KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, finding a job where they feel safe and where they can be themselves is a major concern. According to the Williams Institute, one in 10 LGBTQ+ workers said they experienced discrimination in 2021.
"Every Tennesseean deserves to have a job and a job environment where they feel safe, they feel affirmed, where they're able to thrive and be who they are," said Story VanNess, the program director for transgender and nonbinary support at Knox Pride.
She helped organized an affirming job fair, bringing together businesses and job-seekers who were looking for a place where they could work and feel safe.
According to the study, around a third of LGBTQ+ employees reported experiencing some form of harassment at work because of their identity.
"You need to be able to be who you are at work. You need to be able to be authentic," said VanNess. "It's just so vitally important to relationships and just being able to focus on what you're doing, instead of worrying about what other people are going to do to you or at you, because of who you are."
She said there were businesses in a variety of fields looking for employees. There were opportunities in jobs like real estate, education, customer service and nonprofits specifically working in mental health. Lynzi Mars, the assistant general manager for Babalu, attended the event hoping to find new candidates.
"I feel like a lot of people don't really have a safe space, whether it be at home or with their jobs," she said. "We're not going to judge you for who you are, we're going to encourage it."
The job fair was at the Knox Pride Vocational Center, located at 4044A Chapman Highway.
"I've experienced it a bit, myself, in other jobs and other past places that I've lived, of not feeling safe or welcomed or feeling like I had to say certain things to fit a certain personality type or fit someone's box," Mars said. "Being able to work somewhere that I don't have to do that, I can talk about my relationships and I can talk about my friends, and not feel like I have to suppress that. It's been really important."