We have a responsibility to build a safe and accepting world – Leanne’s Pride Story
It’s Pride Month! It’s time to pass the mic to our incredible Qualtrics Pride group. Every year they bring us together in celebration and this year is no different. Throughout the month we will be sharing stories from some of our Qualtrics Pride members. Leanne is a Principal Analyst for Employee Experience in our Dublin office. This is her Pride story:
I grew up in north Dublin, in a disadvantaged community in a large, loving family. I was given three great gifts in life — no money, great parents, and (while it did not feel great when I was growing up) I am also gay. I am a practising Catholic and my faith is important to me, which is a challenge when you identify as LGBTQIA+. My parents were the best you could ask for, so looking back I do often wonder why I struggled to tell them my whole truth, but I suppose it has all been part of the journey. It was never that they were homophobic, we just never spoke about it. There were no role models or education. To this day they would say it never crossed their mind that I was gay. I was lucky to have one forward thinking adult in my life while I was a child in the form of my older sister Catherine (15 years my senior) who unfortunately passed away in 2013. She asked me straight out if I was gay when I was 10 and reassured me it was okay to be who I was and that I was loved. Even though she loved me unconditionally I denied it and hid away my feelings in a locked box.
I think of my path to acceptance in stages. Four year-old me knew she was different but felt absolutely no shame, just as children should feel. Twelve year-old me felt so confused and wanted to believe she would grow out of her feelings or that she could bury them and avoid the stereotype. Eighteen year-old me hated herself and struggled with anxiety, believing this life wasn’t worth it. I became socially reclusive and tried desperately to hide that stereotype. I would constantly be labelled and told that I “looked gay”.
In 2015, 24 year-old me was given a chance to be her true self in the shape of the Marriage Referendum in Ireland. There was a lot of propaganda and hate that was generated and people close to me considered voting no to the referendum due to the falseness in the “Vote No” campaign. I could either kick the door open and go to the other side of fear or I could stay quiet. That 24 year old is still the bravest person I know. I thank her because after that moment of verbalising my truth I could finally be myself. It still took me time, but it allowed me to be my authentic self with those closest to me and build the life I have now. It is still one of my happiest memories, going to vote with my parents and siblings on 22nd May 2015, and watching Dublin Castle as the vote was announced that Ireland legalised same sex marriage by democratic vote. The same country in which it was illegal to be gay up until 1993 — the year after I was born. It gave hope to everyone that change could happen. The 22nd May would have been my sister's 39th birthday so it feels symbolic that she was part of that moment.
I always feel it is important to remember that “coming out” does not happen once. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community “come out” everyday. I had to tell my grandmother for the first time last year at the grand old age of 30 because I had started a relationship for the first time and I wanted these two women, who meant so much to me, to get to know each other. She was nothing but supportive with the humorous response of “and tell me this, do you ever go to The George?”. For anyone who has never been to The George it is the most famous gay bar in Dublin and, funnily enough, no I still have not been!
If you are reading this and struggling with coming out or accepting who you are, please know that you are loved and there is so much support if you kick the door open. If you are reading this and currently identify as hetrosexual, please embrace the responsibility you have to educate yourself, and any children in your life on issues relating to being LGBTQIA+. To this day, I still have friends who make comments that I “dress gay” or that I fit the stereotype. In previous employment I was told to “dress like a woman”. I dress the way I feel comfortable. It is related to my personality, not my sexuality. Let’s not confuse the two. Four year-old me felt no shame, so in my personal opinion it can only be society and a lack of visibility and education that meant twelve year-old me developed to feel nothing but shame within those eight years. We all have a responsibility to build a safe and accepting world in which everyone can be their true authentic selves. The 2015 Marriage Referendum did change what it meant to grow up LGBTQIA+ in Ireland, but for one 24 year old it changed their world forever. The power of the people.
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June 28, 2023