This is what having pride means to me
As a gay man of a certain age, I have the valuable perspective to look back on my life and see what I am proud of and what aspects of my life were more luck, fate or divine providence than something that I can take personal credit for creating.
I am proud that I survived the process of coming to terms with being gay without despair overwhelming me. Because before anyone can come out to the world; we must come to terms with ourselves. Realizing that you are gay is a process, not a revelation. I fought it. I knew who I was attracted to, but I did not want to put a label on myself. I felt an enormous amount of guilt for being who I was. The odd thing is that I don’t remember being taught that being gay was wrong, I just knew it was.
The pressure from the world to deny your true self is incredibly powerful. Society’s cultural conventions and expectations have been built on the premise that you will find your soulmate of the opposite sex and enter a relationship which traditionally results in children to continue the human race. It takes a lot of effort to reject that model and forge a different path. Alternative role models didn’t really exist when I was growing up. I had to find my own way, and I have so much pride for taking that step to being my true self.
I was fortunate that I was always loved. I never considered the possibility that my family would reject me or that I would be shunned by the people around me for being gay. Coming out was still a lengthy process, but the delay came from my concern that my mother would blame herself, never that she would stop loving me.
I am lucky that I have never been persecuted or punished for being gay (at least as far as I know). Of course, I’ve been called very ugly names but that comes with the territory unfortunately.
I did not have role models for any long-term relationships, let alone gay ones which is why I am proud to have been with my partner, Doug in a relationship decades longer than that of anyone in my immediate family. We had to figure it out for ourselves and we did.
I was never the loud and proud type, but I never hid or denied my true self. So, I am proud that I have never hid my sexuality in my career.
I am lucky I survived the plague years that took the lives of so many others. I lived through a time when dating the wrong person could have brought a death sentence.
I am proud that I have been a member of Nokia’s Employee Resource Group EQUAL! for almost twenty years. In that time I have seen us evolve from an organization that was originally focused on mutual support and providing safe places for LGBT colleagues to one whose activities support inclusion throughout the company and enable Nokia to be recognized as one of the best places to work.
I am lucky that twenty years ago I joined a company which was one of the first major corporations to support an employee resources group for the LGBT community.
I am lucky and proud that I have been a role model. Whatever my own internal doubts or insecurities were, I knew that from time-to-time people have seen me as an example a successful and happy openly gay man and they were able to take comfort in my choices and actions.
I am proud and lucky that I live in a time and place where that can be my truth.