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Pride stories: I found the freedom to be my best self after coming out

During Pride month, we’re exploring the importance of our LGBT+ colleagues being seen and heard.

Rafael shared his story on why inclusion is so important to creating a safe space for LGBT+ colleagues.

Have you ever been ashamed to just be yourself at work? Afraid that what you say and think might hold your career back? Have you ever felt the frustration of knowing you could bring so much more if only you could just be who you really are?

I’ve felt all of those things. I’d always been a high performer at work and I worried that being openly gay would count against me. I was afraid that coming out would limit my career and so I kept quiet. I was worried about the gossip, the jokes behind my back, potentially being bullied. Living in a country where the psychological and even physical safety of LGBT+ people cannot be taken for granted creates an anxiety that follows you wherever you go. And so I kept quiet. I kept part of myself hidden.

I made excuses to avoid social events, or changed the subject when conversations started to get too personal. This was a real limitation in a culture that values close personal and professional ties, both of which are so important in relationship building. Hiding meant never really being myself, never really building deep connections with people around me.

I was only ever able to be part of the real me, and lived with the fear of being found out. Until I decided things had to change. I realized that being out as a gay man was also about accepting myself for who I am. And after accepting myself as a LGBT+ person, I also wanted to be accepted as a LGBT+ professional.

As a professional, I was a bystander to the web of interpersonal connections that people were weaving with colleagues in the workplace. I wanted to be part of this tapestry and so I took the decision to look for a new job and to approach this fresh start as an openly gay professional.

When I joined Deloitte Brazil, I felt free to just be myself. A line from the play, O Segundo armário struck a chord with me around the same time, “accepting yourself is like accepting a light; an energy seldom experiencedꟷit’s fulfillment.” As my whole self, I found just how productive I could be, and through my involvement in Deloitte Brazil’s inclusion programs, I experienced firsthand how both the professionals and the organization can win when companies make deliberate choices to invest in diversity and inclusion. One of the most touching moments for me in my career was when a colleague opened up about his struggle to come out. The inclusive environment at Deloitte Brazil helped him feel safe enough to accept himself and be out and he thanked me for having shared my story and inspiring him to open up.

We recently celebrated Mother’s Day in Brazil and the LGBT+ group invited some of the mothers of our colleagues to speak. It really hit home when one mother said how relieved she felt that her daughter was in a safe space at Deloitte Brazil.

Ultimately, visibility boils down to this – freedom. Being able to introduce myself and talk about my hobbies and passions, and the fact I’m married to another man without fear of being excluded is a feeling that’s hard to describe; you can’t put a price on that kind of liberty.

I hope that, by sharing my story, it’ll encourage more people, and the organizations they work for to recognize the benefits of inclusion and acceptance.

Rafael (he/him), Deloitte Brazil

Be your whole self. Be seen. Be heard. Be proud.