I knew I was different growing up.
It was in school where I realized that being different wasn’t always a good thing and that’s when I learned to hide my differences from others. Hiding yourself from others keeps you safe, but it also keeps you isolated. In high school I told myself it was a phase that everyone went through and it would pass. I couldn’t have been more wrong about that! In the meantime, I acted as a straight boy, never revealing my true feelings to anyone. When I got to university, I finally accepted myself for who I was.
It wasn’t a phase.
Even though I wasn’t struggling with accepting my identity any longer, it still meant I had to hide. My family knew nothing. I had to be careful about what I said to who. I made a few gay friends who were my salvation. Just having people to talk to about similar things was so heartwarming, regardless of the homophobia that was the norm.
When I got hired at my last job, only a co-worker and my manager knew my status as a gay man and I only told them after five years of working together and becoming close friends. Disclosing your status can be tricky, you never know how people will react. I would carefully talk about weekend plans, changing pronouns to keep everyone in the dark.
That was only 15 years ago.
When I was hired at CWB, I quickly joined the Pride Employee Represented Group (ERG). No company I had ever worked for before had a thing like this ERG and I was excited to see what it would be about.
I was comfortable telling the ERG group my status, but didn’t open up to my co-workers right away.
I still wasn’t sure if it would be a good thing to do for my career, even if it was sponsored by the bank.
A year later, I was asked to talk about the Pride ERG and work we were doing in a Teams meeting with the entire HR department. I had planned to talk about it from an ally’s point of view, but as I was talking I made a snap decision to come out at that meeting.
Very scary, but the ERG existing in the first place gave me the courage to be honest with everyone and I’m so glad for it!
I’m not afraid to be out at work any longer because of the ERG and the support I’ve gotten from co-workers. No one treats me differently from anyone else, and that’s all anyone in the LGBTQ2S+ community wants – to be treated like everyone else.
I’m thankful to CWB for giving me the opportunity to be myself in the workplace. I’m grateful to my co-workers who demonstrate on a daily basis they live up to CWB’s Inclusion Has Power value.