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Coming Out with Pride: Nicholas Satow Shares His Story

Nicholas Satow (center) with Camp Lightbulb leaders

National Coming Out Day

This year marks the 32nd anniversary of National Coming Out Day, a time to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and transexual individuals. In honor of this awareness day our Proud Employee Resource Group sat down with Altoid Nicholas Satow, Partnerships Manager HIV/PrEP, to learn about his own personal experience and his advice for others on coming out. ERG’s are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives.

Q: Tell us a little about your coming out experience. When did it happen and who did you first tell? 

A: My coming out story starts with the story of my best friend. We met in third grade and were just 15-years-old when she came out to me. She was a star basketball player and met a girl from an opposing high school team 45 miles away. We quickly turned 16, and without our parents’ knowledge, we were driving 90 miles round trip every weekend to go see her girlfriend and hang out with a group of kids who didn’t know anyone from our school district. The 45 miles of distance made her feel safe from our friends and family finding out about her double life.

Leading a double life and constantly hiding our whereabouts started to wear on us. Especially for her after family and friends started becoming suspicious. Who is this girl you’re always on the phone with? Why are there so many miles on your car? Where are you going? Her fear of being outed or disowned started to build as rumors began to circulate between friends and family.

It was a Saturday night, and we were halfway through our 45 mile drive home. She broke down in tears and started to share terrifying thoughts she’d been having. She said she couldn’t take the pressure of the double life anymore and the rumors circulating at school. She felt extremely overwhelmed, isolated, and scared. Thoughts of teenage suicide and stories I had heard of queer teens taking their own lives started to consume my mind. Even though I wasn’t ready to come out of the closet yet, I knew in that moment my friend needed me more than ever. I felt responsible for her loneliness and selfish for making her go through this journey alone. She said, “I can’t take this anymore. I can’t live like this,” Staring at the road ahead, I said, “You need to stay strong. You make me strong.” I turned and looked at her and said, “I’m gay, too.” This was the first time I said those words out loud. It was terrifying and relieving at the same time. It was the first time I felt authentically me. 

It’s 15+ years later, and we’ve helped each other get through many scary thoughts and tough times, come out of the closet to friends and family (sometimes while sitting side-by-side) and navigate difficult romantic relationships as we learned what it was like to be a young gay person in Cleveland, Ohio.

Q: How did you feel as a result of coming out? 

A: After coming out to my best friend, I felt a sense of relief and companionship. Our double lives became more of a shared experience and a lot easier to manage, knowing we had each other to rely on. I also started to feel more comfortable coming out to other friends. At 18, I came out to all my friends. At 22, I came out to my parents and family.

Q: What resources, support groups, or communities did you rely on when coming out? 

A: At the time, I wasn’t aware of any resources or support groups, so this wasn’t something I utilized. Another best friend’s older brother was gay, so I learned a lot from him, and he took me out to introduce me to the community and become comfortable in my own skin.

Q: What advice would you give to others? 

A: The best advice I’d give to LGBTQIA+ youth is to find a support system of like-minded individuals and come out when you feel it’s safe to do so. If you’re in an environment where you feel your mental or physical safety could be jeopardized, don’t come out until those dangers are gone. If being disowned, financially cut-off, or assaulted is a possible reality, make sure you have somewhere safe to go where your basic needs can be met. There will always be people who won’t accept you for who you are, but there will be even more who will support you. You just need to find that community. 

Q:  Why is it important for you to work at a company that values diversity in all forms?

A: Companies that support diversity help us evolve into a more accepting society. When people are exposed to colleagues who are different from them, they get to know each other on a personal level and start to realize that we are all more similar than different. I believe these experiences translate into the way people treat others outside of work and how they raise their children.

At Alto, we believe in a world where every perspective matters and that diversity fosters creativity and creates innovation. We welcome candidates of all backgrounds, skill sets, and experiences. To learn more, read Why We Prioritize Diversity at Alto

Looking for Support? 

For more information on how to make your workplace safe and equitable for all, read 11 Simple Ways You (Yes, You!) Can Make Your Workplace More LGBTQ Inclusive. 

If you or someone you know is considering coming out, we encourage you to review these resources: 

Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Recommended Reading: Coming Out

A Handbook for LGBTQ Young People

CDC LGBT Youth Resources

Older Adults on Coming Out Later in Life

COLAGE Resource Center

Camp Lightbulb Camps