You must be thinking that this is another Pride article about a rainbow…groundbreaking! I promise this isn’t that type of article.
Rainbows represent peace and solidarity; they are the reward at end of a journey. For many of us in the LGBTQ+ community, we don’t find that peace easily. It’s a continued search throughout our lives. Unlike our physical traits, our gender identity and sexual orientation are not apparent. In meeting new people, starting new jobs, we choose to hide our identity, or explain it every single time. In reflecting on my own struggle of hiding my identity as a cisgender white appearing male, and choosing when to let it "show", I recognize even that was a privilege not afforded to many BIPOC and trans members of the LGBTQIA+ community. For Trans, Non-Binary, and Intersex siblings, it goes even deeper. The explanation, and oftentimes shame you feel, while conveying your preferred pronouns, your gender identity and expression, and the ultimate concern for your safety (let alone acceptance) are all too common.
We did not choose to be gay, lesbian, transgender, or any other identity in the LGBTQ+ spectrum, just as people didn’t choose their natural hair and eye color, yet something we have no control over often brings so much stigma and discrimination. Something as innate to us as the hand we write with can cause a lifetime of stress and anxiety. The pure idea of being who we are, loving who we are, and loving who our heart tells us to love can be as farfetched as a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Growing up in a small town in south Texas, there were expectations of what a “man” should be. Men should be tough, athletic, masculine, and the divide between boy and girl “things” was strong. Any blurring of those lines was unacceptable. I questioned if I could I be football player and a debate champion? Would people think I’m gay if I did theater? Do I need to have a girlfriend to hide who I am? Would my family still love me if they found out? The questions were endless, and the overthinking exhausting; it was a daily struggle. I felt I could never live up to those expectations, and the possibility of failing at being a “man” was all too heavy. From a young age, being depressed and anxiety ridden all day was the norm.
My story is not dissimilar from so many people out there. Thinking of how we should appear, or act, outweighs embracing and loving who we really are. We question our self-worth, our self-love, and in times too often lately, our lives.
I am blessed because my first rainbow came early in my life. She was my Grandmother Viola, and she saved me. “Guela”, as we called her, was my biggest advocate, my cheerleader through life, and as she called herself my Guardian Angel. She showed me what true, unconditional love is. She taught me that I need to do what makes me happy in order to actually be happy. Most importantly she instilled in me to always be good person to everyone and love everyone big. Her voice and her presence still guide me through life, and dig me out when I fall into my darkest moments. When I think I can’t handle things anymore, her angel wings wrap around me and hold me until I’m okay.
Not everyone is fortunate to find their rainbow so young, or even in their own families. Whether you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, or not, we all struggle. And no one struggle is more than any other. My advice to anyone, is to find your rainbow. Your family, your friends, your job, your workout, your hobbies, seek to use those rainbows to bring peace to yourself. Remember, you are special, you are important, and you deserve happiness and peace.
For me, working for Rhone is a rainbow. As a family of teammates, we love everyone, and our differences make us special to each other. I didn’t have to have the conversation of who I am, because they embraced me for exactly who I am, no questions asked. I was welcomed as the “real” David from day one, and that feeling was indescribable. We love everyone big. From the moment you walk into the door, you are immediately part of our Rhone family. Other companies and organizations could take a lesson from Rhone.
As the head of our retail division, we want everyone know that our stores are rainbows for everyone who walks thru our doors. Rhone will always stand in solidarity with you, not just during Pride month, but 12 months a year, 365 days a year. What makes you “different” from the norm, is what makes you special. Every person, and their special traits, will always be welcomed into the Rhone Family. We invite you to come as you are and be who you are because we love you for who you are.