JESSICA HALEM IS AN AWARD-WINNING EDUCATOR, ADVOCATE, AND CONSULTANT ON LGBTQ+ ISSUES
You are an award-winning educator, advocate, and consultant on LGBTQ+ issues and inclusive communication strategies. What does that role involve, and what is your professional background?
I’ve gone down a few different professional paths in my lifetime but all of them are about working with interesting people trying to make the world a better place. Every role and city has taught me more about how to make change from wherever you are located. From Chicago to New York City to New Orleans to Harvard I have rolled up my sleeves in pursuit of lifting up the voices and lives that need to be centred in a more just and equitable world.
Today, my work is focused on health and wellness and ensuring that LGBTQ+ people are able to receive the care and support they need to live long, happy, healthy lives.
How important do you think it is for a person to be out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community both in the workplace and in the wider environment and what advantages can it bring?
So many people cannot be out at work and home. The pay check and safety concerns are too much. We must protect them and work to make change for them. For those of us who can be out at work and home – we must use our voice to make the world safer for all.
There is research that shows being out and open at work helps our careers. The ability to bring our whole selves, being more authentic and open and not censoring ourselves – all of that leads to being seen as more trustworthy and honest. Try it out for yourself. Try not dimming your light. Try sharing your magic. I bet you might just tap into the energy and ideas needed to thrive!
What challenges FACE LGBTQ+ people which are not necessarily faced by their heterosexual friends and allies?
LGBTQ+ people often lose the love and support of their birth families and for many of us that hurt creates a lifetime of pain. We are all on a journey to heal this original trauma – whether it was one bad conversation or being kicked out. I hope all of us are taking the time to heal. Too often I hear people speak from their wounds and not their scars.
We must move on and create new family and find support and flourish from where we are now. We must heal any internalised homophobia and transphobia. Shake it off, my friends. We are beautiful, perfect humans who deserve nothing but pure love and joy.
In at least some countries the LGBTQ+ community has come a long way in the past 50 or so years in terms of our rights. What more needs to be done?
Our community knows what it means to live with shame and stigma. My hope is that more of us bring this expertise to wherever we find ourselves. Wherever you may be located right now, there is a role you can play in healing yourself, lifting up others, and connecting across difference. Even if you are in a place where you cannot be out all the time, you can still bring your unique perspective and experience to wherever you are.
what has been your proudest achievement?
I am preparing to celebrate some dear mentees as they go off to become doctors. I connected with this amazing group of people when they were just starting medical school and many were apprehensive about being out, wondered what path in medicine would be welcoming, and if they’d be successful. They allowed me to be part of their journey of figuring out these hard questions.
Describe a typical day in YOUR LIFE.
One word: muesli. I start every day with a bowl of cold muesli and it starts everything off on the right foot. I love my Peloton. I love watching television. I work hard and rest easy. You should too.