June marks the start of Pride Month, a time to uplift LGBTQ voices, celebrate LGBTQ culture, support LGBTQ rights, and recognize both the progress made, and work we still have to do, toward holistic equality. As a gay man, Pride Month means a lot to me and I find it necessary to give a platform to hear LGBTQ voices and understand their story. At Checkmarx, we stand by all people and fully embrace unique perspectives and differences of everyone we work with, striving to create a safe space for all to lead with their true colors and passions. In this interview, I hope you all take a moment to get to know two of the many amazing people in our company, who have made an impact on our culture and embody our core values to learn more about their experience as members of the LGBTQ community, both in a personal and professional setting.
Before we start, a little about me:
Lives in Tel Aviv with his life partner, twin boys (aged 4), and male dog – it’s 100% a family of men! He and his life partner have been together for 12 years with many more to come.
And about the guests:
Claudia Pecas, Employee Experience Representative
Graduated with a degree in International Relations, born in Portugal and lives with her girlfriend for five years.
David Gavrieli-Schulze, Sales Developer Representative
Originally from Berlin, Germany, now lives in Tel Aviv with his husband he met at the Berlin Pride Parade six years ago.
What is Pride Month to you?
David: When we have Pride in Tel Aviv my husband and I go there with our dog and we love it – the atmosphere, everyone is happy. It’s very nice to be there and to feel comfortable. This is how we celebrate. Maybe not the full month, but definitely with some gay flags because we are proud of who we are.
Claudia: For me, it’s extremely important that we celebrate Pride Month. Myself, I don’t celebrate it the whole month and I’ve never had the chance to go to a parade. I was always working so I never had the time and then the Pandemic hit… Hopefully I can go soon.
Have you ever felt that being gay held you back in your career or with different stakeholders in the organization?
David: For me right now, no. I’m a very open person, so if someone asks if I’m gay, I say yes and I’m proud of it. It’s only my sexuality. In Germany, we are very open about it as well and here, too, in Tel Aviv.
Claudia: For me as well. Luckily, I didn’t have such bad experiences. However, I do hide it when I see that someone is not so respectful. We can’t make anyone like us – but to people who aren’t respectful, I try to hide it for my own safety.
Do you feel like in this day and age, you still must hide your sexuality when you meet customers, new employees?
Claudia: No, I don’t hide it anymore, especially because I came out to the most important person in my life two months ago – my mother. I’ve never been one of those people who hides it or talks about it. I act the same way as if I had a boyfriend. I think that’s the most important thing of acting normal – because gay people are normal.
On my end, I feel like I need people who get to know me even for the first time, to know that I’m gay. I think it’s really a huge part of who I am. I will in some way integrate in the conversation. Maybe it’s also part of going through the process of becoming 100% complete with myself and love myself as a whole. Claudia, you’re now experiencing a huge thing coming out to your mother, would you like to share a little bit of that?
Claudia: I found out I was a lesbian at 20 years old. I fell in love and I was completely terrified. I told one of my friends and decided to share with my father, because my father is much more flexible in these kinds of situations. He told me he already knew and supported me a lot. After almost four years of being with that girlfriend, I decided to tell my mother because our relationship wasn’t good anymore, and I thought it was because I was hiding it. I heard a lot of bad things from my mother, it was a tough time. I heard that I was a disappointment and all those things that parents who can’t accept say. So, I did the most awful thing I could have done – I told her it was just a phase, because I didn’t want to lose my mother. Then five more years passed, and in those five years I developed anxiety and I had panic attacks because I had two lives. Two months ago I couldn’t handle it anymore.
Did that in some way impact your work life – the fact that you lived two lives?
Claudia: It did, in the way that I only lived for my jobs. I was studying my degree and master’s degree. I used to study from 9-6 and then I worked from 6-2 in the morning. I had chosen not to have a social life. Eventually, I bought a house with my girlfriend, we already have plans of building a family, and that meant I had to stop having these plans as dreams and start living them. For that to happen, I had to tell my mother. It was not that difficult now.
It’s interesting that you told your mother it was a phase, because when I came out to my parents, I promised myself that I won’t tell them it’s a phase just so they know there is no exist sign – this is what it is. Still, I saw my mom crying and it’s not an easy experience to see your parents crying.
How about you David, would you like to share your story?
David: It wasn’t easy as well. I remember when I was thirteen years old and all I wanted was to wear an earring, and my father said to me directly, “No, you can’t have an earring. You will be gay.” By the way, my grandmother was lesbian. My aunt is lesbian. And he has a problem with his own son being gay? Despite my father, my mother said it’s fine, so I got my earring.
At the time, I didn’t know what being gay meant because I was too young. When I grew up, I had a girlfriend, and I started to realize that I like men more.
At the start I didn’t want to share that I’m gay, because I didn’t understand it myself and I felt like I needed to find myself before coming out. So, I went on a gay chat website and started talking with guys. It felt very comfortable. My mom saw the computer history and asked me about it and I said, “It’s not true, I’m not gay.” In the beginning I still hid it since I wasn’t sure myself. My mom, even though she reacted okay to the earring, outed me to my brother and my brother said, “Even if he’s gay, I love him so much. It’s fine.” It wasn’t easy, but finally my mother accepted it and of course I don’t really have a connection with my father. Still, everything is great now.
You know, I always say that when we come out to our parents, in a way we put them in the closet. Because then they have to come out to their friends and the family, so they also have to go through some of that experience. Was there any particularly inspiring moment or person in your life that really influenced your journey?
David: To be honest, I didn’t have any person like that I had a really hard time in my life and it wasn’t easy for me in my childhood. Therefore, I needed to fight my whole life. I think that’s why I’m my own idol. I taught myself how to do everything. It’s why I am who I am now.
Claudia: I was a very different lesbian 10 years ago and I’m a different lesbian now after meeting my girlfriend. She was really life changing. She was the person to help me see things differently and who helped me improve my well-being. I was very focused on my job. She’s completely the opposite. She’s someone that allowed me to live instead of waking up and working.
I was always concerned. “How am I going to tell my mother? How is my mother going to handle this situation?” It was all about her. And my girlfriend always told me, “Look, you just need to give her time. You just need to be who you have to be for your happiness.” These sentences repeated in my head over and over again and led me to the very different person I am today.
The gay community as a whole has really progressed dramatically in the last few years. However, barriers still exist. What are the current challenges we still have in the community?
Claudia: In my opinion, all of them. Beginning with the fact that we still need to manifest. If you need to manifest for your rights, it means that love is not seen as normal. Lesbians and gays and other sexualities have one thing in common and that’s love. And if love is not seen as normal, then we have all the problems in the world to surpass.
David: When I was younger in school, I had this issue as well. I didn’t know what is gay, parents don’t really teach you, “Hey, being gay is normal.” I think there needs to be something to teach the children that being gay is normal.
What is the one thing you would like people to take away from Pride Month and this conversation?
Claudia: In my perspective – it’s all about love. I always hear people say we should love others for their inside and not based off their appearance. So, let’s not live it in theory, let’s practice it.
Once you get to know someone, really get to know them. It’s just a whole other experience than just knowing their role in the company and what are their hobbies. Once you get to know someone, even their personal life, it brings the relationship to another level.
To me, so long as the LGBTQ community still suffers from equality issues, such as not being able to marry, not being able to get custody for non-biological kids and so on, there is still a need to fight for our rights and mention Pride Month. We’ve come a long way and we still have a long way to go.
With that said, happy Pride!