During Pride Month, it’s easy to get swept up in the positive accomplishments and strides people in the LGBTQIA+ community have made, even as they push for full equality everywhere in the world. But for many, it was a long and winding road to get to this place. We asked some of our LGBTQIA+ WeWork members what advice they’d give to their younger selves—and to future generations. From story to story, there is an undeniable theme present in their poignant words: authenticity. While the road to self-acceptance can be nonlinear and sometimes feel without an end, the path is more rewarding when you stay true to yourself, they say. These are some of the encouraging messages they shared.
“You have everything that you need within yourself.”
“You don’t have to ask for permission to be yourself,” asserts Christopher Clermont, a diversity and inclusion program lead. “Keep staying weird, being a nerd, a little flamboyant—or a lot flamboyant.”
“The bullies chasing after you are teaching you how to run.”
Christoph Babka, a senior sales lead at Rise By We, would tell his middle-school self that his adversaries would ultimately make him a stronger, better person. “Be grateful for them over time, for inspiring you to change,” he says. “Not to change to be who they want you to be—but to be the strong, confident person you were always meant to be.” And while he’s on the subject, he points out that “being gay is probably the least interesting thing about you. There’s so much more than you can develop in who you are as a person.”
“Playing with boys’ toys and video games doesn’t make you any less of a girl.”
As Nyla Mirza, a billings and collections manager based in London, pored over childhood photos, she mused that she has always been exactly who she’s supposed to be. “No one else’s opinion should affect what you should be doing and who you should be loving,” she says. “It’s fine to go outside and play with the boys.”
“It’s OK to be different.”
In his own journey, strategic events lead J. D. Thompson found that authenticity creates opportunity. “When you live in your true, authentic self, things happen that might not [otherwise],” he says. Thompson wants his past self to know that “it’s OK to be different,” adding that he had a tough time letting go of the person he thought he should be—but once he did, his opportunities grew.
“Being yourself will set you free.”
Accepting one part of your identity allows you to open up to another, says Gonzalo Padilla, a community manager at WeWork Mariano Escobedo 595 in Mexico City. “People are going to love you because of that.”