Small moments of LGBTQ+ support when there is less spaces to be yourself

Alex (not his real name) identifies as a gay man but chooses to live in the closet. As his family is quite conservative, he is not even out to his family. He attempted once to open up to one of his siblings, but this gesture was ignored. Where he lives, being publicly out can cause a lot of trouble and in some cases, lead to imprisonment.

I started to identify myself as gay at 15. Thanks to the internet I knew who gay people were at that age. But because of the legal and social norms of my country, I was afraid. At first, I attempted to reject this part of me. It was a fight with myself. I didn’t want to believe that I was doomed to a closed, secret life with the impossibility of being accepted by society.

But I learned and am still learning how to live with keeping a secret. Today I accept myself and I stop trying to deny my orientation. And when you accept your orientation, you learn how to keep this secret while unfortunately becoming very paranoid. You’re afraid to meet other guys because you’re always thinking that they might leak your info and try to blackmail you or harm you.

One time when I was in a European country, I met a guy and while we were saying goodbye at the train station, he kissed me in public. I stopped him because I immediately felt uncomfortable,  even though I didn’t know anybody in this country and I wanted to kiss back. Yet the limitations that follow me in my country follow me even where they are not needed.

When I first registered on a dating app, I couldn't sit still. I started shaking and had chills. It became physiological, this shame and paranoia that followed me.

It is hard to know that the majority of people in your country and the government don't accept you. Even your own family, since childhood, says that gay people should not exist and it's against nature.

It's important to create a kind of resilience and understanding that it is normal and okay, who I’m. For me personally, it helps to know that there are other people in this world who feel like me. That there are societies  who would accept me as I am and where it is okay to be part of the LGBTQ+ community.

It was really hard when I was fully closed. Now I have come out to more than half of my small group of friends, but it’s not easy. My first experience of coming out wasn’t good. My best friend at that time reacted by saying that she never wanted to talk about this again. We stopped communicating after a few months. I blamed myself and I shut down. For a while, I believed that I should never share this secret with anyone else in the future.

These experiences are true setbacks for my acceptance of myself. Opening up would make things so much easier, but unfortunately, many people from the community in my country are hard to communicate with, because we all need to hide ourselves to avoid societal or legal consequences.. I have friends that know about my true self  and support me silently, but I can't always turn to them as even being an ally is not accepted in my country.

Working at Roche offers me small moments to be my true self. I am thankful for the OPEN Chapter at Roche. I’m trying to attend our LGBTQ+ events, where it feels good to just listen and share thoughts and experiences without facing consequences. For me these events are the only chance to be my true self in the workplace and personal life. Because Roche is a global company, it’s this openness to more diverse ideas and lifestyles that gives me a chance to feel a sense of belonging. 

Looking at the world in 2024, we see that some societies which have been open to the LGBTQ+ community start to revert to a more hostile environment, reversing social and legal acceptance. Seeing this leads me to one  wish - that the situation in my country does not get worse. It is already difficult to live in such a society now, but at least it is possible.

 I believe that if there is social acceptance, then any legal situation could also change. When looking at other countries in similar situations like my country, changes in legislation always began with incipient changes in public opinion. 

Who knows, everything can be changed in time. I want to be part of that change and that is why I choose to share my experience. Hopefully it inspires others to help shape the world where the LGBTQ+ community is socially and legally supported, and even embraced.

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