Moss Adams Voices

Koen Alberts: LGBTQ+ Intersectionality

Koen explores the challenges of coming out to loved ones and his Moss Adams colleagues, and he tackles the importance of intersectionality during LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

Koen Alberts

Koen Alberts (he/him), assurance senior, came out as a gay man while studying abroad in Albuquerque. During that time, Koen decided he’d like to remain in the United States after graduation instead of returning to Amsterdam. He and his partner David married, and he accepted a job with Moss Adams in August 2018. Since then, Koen has accepted several leadership roles at the firm, including supporting the launch of the Pride business resource group’s (BRG) Central Region chapter.

What inspired you to remain in the United States after studying abroad?

Being able to reintroduce myself to the world was a big factor. I came out when I moved to the United States and I don’t know if I would have been able to do that while living in Amsterdam. In high school, I was figuring myself out but never put much thought into it. When you live so close to your family in a community that knows you, you feel restricted in who you can be.

When I studied abroad in New Mexico, I was able to make my own path and find my people, so I started coming out. Before, I was trying to fit into a certain box. I learned there’s another world out there. I met David while in school and we’d been dating for a few years. Together, we explored options to stay together after my student visa expired. We knew we’d be together a long time, so we married before graduation.

Koen Alberts

How was your coming out experience?

I remember that telling myself I’m gay was a big deal. Seeing people come out on YouTube helped articulate what I was feeling, and I could share it with others once I was comfortable with it myself. It was easier to come out to my friends because they didn’t know me before. I announced my relationship with David to my family more than I came out as gay. That feels more normal to me; coming out shouldn’t be a big deal because it makes us feel different. The bigger news is that I’m in a relationship I want my parents to know about.

They had to get used to it, especially my dad. I never thought they were homophobic, but I remember watching television as a kid and I’d hear my dad make a homophobic comment about someone being gay. He said, “I hope you aren’t.” That’s one example of something that made me feel like I had to be a certain way. By the time they came to visit me after the wedding, they were totally fine.

Koen Alberts

Did you have concerns about coming out at work?

Yes. In the back of your mind, you know you can’t legally be discriminated against, but that was only decided by the Supreme Court last year. I was hired before then, and I didn’t want interviewers to get a negative impression of me. I’d tell interviewers that I was engaged when my immigration status was brought up, but I never specified who or their gender. When I was hired, I was more comfortable but still cautious. I only really discussed it if people asked about my immigration status or wedding ring.

At my first holiday party at the firm, I brought my husband and that’s when things changed for me. I’m sure people didn’t really care, but I spent 18 years hiding a part of myself. People don’t realize you don’t come out just once, you have to do it every single time and you don’t know if others will be supportive. You hear terrible stories, and that sits in the back of your mind. It’s an insecurity I think about, even if it’s not as bad as I imagined.

A big part of LGBTQ+ Pride Month is self-acceptance and celebration, and this year the Pride BRG has selected Pride Unmasked as the theme. What does that mean?

People are still struggling with their identities. For example, during the pandemic some kids may have been stuck at home with homophobic parents. They couldn’t go to school, and they may have struggled to find support in their identity or hang out with people like them. We need to think about the different issues within our community, and that’s what Pride Unmasked is all about.

​​​​​​​We also need to discuss LGBTQ+ intersectionality. Intersectionality is where multiple identities intersect, such as someone in the LGBTQ+ community who might be of another race or gender that faces different discrimination. There are many socioeconomic issues that affect groups within our community.

Koen Alberts

What are some things we should know about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community?

For example, there’s racism in the gay community, which we saw last year when some white LGBTQ+ people didn’t want to support Black Lives Matter. We know a lot of LGBTQ+ people become homeless, but Black LGBTQ+ people face different discrimination at homeless shelters because of the color of their skin.

​​​​​​​There are bills popping up all over the United States that discriminates against trans people. Laverne Cox, a trans woman, described these bills as denying someone the right to exist how they are. If a trans person isn’t allowed to use the bathroom that’s right for them, it becomes harder for them to exist as a person. We aren’t just keeping trans girls from competing in sports, we’re taking away that child’s opportunity to thrive. We need to think about issues like this in a broader context because we’ll create more problems for the community.

How can we all support the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month and beyond?

The Pride BRG can help support recruitment at the firm. If a representative from each BRG attended recruiting events, it shows that we’re a place where all can belong. The Pride BRG regional chapters also plan to host some events so people understand our community, the obstacles we face in the workplace, and how to use more inclusive language.

I also think it’s important for trans allies to add our pronouns in our email signatures because it normalizes introducing our pronouns and reduces stigma. I identify as male, which is what I was assigned at birth, but if someone doesn’t use the pronouns they were assigned at birth then that should be okay. When allies normalize sharing our pronouns, it makes sharing pronouns less of a big deal for those whose pronouns may not be visibly reflected in their appearance.

Pride Month is about celebrating who you are as an individual, and whether you’re LGBTQ+ or not, you’re welcome to join the celebration. Pride helps others come out, and it helps celebrate the diversity in our community. This month, remember how great it is to be yourself.

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