Ed Murray, the openly gay Mayor of Seattle, was guest of honour at a talk on LGBT diversity in the workplace in Dublin yesterday, where he was hailed as a champion of LGBT rights in his home city and throughout Washington State.
Mayor Murray was invited to speak about his experiences regarding LGBT diversity and equality in the business world, both in Washington and Ireland, at the EY (Ernst & Young) Ireland offices in Dublin, by the firm’s LGBT group, UNITY. The talk was hosted by Catherine Vaughan, Global Compliance Leader at EY, and also included speakers from EY and GLEN’s Diversity Champions.
At the event, Murray spoke of advantages experienced by numerous multinational companies in the US in actively supporting LGBT employees, including Microsoft and Starbucks, the latter of which was founded in Seattle. When asked what advice he would have for young Irish or American people when coming out, Mayor Murray said that people should be sure that the person is safe:
“Be sure that you’re in a community where you’re safe, or be sure that you can get [to] somewhere safe. That’s my first piece of advice. My second piece of advice is [for others] to really paint a picture for them, about the promise in the world that they live in, and the hopeful situation which exists today.”
Murray also made a fascinating comparison between racism, homophobia and sectarianism, when describing his own coming out experience, as well as previous visits to Ireland:
“I first came to Ireland forty years ago, in 1974, when I graduated from high school. […] I was working in a volunteer programme in Belfast. […] I was experiencing something that I would only experience twice in my life: I was really skinny and I had a lot of thick, red hair, and I was arrested on a pretty regular basis by the British Army, just because I looked, I dunno, I looked ‘Irish’ or something. It was a new experience for someone who [grew] up white in America. The next time I would experience that was when I came out as a gay man. I would experience that in employment, I would experience it on the streets… it was quite a traumatic experience.”
Murray was quick to stress, however, the positive developments and attitudes towards LGBT people in Ireland and the US. These have made sure that “the world has changed” for the better, while much work is still needed to achieve equality in the business and wider communities.