I was always a quiet kid—nerdy, inquisitive, shy and rarely ever sticking my head out. I knew I was different from other boys. After all, in India a boy can’t not be crazy about cricket. I was—and still am—a glitter fan. I am attracted to French perfumes, religiously follow Vogue Italia and dream of being a fashion icon. It took me a while to understand that I wasn’t attracted to the opposite sex. The realization came after a couple of rough relationships. My first real epiphany was when I found myself attracted to Captain Kirk from Star Trek!
No more hiding
STEFFAN LORENO: I came out to my best friend in 2007 and she accepted me, unconditionally. She was always so supportive and eager to be a part of my life that I kept away from the world. My queer friends were also there for me. But even with so much support around me, I didn’t feel equal or worthy. Depression and self-loathing were my constant companions. It was a tough time.
Coming out to my mom was accidental. I had given her my old phone after her mobile broke. I had deleted everything, but I missed the messages in my SMS sent box. When she read my text messages to my then boyfriend, she confronted me about them. That night, we sat at the dining table until the wee hours of the morning and talked about everything I had kept from her. She lent me a patient ear and told me that she always knew in her heart that I was different. The advice that followed changed my outlook and my life, forever. Her words, now etched in my memory, were: "You are not indebted to anyone. Stay true to your heart—you are the hero of your life. Be proud of who you are." From that point onward, I had no fear of rejection.
SL: The Ally program and the culture of equality at Accenture helped me shine. Initially, I was a little guarded with my colleagues about my orientation, but the unstinting support of my manager helped me open up. When a few people on my office floor took a jibe at me and my mannerisms, I really felt bad and let my manager know. He immediately arranged for an LGBT session with the HR and leads for the entire floor. He also took it upon himself to let everyone know that they were violating Accenture policy by not showing respect for the individual. I still remember how proud I felt when he told me that I am an equal and that he values my unique contributions to work. My manager has always supported me and is my confidant. My teammates have also been very supportive, and I’ve never felt that I must hide who I am.
Talent, not your sexual orientation, matters
SL: My mantra in life is simple—don’t be afraid to be uniquely yourself. Straight people do not need to pretend they are something they are not. Why should it be any different for the LGBTQ+?
I strongly believe being queer does not define you. It’s part of who you are, but gender or sexual orientation shouldn’t matter so much. Set your own goals and go as far as your talent and ambition take you.