How do you see today’s younger generation adapting to different identities?
My sister tells this story. She was talking to her daughter, and she said: Sweetie, I have something to tell you about your uncle Ernie. My niece said: Oh, okay. Well, what is it?
My sister said: Here's the thing, I just want you to know that uncle Ernie is gay. And my niece replied: Okay, is he gay and dying? And my sister said: No, he's just gay. So, my niece said: Oh, who cares? Mom, we don't care about that stuff anymore.
How do you identify?
Being gay and Hispanic has its challenges, but my family has been really good about it. Coming out to them was difficult at first, but my mother was at my wedding. We danced. All my brothers and sisters were there, my nieces and nephews.
Being openly gay, I appreciate honesty and integrity and truthfulness. Everyone does, of course, but to be able live an authentic life makes me appreciate honesty. In my job, as a technical support person, it's my role to be honest with people and help them.
What impact does your identity have on your professional life at Twist?
At Twist, I manage scientists who answer questions. When customers have technical questions about things we make and sell, they come to us. Not only can we answer questions about the product, we can answer general science questions as well.
I don't think being gay necessarily impacts my job, though it's impacted me in general. It makes me want to be a person who helps others, as I myself have been helped by friends and family.
One of the privileges I have is that I'm in science. People in science tend to be highly educated. When you go to university, you meet different people that you've never met before, which sort of strips away a certain amount of closed mindedness.
I've never felt self-conscious about it. People ask me: What does your spouse do? I just say: He's the Dean of Students San Diego State. No one's ever batted an eyelash. I've always felt that I've been fortunate in that way.
Tell me about your spouse.
We have been married for five years. When we met, California had opened the door to gay marriage. We weren't ready to get married; it was just too early for us. But then, Proposition 8 closed the door.
Proposition 8 was overturned and, by that time, we had been together long enough and we were sure about each other. We raced down to the courthouse because, God forbid, they take it away from us again. We got married in July, and then we planned a family wedding for March the following year. It was the happiest day of my life.
What role does diversity have in Twist’s culture?
It seems like Twist has made it their mission to be as diverse as possible. There are quite a few of us who work at Twist, and there is a genuine feeling of warmth about it. I've never felt quite this welcome at a company before. It really is part of the culture, this feeling that everyone can contribute, everyone has something to offer. If you're different, your differences are celebrated, because all the things that make you unique ultimately make this company better.
Do you have anything else to add?
If you had told me, the closeted gay kid, that in my lifetime, I was going to be married to the man I love, that my mother was going to be at the wedding, that my siblings would show up to the wedding and would actually be celebrating, it would have astounded me. I'm grateful we've made these strides, and hopeful we continue to move forward. But we shouldn't forget where we came from and the people who fought to get us here.