-host of the break room do not give medical or legal advice. All right. Thanks. Yeah. Or financial advice. Okay. Just ask about it. Disability insurance. So if you are working somewhere in that mid-corporate range and up, you absolutely better have a disability policy. Period. And if you don’t have a disability policy, send us an email at Again, we don’t give advice, but we can connect you to a whole bunch of folks. Because most people don’t die on the job, most people get disabled, for any number of reasons. And you want to be able to have some kind of income coming in.

(35:38): And then, of course, the last part is make sure, you know, our leave rights. So, different states, different companies do different things, and they will consider different family members, or partners, or spouses differently. So, part of me says that if you’re going to start that job, and you’re either partnering with someone, married with someone, living with someone, asked all those questions. May as well do it then, when you first get hired. As somebody told me, one of my attendings told me, Brian, whatever job you go on, you better ask for everything you want in that first six months, because then after that…

Dr. Nikki (36:16): Because after that shh. It’s like a cell phone plan, they don’t care about the old customer, but they will do what they can, to get that new customer. [inaudible 00:36:21].

Dr. Brian (36:24): Absolutely. So make sure to ask, because again, well a lot of companies won’t make it very obvious. And so you truly, truly have to advocate for yourself. You have to advocate for your family. As always, if you’re in a company where you’re supposed to be getting your breaks, take your breaks. If you have vacation, take your PTO. Do not leave PTO on the table. It blows my mind. And I have a company, and some of my employees are, oh, I’ll roll it over. And we let that happen for a while, but then they were mad. I was, we give you PTO so you can leave. This company will survive if you ain’t here, go. This is your mental health so go. So y’all, take your PTO. Especially, go to a Pride parade. Heyyyy, you know.

Dr. Nikki (37:13): The other thing that came to mind listening to you that I want to make sure we cover is, many companies under the auspice of their DEI, whatever that looks like. Whether it’s engagement and belongingness or equity and inclusion, whatever, what the words are in your own company. Many of them will have ERGs (Employee Resource Groups), or sometimes some progressive companies might even have affinity groups, or employee support groups. And so, having an identified space for LGBTQ folks in the organization to network, to engage in professional development. Is another space where it can help you sort of figure out what are the boundaries, what are the safe spaces, and network with other folks that are like you. So that you can get a better sense of having a community within the bigger organization. If, for whatever reason you may feel disconnected, or ostracized, or marginalized in your particular unit, using that ERG or employee network group might be another space for you to think about navigating through the organization or institution.

Dr. Brian (38:32): I love it. And before we get to the Last Nerve, Dr. Nikki, another thing I wanted to throw out, and it’s a harken back to the podcast that Dr. Jide and myself did. We were talking about sexual harassment. And I bring this up because one of the first things that happened when I’m around straight guys that I don’t know, and they know that I’m gay is they’re like, oh my God, are you hitting on me? And I’m, no.

Dr. Nikki (38:54): No Chad.

Dr. Brian (38:54): I have like a million other things. I have like a million other things to think about, and worry about, then if I’m hitting on you. But then it calls to mind, what is appropriate workplace, not behavior, but what can you say or do? So, if I come to work, and I’m big on colognes. I grew up, my daddy is an old black preacher, and he likes to wear him some cologne. So I grew up loving colognes. And so if somebody walks by, I’ll be, man, what are you wearing? And then it makes me think, well, wait a minute, because most people at work know that I’m gay. And so then I’m, oh, are they thinking that I’m hitting on them? And so then, I get all paranoid and then I start to act weird and dah, dah, dah. And so, I would love any of your comments of how do we manage that interacting with people when you’re surrounded by folks who may not understand what it is to be gay, or bi, or queer, or that sort of thing?

Dr. Nikki (39:58): Yes. But this is where I also think having that ERG, having employee networks, have a DEI office, really should be setting some of the tone around that. At least doing some basic education for folks in the workplace, having that be accessible to folks in the workplace as a good working place to start. But then, also, in thinking about the other resources, every HR, or at least compliance officer should also have a Title IX officer, or somebody related to that. So really getting a working understanding of what is sexual harassment in the workplace, identifying that. And I think you do need to sort of be armed with this. This is the additional burden or labor of being part of a marginalized community. You need to be aware of what your rights and protections are in the workplace. So I would think having that working information is also just a really great place to start. And I think letting your behavior speak for itself and also being careful about when you have those sorts of interactions, who else is around. Is it an intimate moment in the bathroom?

Dr. Brian (41:06): Yeah, that would be awkward. Good point.

Dr. Nikki (41:07): You see what I’m saying? And so, using those basic interpersonal skills that you’ve grown and navigated with, throughout life, tyo think about that piece. Or if you’re having team meetings or a huddle, let’s wait until there’s other people to say, somebody in here smells good. Who is that? So rather than making it direct, doing that. And I think navigating your personal space and body space, the same way you would with any other employee, I think it’s also just a smart way of navigating the space. So I am a big fan of getting the intel from the beginning. So I’m a big, I observe that is part my joy as an introvert. I like to get the lay of the land. And I think that that’s what you do and really using those allies at work. Who are the safe people at work that I can ask, now, what about this person, are they cool or not? What do you think if I brought this up around such and such? And using that interpersonal culture of the organization, of the company, to help you navigate what’s going to be okay and what’s not going to be okay.

Dr. Brian (42:24): Yep. That is awesome and extremely helpful. At the end of the day, treat other people as you want to be treated y’all. You can’t go wrong unless you’re a psychopath.

Dr. Nikki (42:34): [inaudible 00:42:34] Somebody said something about the platinum rule, but I can’t ever remember. Do you don’t treat people the way you want to be treated, treat them the way they want to be treated. I don’t know. It was something like that. And I was, I don’t know about that.

Dr. Brian (42:46): Yeah. That’s profound, but that’s really wrong. The longer it is, the more I’m, boring.

Dr. Nikki (42:52): But also what about my own agency? That’s where I come in. Why, I got to treat you the way you want to be treated? But maybe that’s not good for me, but anyway, we definitely digress. I’m so sorry.

Dr. Brian (43:03): It’s all good. So y’all normally, if y’all have watched our other podcasts, which I’m sure you have. Normally, Dr. Nikki is bringing the Last Nerve, which is where we get to go off about something. She’s given it to me today, but I’m going to reserve a few seconds at the end, because if she has something that she needs to say, I totally want to give you the floor. So I’m going to put two minutes on the clock, yeah, because we don’t need no long sermons because y’all got other stuff to go do. So I’m going to start this, and y’all, The Last Nerve tonight, before I start, The Last Nerve is what happened with the tennis superstar. Superstar. Not tennis playing in the park, tennis superstar, Naomi Osaka, who said, you know what, guys, I don’t want to do these press interviews because I’m an introvert, and they make me depressed. And for my own mental health, I don’t want to do them.

(43:59): And, she got fined. And so she was, you know what, I’m just going to not play in the tournament. And people are losing their minds. So that’s the Last Nerve. So, first off she’s a grown woman. She can do whatever the hell she wants. That is her autonomy and her agency. So number one, we respect that. Number two, we were just in Mental Health Awareness Month y’all, quit being assholes. Leave people alone, let them experience themselves. We have been through a once in a century pandemic, where, people died. Leave people alone, just let them have their space, let them be authentic. Number three. We seem to have a problem with black women. So Naomi is, Hey, I need some time for my mental health.

(44:46): And we don’t give it to her. Nicole Hannah Jones is, Hey, I’m overly qualified for this fucking job and I would really like to do it because it’s a good idea, because I’ve already paid y’all money, because it’s my alma mater. And they said, no. Megan Markle, I’m a damn princess. I’m a princess and y’all still giving me shit. So leave black women alone. There’s nothing that you need to say to them that number one, they don’t already know. Number two, they can do every thing, because one of them is the vice-president of the United States of America. So leave them alone, pay them more money, and leave them alone. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Dr. Nikki (45:22): All of that, everything to keep my mouth shut. That’s why they keep… Everything. But first and foremost, she is a grown black woman who is top, of the top, of the top, at what she does. That’s number one. Number two, don’t deny black women their humanity, if she has mental health challenges when she says, this has led up to long bouts of depression. That’s not just saying you hurt my feelings. That’s saying this has a direct impact on my wellbeing. And I am making a choice for me, as my own priority, to take care of myself. And then you’re going to find me tens of thousands of dollars. Please. I’m so sick of this.

Dr. Brian (46:08): Yes. Woo child.

Dr. Nikki (46:09): Yes. Yeaasss.

Dr. Brian (46:11): Yeah. That is our Last Nerve.

Dr. Nikki (46:16): That’s our Last Nerve.

Dr. Brian (46:16): We have enjoyed having y’all on this evening. I thank y’all so much for joining us. Make sure you check out all the other podcasts, because we were going to keep them coming on Thursday nights at 7:00 o’clock Central. And I don’t know how to do the rest of the times.

Dr. Nikki (46:30): It’s 5:00p.m. PST, 7:00p.m. CST, 8:00p.m. EST. Only because I wasn’t the one saying it, I had time to do the math in my head.

Dr. Brian (46:39): Yeah, because I’m hmmm. As always, if you have any questions or comments send us an email at Follow us on Twitter, and we will see y’all later.

Dr. Nikki (46:51): Be a friend. Tell a friend. How about that?

Dr. Brian (46:54): Amen. I love it. Be a friend. Tell a friend.

Dr. Nikki (46:56): All right.

Dr. Brian (46:56): Bye y’all.

Dr. Nikki (46:57): See y’all next week. Bye.

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