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I am a proud LGBTQ ally and this is the story of why I became one.
I was born during the worst years of communism in Romania but, thankfully, also the last ones before Romania became a democratic state again. During my childhood and my teenage years I had no idea that LG people existed (BTQ would have been a sci-fi idea). 1989 saw the end of communism across Eastern Europe, including Romania, but it took two more years for the word “gay” to enter my vocabulary. In the summer of 1991 I went on a one month school exchange in a little village in the south of France. One thing I distinctively remember from this trip, besides the continuous feeling of wonder during my first trip outside an ex-communist country, is the constant bullying against one of my school mates, which included boys regularly sticking post-it notes on his back, reading “I am gay”. Whilst I never joined in the banter, I ignored the whole thing and continued to enjoy my time in Provence.
Two years later, a very popular Romanian singer was brutally murdered at the age of 42. Besides the gory details of his death, there was a lot of talk about his sexuality. Although he was married to a woman and had kids with her, it transpired that he also led a secret life, as a gay man. He had to hide this, like so many other people during communist times, as homosexuality used to be a punishable offence (and it continued to be so until 2001). What I remember about my reaction to the news that he was gay, was that I had no reaction. I would like to think that this was because I instinctively did not see any issues with being gay, nothing out of the ordinary.
At the age of 22, I made my first gay friend, this time in London. Our friendship lasted for a while, until our lives took us in different directions and to different countries. At the time, I never thought to ask him about his experiences. With the benefit of hindsight, I am sure he had some interesting stories to tell (as he was also coming from an ex-communist country). I never asked, because I did not think that anything that he might have had to share was any of my business.
I then spent seven years in the same team of lawyers with a brilliant gay lawyer and friend, who never mentioned his equally brilliant partner to any of us in the team, until he had moved on to another law firm. I knew that he was gay and would have liked to have known more about what was going on in his life outside the office, but I never asked, because I did not want to be indiscreet. I was proud that I had the “sensitivity” not to ask any questions about his life and struggles. Surely he must have guessed that I would be there should he want to share any of his good or bad experiences with me.
It had not occurred to me until very recently that I saw his life through the filter of my reality, I have a privilege, which I took for granted, to talk as much or as little as I chose about my family, my husband, our holidays and weekends. I can speak freely with my friends and colleagues and clients.
Romania has moved on since the dark days of communism, but not very far. This year a bi man has won the equivalent of Britain’s Got Talent. His public coming out was described by the media as “shocking” and “controversial”. In London things are definitely more advanced, but the stories that I hear from my LGBTQ friends, about their daily struggles and the bullying that they still face in one of the most progressive capitals of the world, are proof that being allowed to be who you are, is not a privilege available to everyone.
I am a proud LGBTQ ally and I am yet to learn much more about what this means. I learnt a bit more on 7 July, on a gorgeous summer day when central London was filled again with rainbows and music as one million people gathered to watch the 2018 Pride Parade. I was proud to be there for the first time and even prouder to have my kids with me. I learnt that I really want them to understand from a much younger age than I did, why Pride matters. I learnt that I do not want them to be the kids that ignore bullying or grow into people that have to hide who they are or are just ignorant bystanders.
I learnt that Pride is the courage to speak up, is acceptance and kindness and love. I want my kids to be brave and kind, feel accepted and accept, love and be loved. Pride is as much about the LGBTQ community as it is about every single one of us and the people that we can be.
Kingsley Napley are publishing a series of blogs to celebrate Pride and to raise awareness about the issues facing LGBTQ people in our communities. You can view our other blogs here.
Brandusa Tartaru-Marinescu was a Construction Partner in our Real Estate team and a member of the Diversity and Inclusion and LGBTQ & Allies Networks at Kingsley Napley.
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