Voices of GoTo: In this series we highlight the people that make flexible work, work: our employees! GoTo is a global company with more than 4,000 employees around the world; these are their stories.
Wendy Gee is a Team Lead, Sales Operations Analyst at GoTo. She manages and nurtures relationships for GoTo partners and was recently promoted! Utah raised, she is passionate about allyship and fighting for those who feel like they might not have a voice. In honor of Pride Month, I sat down with Wendy to discuss her journey as a mother and ally. This special edition of Voices of GoTo weaves my experiences with hers, and I hope it provides a window into just how vital allyship is for the LGBTQ+ community.
Wendy, tell me about yourself and your history.
I grew up in Utah, my dad was in the Air Force, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. I’m the youngest of 6 kids. My father passed away when I was very young. My mother was left to raise six kids under 14 when she was only 33. We moved closer to where her family was, so I grew up around my extended family. It was a tight-knit community.
It's essential to understand Wendy’s upbringing in the context of this story. She offered me a glimpse into the traditional community she grew up in—one very similar to mine.
It was also traditional. I was raised and taught that it was wrong to be gay. It didn’t occur to me to think differently. Some of the most influential people in my life are gay, and I watched them struggle to come out or be harassed in public. I couldn’t handle that, and I did not want that to happen to anyone I loved. When my daughter was born, I didn’t want to pressure her with my expectations for her life. I wanted to let her know that I loved her no matter who she was or whom she loved. I want her to be happy.
That’s so amazing to hear. Do you feel like she felt that support early on?
I do think so! When I had her, I was managing a retail store in a shopping mall. I liked seeing people face to face. But it was hard because my daughter was a baby, and I didn’t want to work 70 hours a week during Christmas. So, I transitioned into a 9-5 type job. I worked there for several years, put myself through school, and went back to college during that time.
I dove into school and kept working; my motivation was her. How can I provide for her and ensure that she has a future and that she’s taken care of? It’s the number one motivation that I have today too.
What was it like for her to come out to you?
Two years ago, she came out to just me. I told her I was proud of her for telling me. She planned this little coming-out party to tell her dad. She baked a cake and was happy to share it, but she was terrified to say it to us. She was afraid that we would look at or treat her differently. That broke my heart because I never wanted her to feel that way.
Afterward, she felt the love and support. Amazingly, my family and our extended family have been supportive. Which, for me, was a little surprising as I wasn’t sure they would be. I was preparing to go to battle for her. I know some people wouldn’t be open, but I’ve been happy and fortunate to have support from her family.
This part of Wendy’s story struck me. I could see how much it meant to be there for her daughter, especially when she thought others wouldn’t be. As a teenager, I felt I had no one to turn to when I came out. And although I did not receive the same support that Wendy showed her daughter, I get to feel it from her – and so many of my colleagues and friends – today.
I and the rest of Pride@GoTo are so proud of your support for her (and us). What are you most proud of?
I am very proud of my daughter. She’s had many challenges in the last several years. What she’s done with that has been very impressive to me. I’m so proud of who she is and whom she’s growing into as a person; it’s incredible to me.
I am also proud of my commitment to those who sometimes don’t feel like they can stand for themselves, especially kids. This past year, I worked with her school to get a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) club, and the administration was fighting it. My goal was to get them to allow that to happen. I helped do some of the legwork for the school board because these children need this support. We managed to convince them to let the students form a Unity group. Helping your local community is essential because that’s where you can make an immediate impact.
What do you wish other parents knew about being an ally to their children and the community?
As a parent, your job is to love your child and be there for them. It’s not to tell them what to do in every situation or force them into a life or an aspect of a life that they don’t want. They may do things you disagree with, or you don’t like, but that doesn’t matter. You can’t hold that against them. It’s hard for people to see their children grow up and be different from themselves or anything they imagined. But differences are lovely.
I would advise – don’t ever make them feel like it’s wrong or shameful, or that you don’t love them for it or won’t tolerate it. I’ve made many mistakes as a parent, and I’m sure I will still make a lot more. But I love my child, and I will do anything for her. I will support any decision that she makes. Home should be a safe place where they can be themselves entirely, let their guard down, and be comfortable. It shouldn’t be a place where they’re judged.
This concept of acceptance always seems so easy until we’re confronted with it personally. She talks about home being a place of comfort, where we can just be ourselves – we know everyone doesn’t have that. This is why acceptance and inclusion in the workplace matter, especially with the flexible nature of work. If the home can’t be a place of safety and belonging, our workplaces must be.
What can people and companies do to support the queer community?
Promote the Pride resource groups! It’s hard to do remotely, but not impossible. Be an ally in other situations. If someone brings something up in other conversations, say something. Don’t just ignore it or pretend you didn’t hear it. Bring people in who bring different perspectives—those small interactions matter. Sometimes, more than the larger ones. You don’t have to agree with or placate everyone. But you can help provide an atmosphere of belonging for others and yourself.
I want to thank Wendy for being open and honest in this conversation. And, of course, for her commitment to inclusion in every sense of the word. As for GoTo, we’re happy to say we have been named on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index for 2022 as one of the top U.S. companies to work for based on our LGBTQIA+ inclusion efforts!
We work where we like, which is why we like where we work. We think you will, too. Interested in joining our team? Look at our opportunities.
Connect with Wendy on LinkedIn