“The launch of Caya stores and pride sponsorship shows how we can physically get involved in the community. But it goes across the full spectrum, including accommodating various team members as well,” says Reese, adding the Alberta-based company has a similar resource to Spectrum for Aboriginal employees called “Eagles.”
In support of its gay and trans employees, a Canadian communications giant has tapped its vice-president to make a statement.
In January, Telus jumped on the It Gets Better bandwagon and created an eight-minute bilingual video in which gay top brass assure other gays working at Telus they can be open and successful. Vice-president Kasey Reese is among the video’s participants; he talks briefly about growing up feeling different and how life got better as time moved on.
In an interview with Xtra, Reese, a 50-year-old Chicago native, didn’t talk about personal wealth or a shoe collection that would make Samantha Jones from Sex in the City envious.
His message of hope and wisdom to the next generation was simple: life was tough in his early years, but although he felt picked on, his early struggles made him the man he is today.
“Before I was gay I was queer. I was the kid who instead of wanting a fire truck wanted an Easy-Bake Oven. I wasn’t good at sports. I had glasses and a soft voice. It was a hostile experience, every day being picked on. I didn’t know why, other than I was different,” he says.
In 1993, Reese came out in his workplace, a Midwestern American telephone company, when times were hostile for gays. But it didn’t stop him from becoming a co-founder of an internal lesbian, gay, bi and trans resource.
“It was in addition to my full-time roles. During the mid-’90s, the US was a different place and a little more overt and hostile. The legal protections in Canada’s workplace issues are at a significantly different level in the US,” says Reese, who has worked at Telus for nine years.
Last fall’s purported wave of homophobic bullying prompted two leaders at Telus to suggest making the video. Many of the company’s 35,000 employees are only a few years past being youths themselves. The It Gets Better video isn’t the first supportive step the company’s taken; for the last few years, Telus has had an internal gay, bi and trans support resource called Spectrum, which began with 18 members and grew to 125, with chapters in Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto.
“Two leaders came forward with the suggestion ‘Why don’t we put on our own video?’ We put a call out to our entire membership for people to come forward and share their stories; 11 team members agreed to do that. I was thrilled to be on the team and pull this together,” says Reese, adding that the video took six weeks from idea to launch.
From a community standpoint, Reese says, Spectrum allows Telus to better understand internally and externally, where Vancouver-based and LGBT community resource Caya store was launched last fall.
“We really want to make sure we’re fostering a culture where people are bringing their full selves to work and develop the best resources to our customers. It’s really important to link diversity and inclusiveness,” says Reese.