LGBTQ & Ally Voices of MiQ is an interview series that’s part of our Pride celebrations. In this blog, we’ll hear from MiQ people who are in different roles, in different countries, with different experiences. They’ll tell us about their story, how they’re celebrating Pride and what it means to them. This is just one of the ways we’re supporting the LGBTQ+ community and raising awareness. It reflects how far society has come, but how far we still need to go.
Name: Anthony Perez
Region: United States
Role: VP, Commercial Operations (US)
What was your first Pride experience?
I spent every college summer as a camp counselor, so I never attended any major Pride events until my mid-twenties. When I went to Pride for the first time, it was truly powerful. I think everyone remembers their first time going to a gay bar. You feel comfortable because it’s a safe space where you’re surrounded by people like you. But going to Pride and being out in the open? There’s something very freeing about that.
During my first Pride experience, I was surrounded by friends and we had such a great time meeting new people. It was also the first time I saw a gay family with two dads, with children of their own. It gave me hope that I could have that one day.
How will you be getting involved with and celebrating Pride this year?
As the global co-chair of the Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG) at MiQ, I’ll be coordinating our Pride events. I’ll also be fundraising for The Trevor Project throughout June as they continue to raise awareness to end suicide among LGBTQ youth. I’ll also be attending some Pride events in various cities with friends throughout the US. Pride is the best time to visit friends and celebrate with them in their communities!
What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you?
Pride means celebrating your true self and raising awareness that LGBTQ people exist, and aren’t going away. That awareness is truly powerful, and a real beacon of hope. (Especially for those who don’t have the best support systems.) It’s amazing to see different people celebrate their differences together – especially when it’s most likely driven by shared experiences of hate.
While there has been a lot of positive movement in the last decade, there are people with a lot of hate and prejudice in their hearts. We must continue to fight for all members of the LGBTQ community, including our Trans and BIPOC brothers and sisters. They are under attack and have been for quite some time. We must not leave them behind. That’s why it’s important we continue to celebrate Pride and not back down on its importance for all.
Who was the first LGBTQ+ character or celebrity you remember seeing?
Well, this is pretty embarrassing! I would secretly watch ‘Queer as Folk’ as a kid while my parents were away or sleeping. (I was always ready to switch to something non-gay at a moment’s notice.) It definitely wasn’t age appropriate, but it was the first TV show where I saw all gay storylines and mostly gay characters. It makes me so happy that there are multiple LGBTQ characters in TV and movies these days, and of all types too. It gives today’s youth a chance to see themselves, and that’s amazing.
What messages do you hear about LGBTQ+ people in your daily life, and from your family, friends and colleagues?
From a young age, I knew there was something different about me and who I liked, and I knew I needed to keep it secret. My family wasn’t overtly religious, but I just knew it wouldn’t necessarily be okay.
In the first couple of weeks of my senior year, I told the wrong person my secret. If you’re from a small town, you know that gossip doesn’t stop at the high school doors. It spreads into every household, storefront, and bar. Within 48 hours, it felt like the entire town knew my secret, including my dad and stepmom.
I think the emotional rollercoaster of being outed is something that only an LGBTQ person can describe. Your world is immediately turned upside down. You’ve learnt to live a double life, mask your true identity and present yourself as the version others want to see. So when someone takes that away from you, it’s a shock. All I could do was deny it, but the damage had been done. To this day, 16 years later, I have still never said “Yes, I am gay” to my parents.
Over the next few months, I was walking on eggshells. Old friends treated me differently, even though I was the same person. My senior year culminated with me arriving home to find my laptop removed from my room. I thought “welp, I’m in trouble for something.” My dad started yelling about how he and my stepmom had been to dinner and heard non-stop about my ‘lifestyle’. They said they needed to put me on a ‘better path’.
After that, I didn’t go to school for about three days. What hurt the most was that I was a 4.0 student, taking AP courses, in the honor society, and my dad was upset I was gay, rather than being proud of my accomplishments. I graduated with honors and have only been back to that small town a handful of times.
Once I made it to college, I found myself surrounded by a flourishing LGBTQ community at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. I was able to be myself, and this helped me to enter the professional world as an out person.
Even after such a positive college experience and a successful job offer, some members of my family stressed concerns that I “wouldn’t be successful in business as a gay man,” that “no one is going to promote a fa**got into a position of importance,” and “you’ll get fired once they find out.”
At the time, these words cut like a finely sharpened knife. But after years of professional success and plenty of failures unrelated to me being gay, I hold my head high as a proudly out gay man. I know that my success is because of the person I am, not because of who I’m attracted to.
I give this long-winded response, not as a “woe is me” answer, but as a reflection on the lived experiences I’ve had as a gay man growing up in a midwest small town. It’s the same experience countless others have experienced – and will continue to experience – no matter how much progress we make.
While my personal journey was tough, my mom and stepmom have been huge supporters and have always been there for me. Even my dad and I (albeit a longer path) have put the past behind us. But if it wasn’t for my closest friends in high school, my college friends, my coworkers, and my chosen family, I would not be the man I am today.
What advice do you wish you had growing up and what would you say to a young LGBTQ+ person now?
The feelings you have are totally normal and you’re not alone! There are people that will always be there for you, you just need to find them. If you’re not finding light in your family, find an outlet in any way you can. It sounds cliche, but it truly does get better – even if you have to wait for it.