"I’m going to be my full self"
After seven years, Thomas LeGalley decided to step away from teaching. He was going back to school to get a master’s degree, but he also wanted a break from feeling like he couldn’t be his authentic self in front of coworkers.
After graduate school and a stint living in New York City, he returned to teaching for a few years and prepared to once again self-edit. But a funny thing happened while he was away: the TV show Glee went mainstream. “All of a sudden, teachers were gay, kids were gay, and everybody was like, ‘This is my partner,’” Thomas remembers. “It was so much more out. So that made it possible for me to say, ‘This is my husband, Fred. We’ve been together for 22 years. Now let’s get back to work.’ It was a big shift, and it was really nice.”
For Thomas, living authentically is more than just name-checking Fred in a conversation. It’s also about not self-editing for the sake of others’ comfort. “I got to the point where I said, ‘Your discomfort is not my responsibility,’” he says. “’I’m going to be my full self.’”
Now a National College Readiness Specialist for McGraw Hill School Group based in Texas. Thomas appreciates all the smaller, but meaningful, ways the company nurtures a culture of belonging: using inclusive phrases like “spouse or partner,” allowing Fred to be added to his insurance and supporting the MH PRIDE community, of which he’s a member. The group has been hard at work since January organizing activities for Pride Month. Thomas is overseeing Jeopardy! (good luck getting him to spill the beans on the subjects or questions). He also identified the charity the group will raise money for this year, Rainbow Railroad, which helps LGBTQ individuals escape violence and persecution in their home countries.
The monthlong festivities will serve as a warm-up for Thomas, whose home state of Texas celebrates Pride in the fall. “Fred and I always go to the parades; it’s an exuberant moment for us in Texas,” he says. “You know, Pride came out of the Stonewall revolt, where trans people stood up and said, ‘Not anymore.’ And from that incredibly important activism stems this joyful, fun celebration.”