In November, I’ll celebrate my 4th wedding anniversary with my husband Steven. When I was younger and coming to terms with what it means to be gay in America, I never thought I’d be able to say something like that — my husband, our wedding — but here we are, and it feels so good.
We’ve been together for more than a decade and met when we were still figuring ourselves out. When we first started dating, Steven was very shy and reserved — but not long after, I quickly realized that he was my soulmate. I look at us today, and I’m amazed at how far we’ve come together.
I know that Steven and I are lucky. We have insanely supportive families who love and care about us and have been respectful and interested in learning who we are and what we stand for. We recently moved to Lawrenceville, N.J., and together, built our dream home. We have one spoiled furbaby, a five-year-old “frengle” (French bulldog-beagle mix) named Brie. We are so proud of the life that we continue to build and all our accomplishments — with coming out, being a couple in public and, ultimately, getting married at the top of the list.
Joe and Steven at New Hope Pride 2023.
I’m also lucky to work at a place that encourages me to bring my whole self to work. At Kenvue, I’m a Communications Lead for our Essential Health segment in the U.S., which includes our iconic brands like Listerine® and BAND-AID® Brand. Our brands prioritize health equity and driving relevance with all consumers who use them. Every day, even if it’s not a campaign focused on the LGBTQIA+ community, equity is always top of mind. Because we are doing such purpose-driven, inclusive work that resonates with all communities, we also live into this at work. When I come to the table with my colleagues, I feel comfortable knowing they respect my point of view.
Working at Kenvue has also helped me feel more confident in being open and out because of the community and advocacy I found here. Beyond my day job, there has been so much more to get involved in, including our year-long Care With Pride program, which began in 2011, and our Open&Out employee resource group.
For the past two years, I’ve represented Care With Pride at the Family Equality Annual Night at the Pier Gala in New York City. It’s always an incredible night to be actualizing and realizing how impactful the associations we partner with are, to be able to mingle and meet change agents, and to see how we put our money in places we know are making a difference. This year so far, in addition to attending Night at the Pier, I also marched with fellow Kenvuers at the New Hope Pride parade, where it rained but couldn’t dampen our spirits! Becoming involved in these groups has made me more comfortable — and certainly more educated — in talking about the community, myself as a gay person and my family at home.
But first, a selfie! Joe and fellow Kenvuers attend Family Equality’s annual gala.
It’s with gratefulness for the way Steven and I are embraced by our families, by our workplaces, that we recognize Pride is also a dedicated time to reflect on all the work we still have to do. Open&Out has also broadened how I perceive the LGBTQIA+ community from a global perspective—understanding the nuances, issues, victories and the like outside of the U.S. or even North America region. It’s easy to get stuck in your own bubble, but to really celebrate and recognize Pride is to understand that there are happenings outside your “world,” and that people don’t always have the same rights as you. That’s why it’s important to be a change agent.
A coworker recently told me I’ve made her feel more comfortable being herself. The reason why I push myself to do things like this — to share — is because I want to inspire other people to live into their uniqueness. We only have one life to live and because of that, we deserve to be exactly who we are. I truly believe that our individuality makes the world a better, more beautiful place. Yes, I’m going to continue to do my part in terms of donations and showing up to Pride parades, those are all no brainers, but I’m also going to continue to push myself to feel confident even when it may be hard because I know I could inspire someone else who isn’t where I am — and because I’m indebted to the people who came before me.