How I showed pride, authenticity, and found my true self
Christmas Day 2012, my family and I were sitting around the kitchen island in silence. The only sound you could hear was the clanging of pans as my mother prepared breakfast. While the bright sunlight shone through the kitchen windows and my mother hummed, I felt completely disjointed in that moment. My father glared at me from the other end of the table. He knew my secret, and he was not happy.
The stoic mood continued while we ate, none of us uttered a word to each other. It wasn’t until after breakfast the built-up tension came to a surface. My father and I sat in the living room to have ‘the talk’ that would change our relationship forever.
My father let me know he was aware I had a boyfriend. Someone in his circle outed me and it took a hit to his pride as a pastor and father. He pointed fingers at numerous things to blame for why I am gay. He blamed my college education, too many female friends, and how much he thought my mother coddled me. It was painful to sit there and listen to my father tear me down.
The conversation ended with an ultimatum. Drop out of school and stay close to my father so he could ‘fix me,’ or stay in school and be disowned.
I knew in my heart what I wanted, but I had to choose carefully. As my father mocked me, because I was unable to make what he thought was the obvious decision, I knew I needed to be true to myself. I chose the latter.
Before he kicked me out, I remember the last thing he said to me, “Bien, entonces muere con tus deseos” [Fine, then go die with your desires].
Fast forward to 2018, I accepted an enrollment communications position at Unum. As a queer person, safety has always been my top priority, which is why I proceeded with caution in my early days with the company. I didn’t know what to expect if my coworkers knew I was gay. Would they treat me differently? Or would they make me feel shame for being different. As I slowly began to open up, I realized what made me different was actually celebrated.
I painted my nails, added pastel colors to my hair and my coworkers even hugged me after I shared my story during an LGBTQIA+ panel discussion. I felt completely comfortable bringing my authentic self to work each day.
Later that year, I entered the Worcester Pride Pageant under the Mr. Worcester Pride category, and I won. I was overcome with emotion as my four-year-old niece Nova, ran on stage to give me one of the most special hugs I’ve ever received. That night, I felt loved and supported by my family and close circle of friends. My Unum coworkers sat in the front row and cheered me on while they were showered with glitter and confetti during my performance.
Today, I live my truth and no longer feel shame about what makes me who I am. I’ve had plenty of ups and downs during my journey toward self-acceptance, but the people in my corner have always been there to lift me up and remind me to be proud of who I am. It is not always easy to present your true self to the world, especially at work, but there is always an amazing community of supportive people out there who want to see you shine unapologetically.