How Amy Kane became an LGBTQ+ ally How Amy Kane became an LGBTQ+ ally

How Amy Kane became an LGBTQ+ ally

Duke Energy teammate spreads message of diversity and inclusion

Loading...

Amy Kane is a Florida-based Duke Energy employee who works in electric transmission development and estimating. 

I met my best friend, Matt, during an after-school program when we were about 8 years old. We clicked immediately. He was my first true friend, and he quickly became my best friend.

Through the years, we reveled in a shared love of art and music. Matt was naturally funny, always trying to make people laugh. He was also such a jokester; he would often try to convince you of something, succeed, and then poke fun at you for believing him.

If you were having a bad day, Matt could help you forget what was troubling you. He had this incredible ability to command a room and spread his infectious energy.

Matt was also extremely imaginative, constantly creating from childhood through adulthood. I consider myself a creative person, too. But Matt outshined my creativity. He kept me on my toes, challenging me to step outside my comfort zone, to be myself.

One evening, during our first year in college in Indianapolis, Matt and I were out with friends at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Matt “came out” to me that night, and I laughed. Yes, I laughed in Matt’s face when he said, “Amy, I’m gay.” I really thought he was joking.

“No, I’m serious,” Matt said. “I’m not joking.”

2024-0603-Amy Kane mug
Amy Kane works in electric transmission development and estimating at Duke Energy.

I realize now that Matt had wanted to come out to me for a while. I was the only person in our friend group who didn’t know. Maybe he feared how I’d react. Our friends finally convinced Matt to tell me, and they offered to be there to support him.

Our early years

We spent most of our early years in a small, rural town near Muncie, Ind. I had a good and happy childhood, though I recognize now that I was very sheltered. Matt and many of our childhood friends have said they feel the same about their upbringings.

We were taught to love everyone, no matter what. It’s a great message. But I’ve also come to realize that the underlying lesson was to love everyone like us.

I don’t blame anyone for this. And I know it doesn’t make it right. It was just the way people lived at that point in time in my farm town. Conformity was the norm.

As a teenager, I began to think more about my personal belief system and consider what I was learning in school, at home and in popular culture.

My mindset further evolved the night Matt came out to me.

His authentic self

I don’t know why I laughed when Matt told me he was gay. Maybe I thought it was another one of his jokes.

But everyone in that conversation was straight-faced. I felt my stomach drop as the enormity of the discussion set in.

That moment in time is a bit of a haze to me, yet it is also etched in my memory. I hope I apologized immediately. I do remember hugging him. And I believe I told Matt how happy I was for him, how much I loved him, how proud I was of him. If I didn’t say those things that night, I surely did many times in the years to follow.

What I do know is that Matt felt a huge sense of relief after that night, like a weight was lifted off his shoulders. He said he knew he could be his authentic self around me.

Our friendship persisted as our lives unfolded. And through the years, we continued to share laughs, music, heartbreaks and loves.

2024-0603-Amy Kane FL
Kane is based in central Florida.

I fell in love with a man named Justin. We got married. And Matt found the love of his life in Bryce. The four of us got along swimmingly, and our friendship endured even as Justin and I moved to Florida while Matt and Bryce established a wonderful life in Indiana.

We visited with each other at least a couple times a year. I’ll never forget how happy I was – and Matt, too – when he met each of my kids. That smile, so genuine and full of joy!

Matt’s legacy lives on

Matt died five years ago following a fierce battle with cancer. I visited Matt several times during his illness, holding his hand and reminiscing about everything we learned about ourselves and each other over the course of our decades long friendship and love.

Toward the end, his frailty was heartbreaking, but his spirit remained unbroken. Matt never stopped exhibiting the importance of living authentically and embracing creativity and joy, no matter the circumstances.

Matt’s coming out was a turning point for me, forcing me to reconcile my upbringing with my love for my best friend. My journey as an ally began there, as I realized the importance of standing by Matt and others in the LGBTQ+ community.

Matt’s influence on my life was profound. He taught me to love unconditionally and to advocate fiercely for what is right. Though I miss his smile, his hugs and everything we shared, Matt’s legacy lives on in the lessons I pass down to my children.

Spreading a message of inclusion

I am intentional when it comes to discussing diversity and acceptance with my children. We read books with diverse family structures. And I strive to use inclusive language, saying things like, “If you choose to get married, whether it’s to a woman or a man …” I want my kids to grow up in a world where love is love, without the confusion and conflict I experienced.

I have such admiration for the individuals of the LGBTQ+ community who are so brave to come out and be themselves. It’s hard to be ourselves when we are expected to look, act and live a certain way based on societal norms. It’s not until we are comfortable being ourselves that we can contribute to the world and truly enjoy our life.

Throughout my journey, I’ve grown more comfortable and purposeful when it comes to learning about co-workers and others whose backgrounds and experiences are different than mine. I feel I’m a much better human because of my exposure to these diverse perspectives and ways of thinking about issues.

And I believe our company will grow stronger as the makeup of our workforce further resembles the communities we serve. I only see this benefitting each one of us as we continue transforming and improving the ways we serve and support our customers.

In the end, to me, being openminded and being an ally isn’t just about supporting the LGBTQ+ community – or any community for that matter; it’s about embodying the love, acceptance and joy that Matt brought into my life. I hope he’s proud of the ways I’m honoring him and his legacy. 

What it means to be an ally

Being an ally does not mean you’re a self-assigned expert. Being an ally does not mean you fully understand the struggles of your colleagues and have ready solutions. Being an ally does mean that you recognize the dignity and common humanity in someone unlike yourself and you are willing to learn more.

Allyship is a commitment to awareness, ongoing education and action to promote equality. An ally listens with empathy. By understanding and embracing the experiences and perspectives of others – especially marginalized voices – allies can become agents of positive change.

“Having allies in the workplace is critical to creating a space where folks are comfortable showing up authentically. That kind of culture makes Duke Energy a better place to work and a stronger partner to our communities,” said Angela Easton, an Ohio-based Duke Energy employee.

“Allyship means having someone stand behind me for support, beside me as we change and support the community together and in front of me to protect me when I can’t,” said Kamille Jones, a North Carolina-based Duke Energy employee.

“Having allies for me means I can bring my whole self to work and talk about my partner and interests without fear of judgment or reprisal. And I try to be an ally for others, so everyone gets that same privilege,” said Jordan Skerkowski, a Florida-based Duke Energy employee.

 

More Stories About Making a Difference