Speaking out is difficult. Do it anyway.
Rod (left) with his family.
By Adobe Life Blog
Posted on 06-28-2021
In recognition of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Adobe employee Rod Alligood, Director of Engineering Program Management, shares the story of why he decided to speak openly about his daughter’s journey of coming out as transgender.
Genuine. That’s the Adobe core value that Rod Alligood says resonates most with him. As an out gay man who is raising adopted Latinx children with his husband, he takes pride in living authentically.
During the past couple years, however, Rod suddenly found himself “back in the closet,” hesitant to talk openly about his family and his daughter Bella’s experience coming out as transgender, out of fear of how others might react.
In the story he shared during Adobe for All Week, Adobe’s annual internal Diversity & Inclusion event, Rod spoke about how he and his family came out again and why he let go of fear.
We talked with Rod about his experience sharing his story and the importance of being a vocal ally to marginalized communities.
Why did you feel it was important to share your story broadly with employees?
I’ve learned that representation is vital for marginalized communities. There are so many fears and uncertainties about how the world views LGBTQ+ people. I figured that if I shared my story, it might give someone a moment of not feeling so alone, even if it is just one person.
The statistics are horrific on how many LGBTQ+ youth don’t have a support system, and who sometimes either attempt suicide or have ideation because they feel so isolated. I realized it’s important to be visible, to be an example for the parent or person who might be going through their own gender identity process.
I also wanted to be visible for people who might not know someone in their life who is transgender. If we can put a name and a face to the idea, maybe we can help give those people a way to connect and understand.
What kind of response did you receive from people who listened to your story?
It was overwhelmingly positive and wide-ranging! The same day I told my story at Adobe For All Week, Abhay Parasnis, Adobe’s Chief Technology Officer, took a few minutes at the top of a meeting to talk to me about how much he appreciated it and encouraged others to watch it. I still hear from people who are watching it months later, including some who are watching the replay as part of the Action Circles allyship program. I’m so happy that it’s connected with so many people.
Lawmakers in many US states this year have introduced legislation to limit the rights of transgender people. What are your thoughts about that?
The Stonewall Riots occurred in the summer of 1969, 52 years ago, and served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement and led to the creation of various gay activist groups around the world. As a community, we’ve come a long way, but transgender people are not at the same place in terms of acceptance as other people represented in the LBGTQ+ acronym.
It’s heartbreaking to watch people with power draft laws to further differentiate and target members of a small, vulnerable minority, especially when it’s against children. It just demonstrates how much more progress still needs to be made.
You talked about allies needing to speak up whenever possible. Why do you think that’s important?
For the LGBTQ+ community, coming out is not a one-time thing. It’s constant, lifelong, and part of every new situation you come into. You never know what the reaction will be. Having an ally can make all the difference.
If you’re an ally to any community, the burden can’t be solely on that group to defend, explain and educate. When you’re vocal about your allyship, it makes it safer for those who are vulnerable and gives them the space be themselves.
You also talked about an experience where allies were silent until after you spoke up. Why do you think that happened?
Yes, there was a situation in my neighborhood community, where comments were made about limiting LGBTQ+ rights. I was shocked at first that people who I know are allies stayed quiet. I understand the reticence, though. It can be really hard to rock the boat or to make someone feel awkward. Situations like that can blindside you, and it’s difficult to process and react in the moment.
Though it may be hard, you have to try to do it anyway. It doesn’t need to be confrontational. You can put people on notice without putting them on blast. There are many different ways to combat ignorance or prejudice, and sometimes it requires a picket sign and a bullhorn, but other times it’s a one-on-one conversation.
What advice do you have for those who want to be allies to the transgender community?
Speak out, of course, but small things can also make a big impact. For example, on LinkedIn or in email signatures, some people list their preferred pronouns even if they identify as cisgender, which is defined as someone whose gender identity corresponds with their gender assigned at birth.
Actions like that might feel insignificant, but it makes that practice more commonplace. It’s affirming and shows openness and acceptance. Inch by inch, those small steps become more transformational and can change people’s perceptions—and the world we live in.
Topics: #AdobeForAll, Brand, Adobe Life, Responsibility, Adobe Culture, Diversity & Inclusion