I grew up in rural Australia, part of a very conservative, Evangelical family. My grandfather was a preacher, I attended church school, and my entire circle of friends went to church regularly. At school, we were taught that being gay was wrong and would be punished, and in elementary school, I saw a much-respected gay teacher fired once his ‘secret’ was discovered by school administrators.
I knew I was somehow different from my friends as early as 6 or 7 years old, and by the time I was an adolescent, I knew the word for that was ‘”gay,” but I thought I could just compartmentalize that part of my personality and still live a happy and successful life.
By the time I got to college and then into the workplace, hiding who I was seemed second nature to me. What I didn’t realize is that it had actually changed my personality in such a way that I had gone from being a creative, outgoing child, to a reserved and secretive adult unable to build authentic relationships, such a critical skill in my role working in human resources.
I knew in my heart this wasn’t sustainable, but years of conditioning left me unable to know what to do about it
I started working for a woman who had come to terms with her own sexuality much later in life, after she had been unhappily married to a man for over a decade. She really helped me to understand the impact that being hidden was having on my career and personal life, and that this disconnect would only grow over time.
She asked me a simple question: “How would your life change if you stopped holding back?” From that point on, I was determined to live a more open and honest life, both with myself and with others. She started coaching and mentoring me. She helped me build confidence in myself and trust in others through coaching, mentoring, and introducing me to role models. She modeled the characteristics of self-confidence and trust and introduced me to others who possessed these traits in a way that felt natural and organic.
Now I am committed to doing the same for others, not only in the LGBT community but with other marginalized groups through mentoring and allyship. I co-led the Women at LinkedIn Employee Resource Group for two years, mentored a number of professionals from underrepresented groups, and led learning programs that teach white people about systemic racism and challenge them to become more active allies for people of color.
Mentoring helped me overcome the unconscious bias that I held against myself, and has led to an incredible journey of learning that has opened up doors to career opportunities, international relocation, and helping others to overcome similar challenges.
In a world that is becoming increasingly aware of how systemic inequality holds us all back from achieving our goals as individuals, workplaces and communities, the work that Moxxie does is more important than ever. LinkedIn has been a proud supporter of Moxxie for several years, and as someone who has personally experienced the power of mentoring, it’s been an honor to support this incredible organization.
Trafford is a Senior Performance Consultant at LinkedIn and is currently leading the FY21 Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging priority for LinkedIn Sales Solutions. You can find him at www.linkedin.com/in/traffordjudd/