In the last few years, I feel I have finally started to appreciate the meaning of pride and the importance it has for so many people from the LGBT+ community. For me, it is a time to celebrate my sexuality and to also reflect on so many stories of difference. It is a time to celebrate acceptance and importantly challenge ignorance and prejudice.
I was born in a deprived suburb of Birmingham in the UK, to first generation immigrant parents. My father, a devoted turban wearing Sikh, and my larger than life working class mother, moved to the Great Britain for a better life. Born in macho Punjab, they were economic immigrants, who like many before them had left India but remained committed to the culture, traditions, and religions of the Indian subcontinent. They worked hard, drilled their children with the mantra of “education, education, education” and made ends meet. They believed in a world where their children would be better tolerated then they had been, and where education would be the great equalizer.
Coming out to my parents was therefore hard. From a young age I always knew it would be difficult for them to understand. Homosexuality was rarely referenced in Indian or UK culture in the 1980s/90s. There were no Bollywood movies talking about the topic, I rarely saw it referenced or discussed on the BBC or Channel 4, and it most definitely did not come up at my Saturday morning Punjabi school. I therefore often sat and worried about how my parents would react to having a gay son, and importantly what it would mean for me, my mental health and my long-term relationships.
Coming out for me was a process which lasted many years and had many ups and downs. You don’t actually realise how many years when going through it, but most definitely feel it when it is over. At some point you realise you no longer have to worry about holding hands with the person you love. Or that you do not have to self-regulate calling Steve Rogers “HOT” when watching Captain America. When you finally get there, it’s a huge feeling of relief and freedom.
I got married five years ago to a wonderful man. We have a fantastic life together and we have beautiful relationships with our parents, siblings, and extended families. He is from a Polish catholic family and I love when we can bring our “modern family” together. I get the most joy when our nieces and nephews call us “mamma” and “mamma” (Punjabi for uncle) or “wujek” and “wujek” (Polish for uncle) and never think that this is different or unconventional. We are extremely lucky but also extremely grateful for the love that we can enjoy and the true security and confidence we get from our families and friends.
Pride month falls in June, as well as on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots which took place in June 1969. It is a time for us to reflect, teach tolerance, educate in pride history, and move forward in equality. As we all reflect, let’s make sure we are able to extend our acceptance to all minority groups and create inclusive communities for all, not simply those that we agree with. This is especially important in the workplace, which for us all should be a space where we are able to express who we are to the fullest.
Happy pride to all at Edelman and across the globe.
Gurpreet Brar is COO, Global Public Affairs, Edelman