‘I don’t have to hide:’ Hampton man credits LGBTQ work group with changing his life

'I don't have to hide:' Hampton man credits LGBTQ work group with changing his life

HAMPTON, Va. — Ryan Key knows what it’s like to have to hide.

“Growing up, I didn’t really talk about it,” Key tells News 3 anchor Blaine Stewart. “Family members disowned you if they knew that you were gay, or you’re identified something other than heterosexual,” he adds.

That began to change, years later, on the job. Key joined a resource group for LGBTQ employees at Dominion Energy, where he’s worked since 2015. He describes the support from coworkers and bosses as life-altering.

“Being a part of a resource group here at Dominion definitely has changed me,” Key explains. “It’s opened my eyes to be comfortable with being myself.”

is part of a growing list of companies encouraging workers not to hide who they are on the job. The Human Rights Campaign gives Dominion a perfect 100 score in its most recent ratings.

“If I’m comfortable being myself, then… that’s one less stressor,” Key shares. “I don’t have this lingering fear over me, clouding me being my full self.”

A patchwork of equality

EHOURL/Lisa Martin

Not every employee, everywhere, is as fortunate. There are varied protections offered to LGBTQ+ employees, based on the state they’re in. Twenty-four states, including Virginia, plus D.C., explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Eleven states provide partial protections. Sixteen others, including North Carolina, offer no explicit protections.

“Any LGBTQ American, or person, should be able to go or travel from one state to the next without having to worry about if they’re going to have protections in one state, but when they cross the border, they won’t have any protections,” says Narissa Rahaman, executive director of .

In 2020, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled LGBTQ employees are protected by federal law when it comes to workplace discrimination. That same year, Virginia lawmakers enhanced similar protections under state law. The addressed employment, housing rights and other issues. Advocates warn, however, that those protections are always on the ballot.

“We’re always one election away from things really, completely changing,” Rahaman cautions.

For now, Ryan Key can breathe easy. He knows he doesn’t have to hide anymore.

“I feel a sense of comfort with being a part of this group,” he says. “I don’t mind being myself, even outside of work.”

The Trevor Project offers this as a free resource for members of the LGBTQ community.

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