Before starting my own business, I worked with a career coach to help discover what it was I wanted to do with my life. One of the first exercises she had me do involved identifying what my four core values were – the four ideas that energized me, gave meaning to my life and got me up in the morning. The idea is this; if you live every day respecting your core values, life and work are more fulfilling.
I discovered that one of my four core values is to inspire –it is important for me to inspire people in my work and in life in general. At first, I thought this meant I should be a teacher, an idea I haven’t entirely put out to pasture, but with the help of my career coach I concluded that I wanted to combine my passion for the auto industry, my love of new media and my desire for social change. Gaywheels.com was the result.
At first I worried that I wasn’t living up to my value to inspire but I quickly realized that by simply being true to my principles and launching a LGBT-focused website in one of the most conservative industries, I was leading by example. That message hit home when I attended my first auto show in Detroit as Publisher of Gaywheels.com.
Walking into the convention center, I realized that I wasn’t just another automotive journalist. Around my neck, visible for anyone willing to look, was the word GAYWHEELS. I was outing myself to everyone I encountered and for a brief second, I was terrified. I quickly extinguished the fear and soldiered on. The reaction was mixed; some people looked nervous, some laughed in my face but most greeted me with cautious optimism.
Four years later, I am writing this on a plane on my way to Detroit as a guest of GM and Ford. It wasn’t easy but I am now part of the core automotive journalists that cover this industry and I do it all under the Gaywheels.com name. I get invited on these events because I’ve proven my value and gone to great lengths to normalize the idea of the LGBT community as a viable target market.
I’ve since received feedback from colleagues who have come out at work because they’ve seen how well-received the site has been. We launched a section of the site, HEADLIGHTS, to feature out gay and lesbian automotive professionals and a few have used it to announce to their families and colleagues that they are gay. We’ve even received emails from gay teenagers who didn’t think they’d ever find a place because they were gay and loved cars. Their discovery of Gaywheels gave them hope and inspiration. Those emails are the ones I cherish most and make all my effort worthwhile.
Inspiring people by living a genuine life is my form of mentoring. As LGBT business professionals, we should lead by example, be proud of who we are, make no excuses and we will be inspirations for people young and old alike.