Christopher Coleman – An extraordinary study in diversity intersectionality: Black, Disabled, Gay and Christian!

Christopher Coleman – Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, Author & Confidence-Builder

Twice when I traveled to Georgia for diversity events, I met an extraordinary inspirational young man named Christopher Coleman.

Christopher was pronounced dead at birth, and after 15 minutes without oxygen to his brain, his wails filled the room the moment his twin sister entered the world. Chris was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy, and doctors told Christopher’s family that this condition would prevent their son from ever moving, talking or even thinking for himself.

As a youngster, Christopher was not given the opportunity to learn, but most often placed in a corner is special education classes and ignored the entire day. But young Christopher was determined, and at night would sneak his sister’s text books out of her room and teach himself to read. When 15, at the insistence of his mother, Christopher started attending mainstream high school and graduated 5th in his class of 360 seniors. And he was the first member of his family to attend college and graduated with a Bachelor of Communication.

Christopher became a life coach, author and motivational speaker through his “Unconfined Life Institute,” sharing the challenges he overcame with his trifecta of being a disabled black Christian in the South. But for several years and those extraordinary challenges, he hid a fourth aspect of his diversity. Then at age 38, Christopher decided to be true to himself, and come out as a gay, black, disabled Christian man.

Christopher Coleman does not let his disability hold him back from doing ANYTHING!

This provided additional challenges and even more reasons to be rejected. But once again, Christopher overcame the odds to remain a leader in fostering all aspects of diversity and teaching others to overcome all challenges to live an unconfined life.

Christopher is very articulate in discussing the intersections of diversity. He shares that in some circles, he can be accepted as black and gay, but rejected since he uses a motorized wheelchair and speaks with difficulty. In some circles, everyone is fine with him being a gay disabled man, but rejects him because of his race. And in other circles, it is fine to be a black, disabled Christian, but not gay. His story and life underscore the importance of each of us appreciating the full and many diversity attributes each individual brings into the world.

And diversity intersectionality is becoming increasing prevalent in our globally connected multi-cultural world, and much more understood and embraced by the new generation of adults.

Please check out Christopher Coleman’s website, to learn more about him and his work. Engage with him! He can have a powerful impact on your life, team or organization. Contact him via LinkedIn, or call 678-756-5212

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Check out my earlier blog series for National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

And check out my blog featuring a resource on cerebral palsy, “An excellent resource (and writer): Cerebral Palsy Guidance and Alex Diaz-Granados.”

The business significance and rationale of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s public coming out as gay

Over the past few years US pro football and basketball players have publicly come out as gay, dispelling some common gay stereotypes (link) and sending a signal to everyone that you can be true to yourself and excel in any field for which you have the talent and passion. Link to articles on basketball player Jason Collins coming out and on the value recently out football player Michael Sam brings to the table.

Tim Cook, Apple CEO

Tim Cook, Apple CEO

And now this past week another American milestone has been reached with Apple CEO Tim Cook publishing an essay declaring he is proud to be gay. (Link to article.) This makes our first publically out LGBT CEO in the Fortune 1000.

Interestingly enough, this led me to recall and revisit a blog I wrote two years ago in October 2012 for National Coming Out Day titled, “The Business Value of Coming Out for Executives and Senior Managers.” I now want to revisit those compelling reasons for senior business leaders to come out:

1. It benefits the company! In retaining sharp young talent and recruiting the very best, LGBT people and all others who value diversity want to see full diversity among the senior leaders. LGBT employees will want to see that people like them can reach the upper echelons based on business achievement and not be held back for being gay. If I were currently working at Apple I would be so stoked by Cook’s pronouncement!

2. You will come across as more authentic with coworkers. Appearing secretive or aloof could also lead to team members wondering if they can trust you with business matters. Being an open authentic person and bringing your full self to the workplace helps build trust and stronger working relationships.

3. You will not have to waste any energy keeping track of who knows and who doesn’t, and what you told to whom. Instead of those mental gyrations, you can spend your full intellectual and emotional capital achieving excellent results on the job. In fact, Tim Cook stated, “I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important.”

4. Finally, it is liberating and freeing to live an open, honest life where you fully and publicly portray satisfaction with yourself as a person.

Feel free to call on me for my consulting services to either help you build a welcoming corporate culture that facilitates everyone bringing their full true selves to the workplace, or to assist and coach closeted executives on coming out. And take my 13 question GLBT diversity quiz to see how LGBT-inclusive your organization is.