Pride Matters. Always.
By Clark Q. Jollymore, BA, CIDM, CPRW, CCDP
Operations Team Lead & Lead Case Manager
Pride to me means being able to live your authentic self. It is also a process, a very personal journey to self-compassion and greater acceptance of ourselves and each other.
Pride matters because everyone should feel comfortable and safe being themselves at work and in their everyday lives. Being LGBTQ+ is not something that should make anyone uncomfortable. As I have been known to say on occasion, we don't have 'recruitment drives,' so you're safe.
Being gay is not the whole of who you are, but rather it is a part of who you are. I have listened to and counselled many members of the gay community from all over the world, and I've heard horrendous stories from newcomers seeking an escape and a new life that many Canadians take for granted.
Everyone has their own story and unique experiences, including me.
As a teenager attending school in a rural area of Nova Scotia, I was in junior high when I realized I was different. Now, suspecting and knowing are two entirely separate things. I do know I wanted to be anything but gay and I made myself physically ill when I thought about it too much. It snuck up on me at times, usually when I least expected it, and the bullying by ignorant classmates was at times overwhelming. I had an absolute surety that I was alone in this – that no one else could possibly understand or relate to me.
Escaping my small rural world and moving to the city was my first step. It didn't open the door to where I felt I could be who I was, but it was a first step. Luckily, a new doctor I found in the city recommended a psychologist and those visits helped me to navigate a side of myself that I fought to repress without success. Did I 'come out' then? No. I didn't feel safe to come out at that time. Coming out is a very personal decision, and no one else but the individual it affects should dictate when that happens.
I remember the first Pride parades I attended in Halifax. Back then, it was a very small affair, a shadow of the exuberant and inclusive celebration it is today. It wasn't until I visited Montreal during pride week that I witnessed a huge, vibrant and exciting Pride parade. I will admit that I loved every minute of it. Everyone was super friendly, super happy and I have never seen more rainbows in my whole life. Best of all, I didn't feel alone anymore.
Moving to a big city didn't mean I didn't continue to experience uncomfortable encounters in the workplace and even in my job search.
I recall interviewing for an HR Management role in Toronto about 8 years ago. The interviewer paused at one point, looked at me hard and asked: "Are you gay?" Shocked by the question I knew he had no right to ask, I paused. Right then and there I realized I didn't want the job.
"Well, you're not really my type," I said. "But if the pay is good enough, I might consider it."
He turned bright red and became momentarily speechless.
I didn't get the job and I didn't care. Seriously though, how clueless is an employer who would ask a question like this?
I spent the first half of my working life as an employer hiring people for a wide range of jobs. I had only one clear and fast rule when considering someone for employment: Zero tolerance for racism, prejudice, homophobia – any intolerance towards others would make their employment with me very short.
I know how difficult workplaces can be for someone who may not fit into an ideal that an employer may have envisioned. Another painful memory for me came when I was fired from a management job after my supervisor was told I was gay. The trauma that ensued from this took years to overcome.
I am writing this piece because I know many individuals still face prejudices, homophobia and racial injustices in their everyday employment experiences and job searches, and these experiences are deeply painful. Things are better now than when I was first starting out, but it's important we never become complacent and allow ourselves to fail to be vigilant when it comes to what we know to be right and wrong in society today.
Here to Support You, Unconditionally
At Job Junction – Nova Scotia Works, you will find a safe place to seek help, secure in the knowledge that you will encounter a group of professionals who have a lifetime of experiences themselves. We haven't lived your story because your story is unique to you, but we have seen and experienced a lot, and we will do all we can to assist you in achieving your goals.
I reflect upon the words of poet Maya Angelou: "I am gay, I am lesbian, I am black, I am white. I am Native American. I am Christian. I am Jew. I am Muslim." (OUT Magazine, 1996)
In 2009, the famed poet told The New York Times: "To love someone takes a lot of courage so how much more is one challenged when the love is of the same sex and the laws say 'I forbid you from loving this person?'"
"From her being to a message of hope, one can find a glimmer of the positivity of being LGBT, despite the darkness of bigotry: "And we have the chance to be rainbows in their clouds. Amazing. The power we have, each of us."" (The Los Angeles Blade, 2018)
Pride matters. Always.
You matter. Always.
You are not alone, and it does get better.
Note: LGBTQ+ or LGBTQQIP2SAA stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two-spirited, androgynous and asexual. I will not go into what each of these mean but would encourage you to educate yourself on any part of the acronym. Personally, I identify with the G & 2.