Black and Gay in Corporate America

Black and Gay in Corporate America

Sabin D. Blake, Dealer Organizational Manager, Northeast Region, General Motors Corp. (Photo: Lonnie C. Major)

Sabin D. Blake, 34, has navigated the professional obstacles of being African American and gay throughout his career. Blake, a dealer organizational manager, Northeast region, for General Motors Corp., is no longer in the closet. That hasn’t always been the case though; for years, he lived a double life using non-gender specific pronouns such as “they” to describe individuals he has dated during casual conversations with colleagues.

“Being a double minority you choose what you present. I could hide being gay, I definitely couldn’t hide being black,” says Blake who kept his sexual orientation hidden for several reasons including fear for his personal safety. “I had these relationships with people where I would be going to dinner with their families. I was involved in their lives but I wasn’t being who I really was.”

Once keeping the secret became too disheartening, Blake made the decision to gradually reveal his sexual orientation to fellow GM employees and business associates. “It was hurtful not being authentic. And my energy was being sucked away,” he says. But each time he told someone he was gay it became easier for him. “It freed me. It allowed me to be more productive, more creative, and more innovative at work,” he says.

Blake attributes his level of comfort to GM’s workplace and the high visibility of gay senior-level executives and straight allies. “I know that GM has strong language in their anti-discrimination policies and very strong support of their employee network groups.” His experience resonates with African American corporate executives who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). For those who choose to “pass as straight,” they expend a great deal of time and energy covering up their personal lives or avoiding certain colleagues and company events.