“Flying was never part of my original plan,” says Kayleigh Scott. “I was straight out of high school and I was looking for a job. I remember my neighbor telling me, ‘Hey, why don’t you apply for jobs at the airport? They’re always hiring.’”
Scott, who knew she was trans at a very young age, had made the decision to start transitioning around this time. Whatever job she was going for, she knew it needed to be with a company that would help provide resources and a supportive community through her transition. When her cousin, a flight attendant for United Airlines, posted on social media that the company was hiring, it felt like kismet. She applied immediately.
United Airlines has long led the charge for LGBTQ+ equality in the airline industry. In 2019, it became the first public company to be inducted into Pride Live’s Stonewall Ambassador program in recognition of the airline’s commitment to LGBTQ+ equality. For the 10th year in a row, it recently received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, placing it on the prestigious 2021 list of “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.”
“I was familiar with United’s policies and how inclusive they are, and United’s business resource group for LGBTQ+ employees, EQUAL,” Scott acknowledges. “Flight attendants are loving and caring and so there for each other, and it was at that point I knew if I’m going to come out I’m going to do it as a flight attendant for United.”
Scott began as a flight attendant in January 2019 before she was promoted to in-flight supervisor at Newark Airport. She credits the company and her supportive colleagues with helping navigate her smooth journey into the friendly skies.
“When I was ready to start having that conversation with HR and start the coming out process in the workplace, I was scared,” Scott recalls. “I knew that I made the right choice going to United and I knew that it was going to work out flawlessly. But there’s still that nervous factor you feel because this is a huge life step. I sat down with our HR representative in Newark for in-flight. The first thing she did was give me a big hug and said, ‘Let’s go get you uniforms.’ And from that moment, it gave me a new level of confidence in knowing this is a good place to be.”
“My ultimate goal was to be able to come out and do it safely and comfortably and confidently,” she continues. “From the interviews, to training, and everything else going on, EQUAL was there every step of the way. Before I got to the point where I finally came out publicly, EQUAL and other representatives of the company showed me this was the right choice and that I was a lot more than just an employee number. They made me feel like I was Kayleigh.”
For Scott, United Airlines provided more than just a safe workplace. It gave her the encouragement she was sadly missing at home. That supportive work environment has also given her the confidence to help drive change in the company and beyond.
“I have some really big ideas that I’d like to bring to the table, continuing to make the best better,” she says. “United is already a great company not just for our employees but for our customers as well, and I really want to continue working with United to make those policies more inclusive and show the world that United is a lot more than just an airline. This is the place where family comes together.” @hayitskay97
All photography courtesy United Airlines.
This story is part of Out's 2021 Travel Issue. The issue is out on newsstands on April 28, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.