Hi. I’m Luis Carlo Parga and I’m from Montreéal, Québec. My grandmother and grandfather moved in from Italy, as did most of my friends, but I was half-Mexican as well.
I remember one time at recess, it was about ten o’clock. I had a big red bouncy ball in my hands and there’s one kid that kind of came up to me and slammed on my hands, pointed his finger in my face and said, “Hey, you can’t touch the ball with your hands, you half-Italian.”
And I was pretty insulted, so I said, “Hey. I tried some of your mother’s pasta and I’m surprised that you’re even Italian at all.” That’s when he kind of just took me by the collar and put me against the fence and it was just super terrifying and embarrassing, quite frankly.
So that night, I went home crying to my father, just kind of blaming him for everything and yelling at him, just saying meanful things, “It’s your fault I’m different. It’s your fault the other kids hate me.”
And that’s when he came up to me and just put his rough construction hands on my shoulders and told me, “Hey, hombre. You’re a man. Embrace being different.”
So fast forward about 14 years since I was 10 years old, I’ve been using “embrace being different” by coming out to a few close friends at a time, my closest friends, and then finally knowing that, okay, before I come out to anybody else, I really want to have my foundation strong. So that meant coming out to my whole family. Once they were very supportive, I had to deal with the fact that I was not out at work.
So eventually I felt comfortable enough to come out to two of my colleagues. We’re in the break room making ourselves a coffee and we’re talking about what we’re doing this weekend. I told them – I told them that I was going to Québec City with my boyfriend. It was nice because, like, I felt comfortable enough, like okay, this is cool. And another one of our colleagues comes in and she asks what we’re talking about. And I hadn’t to come out to her so that definitely put me on the spot.
And I said, “You know, I’m going to Québec City with my boyfriend.” And she was super happy about it.
She was like, “Oh, awesome!”
So after that encounter, a few minutes, couple minutes later, she comes over to my desk, saying, “Hey, do you have a second? Can you just come to my office?” Very bubbly and happy.
She’s senior to me and I was nervous. I didn’t know what was gonna happen. So I was like, I just walked to her office. It’s very close. And she asked me to close the door behind her.
And she kind of just, like, sat me down look me straight in the eyes and said, “I want you know that, you know, there have been other gay men in this office and if you tell people you’re gay, no one will really bat an eye, really. Embrace being different.’ When she told me to embrace being different, if definitely reminded me of what my father told me to do my whole life, and I have been.
In that week, we had our evaluations from our boss. And I kind of wanted to suggest to my boss that I was gay. I mentioned one of my goals was to get better in French, so I was taking classes and whatnot. I even told them like, “Hey,” – and it was in French, so I said, “Hey, yeah, like I’m practicing my french with my boyfriend who’s francophone.” But I said copain. So I was like, he didn’t really say anything. Like, did I say it right?
Weeks later, my boss pulls me into his office, asks me to close the door behind him and he asked me if I want to start the first LGBT ERG – so, employee resource group – in the Montreal office. So obviously he – I did get the word right. He knew I was – he knew I was gay. And so I was happy about that. And I had to really just take it back, go home, sleep on it, because it essentially meant I had to come out to 250 of my colleagues at the same time at our next quarterly meeting.
Finally, the day came where I had to do the quarterly meeting in which I’ll present the first LGBT+ ERG in Montreal. What made it tough was that the CEO of Canada was also there from my company. So I came out finally to 250 of my colleague at the same time, and they’re super supportive, all clapping and encouraging me to, you know, continue on with the speech when I was clearly choked up at some points.
Throughout, like, just doing some trainings and whatnot throughout the year, the CEO saw the work I’d been doing and that speech I gave at the quarterly meeting. He asked me personally to start the the LGBT+ ERG, not only for Montreal but for all of Canada, to which I said yes right away.
And now just looking back to my father’s words – embrace being different – I’m glad I was able to kind of just bring that through with me my whole life and it being repeated to me by a dear colleague of mine, really just amplified what I could accomplish at work and, you know, assume a leadership role. I know that, from experience, bringing your whole self to work is a lot easier than just hiding behind a mask. I just want others to really feel safe and I have a sense of belonging. That 10 year old kid wanted to just fit in. I guess I wanted to fit in my whole life. Right now, I really just embrace the fact that I’m gay and this is who I am.