Everyone has felt what it’s like to be excluded. And we’ve all hidden something about ourselves. Maybe it’s a physical feature or a character trait that has prompted criticism.
But what happens when those feelings of isolation, loneliness, fear, anxiety over being “found out” and even struggles with self-acceptance become your day-to-day experience? What happens when you have to hide a large portion of your identify and authentic self all the time because you fear condemnation, harassment or worse? The mental, emotional and physical toll can be staggering. That’s why it’s important that we honor International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB). We must actively support the LGBTIQ+ community and raise awareness around the discrimination and violence experienced by many around the world.
To inspire you to take action and to help you connect to the experiences of people in the LGBTIQ+ community, we’ve asked some of our people to share their experiences of coming out, the challenges they’ve faced on their journeys and the importance of active allyship.
Self acceptance to live authentically
Our people shared how they sensed that they were different from peers at an early age. “I knew I didn’t have the same feelings as my peers about the opposite gender,” notes Brianna Bacon, a Technology Architecture Delivery Senior Analyst located in Philadelphia. “The biggest coming out point for me was to my parents when I was 16 years old. My mom is super religious, so she had the mindset that I was going through a phase. My dad was relatively supportive. He said as long as I’m happy about who I’m dating, he didn’t care.”
Evannie Zavala Ramos, a transwoman and Transaction Processing New Associate in Costa Rica, said that when she was 4 years old she saw the school uniform for girls and became depressed that it was forbidden for her to wear. “I have always been very aware that something in my inner self was different… My parents were not supportive,” she says. “They dismissed and humiliated me, making me even more depressed.” But, she was supported by a friend who provided her a space to be open within a safe environment.
I have always been very aware that something in my inner self was different…
Evannie’s experience was challenging and took a toll on her mental health as she struggled with depression, which is common among transgender youth. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 40 percent of transgender youth reported feeling depressed in a study conducted in 2016-2017. Depression can often occur as a result of gender dysphoria, a condition that affects many transgender people before they transition to their authentic selves.
Gender dysphoria refers to the distress transgender people experience when their sex assigned at birth does not align with their gender identity. It’s a topic Evannie wishes more people would understand because she believes that more awareness will help advance understanding and inclusion.
Identity in the workplace
Evannie’s experiences at work have been vastly different compared to her interactions with her family at a young age. “Accenture Costa Rica celebrated Transgender Day of Visibility and created a social media post congratulating me on my work,” she says.
Joseph Magadan, a Service Delivery Manager in the Philippines, also expressed appreciation for the support he’s received at Accenture. “In 2012, about two years after I joined Accenture, I had my first partner, so I knew it was my coming out moment. After talking with my mentor, career counselor and coach, I began accepting myself and started sharing my stories in 2014.”
Since then, Joseph says he’s embraced and loved himself more, which has allowed him to maximize his potential at work and become a prominent voice with the Pride employee network in the Philippines. In turn, this has helped him produce exceptional work, earning back-to-back internal recognitions, becoming part of diverse communities and increasing his leadership responsibilities.
What makes a good ally
When asked what makes a good ally, Brianna responds, “Being openly supportive, loving someone as another person, and not being afraid to defend that person in the face of a hateful situation.”
“As an example,” she continues, “taking it back to high school, when a group of friends is talking bad about someone, an ally defends that person—they step up and say why it’s wrong to create an environment where others feel unsafe.”
Evannie echoes the sentiment saying, “A true ally defends people when they are not called by their pronouns. True allies are those who look inside you and not outside of you, they are the ones who discover the value that is in you.”
Being openly supportive, loving someone as another person, and not being afraid to defend that person in the face of a hateful situation.
Joseph suggests that effective allies are like good friends. “They make you feel safe. I always advise this: prioritize quality friendship over quantity of friendships.”
Awareness plus action, not a box checking exercise
While it’s important to honor days of significance, like IDAHOTB, through awareness and education, the conversation and supporting actions must continue year-round.
“Awareness would help de-silo the environment culturally,” Brianna says. “You are exposing people to realities they may have never been immersed in. Making people relatable, regardless of sexuality.”
Education is essential, but action is the critical next step to becoming a true ally and a crucial part of building a culture of equality for all.
“Awareness is not enough. We need to take action…. I want people to be open about allyship and equality as a normal conversation, not just a box to check,” Joseph says.