Saint John Pride Week is happening from August 3 – 8. It’s a time to celebrate the progress we’ve made and to raise awareness of what more needs to be done. In observance of Pride, we invited a member of our team to discuss their experiences with culture and religion in coming out and immigrating to Canada.
Living in Lebanon, a westernized, Middle Eastern country, my coming out journey had mixed repercussions. Before I came out, I had been leading Lebanese sports as a high-achieving athlete. But that did not matter when my Taekwondo teammates outed me to my head coach. The result was my removal from the national squad and the loss of decades-old friendships with others.
In ironic contrast, I was out and felt safe at the Catholic school where I had been a student and, later, an elementary English language teacher. My colleagues, supervisor, and the priest who was the head of the disciplinary department all knew I was gay, yet they were more than OK with it. I was still able to lead a decent and safe career.
Deciding to come out is a win on its own. But it should happen only when the person is ready and, just as we want the world to accept us for who we are, the members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community also need to acknowledge and accept that not everyone can take our sexual orientation news with open arms. What is very important is to know that you are not alone. Many Queer people are living in confusion and in the shadows of their religious and cultural guilt. In Lebanon, Queer people depend on themselves, their strength, and their determination. For me, the approval of others was not my priority but instead having the right to build my own family, no matter what my culture or religion dictated.
The struggle eventually faded away, and my confidence grew stronger when I moved to Canada. Here, I am under the protection of the law; I am just another citizen who has fundamental human rights. I can be me in the workplace because most establishments in Canada value diversity and inclusion. The place I worked at in Toronto did and so does the YMCA of Greater Saint John.
Know that you are not weak if you’re a closeted Queer person. You are a human who has set out on a journey to discover your true self — and you’re doing that on your own time when you’re ready and safe to do so. Having gone through it myself, I am now ready to provide answers and support to anyone seeking help.
Support & Resources
Do you or someone you know need help with issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression? Pflag Canada is our country’s largest peer-to-peer support organization. It supports, educates, and provides offers local, practical, and emotional peer-to-peer family support for individuals and their loved ones challenged by gender and/or sexual identity.