It’s taken a long time for me to understand who I am. I am Mia Rella, a social nerd who loves behavioral finance. My wife and I work on the same wealth management team at Merrill Lynch – I’m a financial advisor and she’s a registered client associate. Our coworkers hosted a bridal shower for us, attended our wedding, and they openly acknowledge us as happily married wives without any awkwardness. Coworkers even join us at local pride events to volunteer for the company’s Love Has No Labels photo booth. It’s unusual to be a lesbian financial advisor, unusual to find a spousal team that works so well together, and we haven’t yet heard of any other LGBTQ advisory couples in the firm. We’re financial unicorns and our firm supports it.
Women I’ve met in our company, even the few lesbian ones, are visibly feminine. I often land in a gender middle-zone with my barbershop fade haircut, masculine clothing, and a few more-feminine attributes. By being a genuinely warm human and authentically myself, I have seen the change in my coworkers’ comfort level. At first they were wide-eyed and silent about my style. Now they’re relaxed enough to compliment a bowtie or talk casually about clothing. It felt risky and uncomfortable at first but here we are, almost two years in, and I feel like a truly valued person here at Merrill Lynch.
Being visually identifiable as someone in the LGBTQ community is not just important – it can be lifesaving for our community. Last year, a kid sat next to me on the train and asked if I’m gay. Being visibly gender-atypical identified me as safe. They came out to me as trans, asked questions about how to navigate family rejection, and we exchanged contact info. I have the privilege of being safely out in my life and feel motivated to serve as a lighthouse for others who aren’t as safe yet.
Our community has made a lot of progress but we haven’t yet found financial pride. We’re more likely to believe financial literacy is important but less likely to have a trusted financial resource available. I’m working both professionally and through local nonprofits in my community to change that. I want LGBTQ youth to know that they can have a future in finance, and LGBTQ professionals to feel confident when making good financial decisions for themselves.