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Share Your Pride: How Jean-François is empowering others on their journey to self-acceptance

June 10, 2021

Articles

In celebration of Pride Month, we’ll be sharing the open and honest experiences from some of our LGBTQ2S+ team members and how they’re sharing their Pride this month, and beyond. Jean-François Houde is a member of our Rogers for Business team, and is someone who firmly lives and breathes the sentiment that “every human has been created equal and that our differences are what make us unique and beautiful.”

This is Jean-François’ story.

Tell us about yourself and your experience coming out as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community.

I came out when I was 18 years old in 1995. At that time, there were few gay role models that I could look up to. On TV and in movies, gay people were portrayed as being extremely feminine and obnoxious people – but never just as regular human beings. We know today that the LGBTQ2S+ community is much more than what was known/understood at that time.

I had been bullied almost all my youth as I was smaller, shorter and closer to my emotions than other boys in school. I had grown up with the image that being gay was the worst thing that could happen to me; that it would be a disappointment to my family and lead to rejection. As I was different from other boys, I ended up spending recess with the girls taking part in their games and spending time with them as the boys did not want anything to do with me. Even at that age, I had found in girls allies that accepted me for who I was, whatever that may be. 

Before I came out, my stomach ached thinking about the possibility of being rejected by my family, shown the door and being left all alone. My plan was to leave my parents a letter while I was gone to my first boyfriends’ place for the weekend. Just writing the letter, I already could feel that a weight was lifted off from my shoulders.

Things did not go as planned and the next morning, when my mother woke me up to go to work, she looked at me and told me she knew my secret. I remember bursting into tears in that moment as I could still feel her love and understanding. I then asked that she tells my father while I was gone for the weekend.

Even though my parents were understanding and wanted to act as if nothing had changed, I can share that they struggled in the beginning – but never was I treated differently by any of them. If my family, the most important people were behind me, I could face anybody and anything. This is were I got my strength to face the world and be comfortable with who I really was.

What has the experience of navigating the workplace as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community been like for you?

For me, it has never been important that people know my sexual orientation at work. Even if I am not hiding it, I was never the type to voluntarily share that information with others and unless it was in line with the conversation, I never really shared it. While I never pretended to be with a girl or lied about my situation, I just thought that there was more to me than my sexual preference.

After attending many internal Safe Talk sessions for our Black team members and allies, Indigenous people, Women, and LGBTQ2S+ where team members are encouraged to share their stories in a safe space, I feel that I am at ease with who I am today and that I have a role to share my story and hopefully inspire others that may have gone through similar situations or may still be going through it.

I believe that every human has been created equal and that our differences are what make us unique and beautiful. As it was mentioned in the 9:29 video shared by the Black Leadership Council and seen on Sportsnet, the beauty of a garden comes from the variety of flowers that composes it.

Looking back now, what is one piece of advice you’d share with your younger self on feeling at peace with your identity?

I would share with my younger self that by being at ease with who I am and being more vocal about it, I could help others with their struggles and inspire others on their path to accepting who they are. 

How will you be sharing your pride this year?

This year, I will do anything possible to participate, be visible and take part in our internal Spectrum events!

Thank you, Jean-François’ for sharing your Pride!