About 5 years ago, I stepped off a plane onto the hot tarmac at Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport and took a deep breath of the brisk, fresh air. I’d done it dozens of times before, when my family traveled to Poland for the summers, and yet this time it felt totally different - because come September, I wouldn’t be leaving.
Moving to Poland, and Europe in general, brought with it a host of opportunities, but also many challenges. I was excited to finally experience four seasons in the year, rather than just scorching heat for 12 months straight, but I was also worried about missing the multicultural nature of living in the Middle East. And then there was the big question: could I finally be out and proud now that I lived in Europe?
Thanks to the tireless efforts of generations before me, the world, as a general rule, is kinder to members of the LGBTQ+ community than it was even 50 years ago. So when I started working at Transcom, an international company with a diverse workforce, I felt a profound sense of freedom. It was important to me to work somewhere I could be myself, so I made no secret of the fact that I was gay. And to my great relief, I was met with acceptance, openness, and at times, a kind curiosity.
I’ll let you in on a secret though. Being a part of any group that is pushed to the sidelines through systemic discrimination can end up giving you superpowers. One of them is the power of observation, which leads to acute awareness. If you’re the only woman in the conference room, you’ll be very aware of that. If all the faces you see at work are white Europeans, you’ll notice. If you don’t know any other gay people at the office, you might feel self-conscious when talking about your weekend plans with your girlfriend. Sometimes, it’s about self-preservation, but mostly, it can help you understand more clearly where someone else is coming from.
As I moved through the company, starting first as a Social Media Expert in Poland, and a few years later taking on the role of Head of Global Agency, I had many chances to use my powers. Not everyone had the same views as me. It was a challenge at times, but it forced me to check in on my values and dig deeper when considering someone else’s perspective.
Now, I’m in the privileged position of being a leader in the company, and I take the responsibility that comes with that privilege to heart. The team I lead is diverse in so many ways. We represent different genders, ages, races, backgrounds, beliefs. We talk about how we celebrate holidays, or the kinds of foods that remind us of home. There’s no pressure to talk about anything private, but at the end of the day, we trust and support each other. Sharing our perspectives on this level translates into transparency on a professional level.
The world is not a perfect place. The lives and rights of LGBTQ+ people are still under threat even in so-called ‘progressive’ countries, not to mention the crises facing transgender people all around the world. I take every opportunity I can to speak about it and educate those willing to listen, but more and more I realize that the best way forward is to share our stories. And even though parts of my identity allow me insight into certain experiences, I still have so much to learn about others.
Just recently, I had a conversation with someone in my team and understood that while we praise how diverse we are, we could be doing more in that arena. It made me feel proud to be in a company where these conversations can happen and I can have some influence over bringing them to life. A place where we come as we are. And while Pride Month is a great opportunity to remember and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and its history, checking in with the experience of those around us should be a year-long habit.
I feel like I learn something new from my team every single day, and I couldn’t be more proud of them and grateful for them. They’re helping me develop my next superpower - perspective.