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We are all in the pursuit of happiness—to live freely, authentically and reach our full potential.
The reality for many, however, is the opposite.
For some in the LGBTI community, coming out means strained relationships with friends and family or being uncomfortable at work. Finding a safe and supportive environment can often mean making big lifestyle changes, such as moving into a different home, getting a new job and starting fresh.
On May 17, we observe International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), and we stand in solidarity with the Pride community to help break the silence. When we speak out against these harmful prejudices, we help the LGBTI community reclaim their space and support them in leading authentic lives.
Meet Rudy and Lily.
Rudy Cupido is an Associate Manager in Program, Project and Service Management in South Africa, and Lily Nguyen is a Management Consultant in Talent and Organization in the United States. They share their journeys of self-discovery and acceptance, explain why it’s so important to break the silence and offer advice for how everyone can help.
The journey of coming out
Rudy: I was reluctant to come out, as I wasn’t sure how people would react. I finally came out to my best friend. She knew how homophobic society could be and was more worried for me than I was. That’s when I realized that coming out was a journey not just for me, but also for the people in whom we confide. And it’s important to take the journey with them.
Lily: Coming out is rarely a single moment; rather, it’s a process of coming to terms with who you are and understanding how that ripples through the rest of your life and relationships. I was fortunate to have been born and raised in a fairly liberal community, so I didn’t face much resistance when coming out. My coming out wasn’t a big announcement—people already knew. While my mother was in denial for a time, we’ve been able to work toward acceptance.
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Rising above discrimination and ignorance
Lily: A bulk of the homophobia I’ve experienced is in the form of biases, under-the-breath comments and harmful stereotypes. I’ve always found it helpful to have one-on-one conversations with these individuals, asking them to deconstruct and understand the impact of their words or actions.
Rudy: I still remember my dad’s words when I came out to him: “It doesn’t change anything. He’s still the same person.” To this day, his words give me the courage to be more confident and to take on the homophobia I encounter every now and then. And it helps to work in an organization where I can be myself.
Breaking the silence
Lily: I co-lead the Accenture Pride Employee Resource Group in Seattle. We host a bounty of events ranging from community-service volunteering, learning series and fireside chats, to marching in and sponsoring the Seattle Pride Parade each year. Being part of this engaging and supportive community has been such a rewarding experience.
Rudy: My journey toward becoming a self-assured gay man hasn’t been easy. But I was determined to challenge myself every step of the way. In 2011, I was a finalist in the Mr. Gay, South Africa Contest. I wanted to take a stand and motivate others to do the same. This encouraged my friend’s brother to come out without fear. I try to do the same with the Pride talks we’ve initiated at Accenture in South Africa. We conduct interactive sessions aimed at educating our people on Pride.
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Grace Bentson (L) and Lily Nguyen, co-leads of the Accenture Pride Employee Resource Group in Seattle
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How to make a difference
Lily and Rudy answer frequently asked questions about raising your voice, building awareness and making a difference:
“I want to come out. But I’m scared. What do I do?”
Rudy: If you have accepted who you are and are ready to share this, but find it difficult to talk to your close family and friends—try telling someone outside of your close circles. This removes the emotional attachment and fear of being rejected by someone you expect love from. In doing so, you’ll become more comfortable talking about this part of your identity. Eventually, you’ll be ready to be you at all times.
Lily: Find your community! Coming out can be an intimidating process, so it’s good to have people who support you and make you feel safe. Also understand that you should only come out when you feel ready—there is no timeline but your own.
“How can I support the LGBTI community as an ally?”
Lily: Sometimes, you can make a difference by just getting educated on Pride. Ask questions and listen with an open heart. It’s really as simple as understanding some of the basic issues faced by the LGBTI community—homelessness, workplace issues, access to healthcare, hate crimes. If you want to do more, just show up—at events, marches, campaigns, rallies or formative discussions. A lot of the powerful work is done through educating about biases and empowering individuals to be themselves.
Rudy: Understand that your voice can be used for good and to help people feel included. It is important to create awareness, stand up for others, and educate people about the reality of harmful prejudices.
“How can we all work toward an equal future?”
Rudy: We all need to help each other in our journey toward an equal future. While it’s important to have strong and vocal allies for Pride, I think it’s equally important for the LGBTI community to create an accommodating environment for allies to support them. Sometimes, we must assume that the ally has the right intentions but might need some encouraging. Open communication is key.
Lily: IDAHOT is a reminder that we’ve made progress, but we still have a lot of work to do. IDAHOT gives all of us the power to influence, shape and push our world towards a future of true freedom and equality for all. Let’s grab it and make our voices heard!
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