June marks Pride month for many countries globally. Pride is a time to celebrate our diversity, whilst also taking time to reflect on the current challenges faced by society. With this year’s theme as ‘One Voice, Many Stories’, we’re focusing on highlighting the experiences of some of our employees globally.
I remember my first plea for representation quite well. I was walking home from primary school, no older than 6 or 7 years old. When an older student said to his friend, “don’t you think that black kids are just the ugliest?”
I did what any young kid would do. I dropped my head and crossed to the other side of the road.
That evening I watched TV, almost begging to find a black figure who wore their skin with pride, to find someone to show me that yes, black is also beautiful. However, the absence of a celebrated role model forced me to concede that they may have been right.
As I became more aware of my sexuality, I once again found myself in search of someone to validate my feelings. I wanted to find strong black queer role models. I found a few gay men who were proud of themselves, but their skin tone rested on the other side of the spectrum. Society was telling me that it was almost acceptable to be black, and almost even palatable to be gay, but gosh, don’t be both.
The lack of representation and the increase in societal pressures made it all too much, and I found myself quickly conforming to who I was expected to be. I dissociated myself from my Punjabi roots and side-stepped away from my African American heritage. I insisted on being called Jay after my professor declared that my name was ‘too complex’, and my career counsellor said my name would hinder my job search.
It wasn’t until recently that I realised that my unique perspective on life and my cultural background are my greatest strengths. It was only when I felt that I could be my authentic self that I was able to thrive, and this is why representation matters. Representation allows minorities to feel validated and allows us to express their opinions comfortably. This creates a team environment where ideas are diverse, perspectives are varied, and everyone feels valued.
Here are some ways we can all do more:
Yes, these conversations are difficult, but it’s only by discussing these issues can we incite change. Before I wrap it up, I’ll leave you with a quote by Tim Ferris:
“A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
Our diversity is what makes us strong as individuals, but our collective voice is what makes us powerful as a community. I hope during this Pride month, you will join me in celebrating both.