Nearly 40 years later, longtime PPL employee Barry Thomas still vividly remembers the emotional rollercoaster he rode after admitting to his parents he was gay at age 21.
When his parents responded with disappointment and pleas for him to be straight, he sobbed for 15 minutes.
Then, he stopped abruptly. He was engulfed by a feeling of relief, realizing he was finally free. Living closeted and keeping all his secrets was suddenly a thing of the past.
“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t have to worry about this anymore,’” Thomas recalled.
Thomas said it took years for his parents to finally accept who he is, but they eventually did, both telling him at different times that they’re proud of who he is.
Thomas, an administrative support worker for PPL Electric Utilities who has worked for the company for 38 years, has joined several other LGBTQ+ employees in sharing their stories with PPL co-workers through a new campaign called Empowering Pride.
The campaign was created by FUSE, a PPL business resource group that serves as a catalyst for change by creating a safe environment to promote equality for the LGBTQ+ community. It was formed 17 years ago under the name Glow.
Empowering Pride encourages PPL’s LGBTQ+ employees to share their stories that promote bravery, openness and understanding. They write about their experiences in messages that appear on a PPL intranet site while LGBTQ+ allies in the company share messages of support. (See excerpts from the messages in the video below)
“The Empowering Pride campaign is wonderful because it gives employees a voice to say, ‘This is me,’” Thomas said. “What I wrote will hopefully give someone else empowerment.”
In his Empowering Pride message, Thomas describes the freedom he felt after telling his parents he’s gay.
“I could finally be the person I was meant to be,” Thomas wrote. “…And so now, I realize that to help instill pride in someone else, I must first be proud of who I am. We only get one life and I encourage people to live it authentically. Live your truth and celebrate your pride!”
“I am proud of FUSE’s officers and members for taking the initiative to create an Empowering Pride campaign,” said Dave Arthur, vice president-Federal Government Affairs and FUSE executive sponsor. “This is another example of how all BRGs and employees can come together to celebrate their differences and learn more about one another in a safe and positive environment.”
The campaign demonstrates further how PPL is committed to ensuring its employees feel welcomed, valued and included so that they can be as effective and successful as possible at work.