Shirley Acuna Heredia: LGBT Workplace Rights

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The Supreme Court is expected very soon to hand down a major decision on LGBT workplace rights and YR Media’s Shirley Acuna Heredia worries the conservative court will make it harder to be out and employed.

The decision to come out felt like a gamble. Growing up as a first-generation American in a traditional Catholic family was a tug of war between what was expected of me, and who I wanted to be.

I was afraid being queer would push away my family. While it did change my relationship with a few relatives, being out also showed me the people I could count on.

I’ve gained a chosen family that gives me the freedom to unapologetically be myself — and one place where I’ve found that family is at Mills college. Every Mills class starts with students sharing their preferred gender pronouns, and the bike I use to commute to those classes is covered with stickers that represent my queer identity. It’s always getting compliments.

Outside of our progressive campus, however, those of us who are graduating may face new and harsh realities.


The stress of navigating jobs feels even greater because of a pending Supreme Court decision. Title VII — of the Civil Rights Act — protects workers from discrimination on the basis of “race, color, national origin, religion and sex.” But by this summer, the Supreme Court will decide if sex discrimination applies to LGBT people too. And given the conservative court we’ve got, I’m not feeling hopeful.

If the Court rules that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are not prohibited by federal law, that would mean — in some states at least, I could be fired, or not even hired, for being queer. And that would be perfectly legal.

In California, legal protections for LGBT people are recognized, so that provides some protection. But more than half of states in the U.S. lack basic LGBT non-discrimination policies in their state laws.

My mom immigrated to the United States for opportunities that weren't possible back home in Peru. After I came out, she was accepting but also worried that I would be treated differently because of who I love.

Given what’s at stake for LGBT people, I’m worried too.

With a Perspective, I’m Shirley Acuna Heredia.

Shirley Acuna Heredia is 27 and lives in San Francisco. Her Perspective was produced by YR Media.