LGBTQ History Month is a month-long, annual, celebration and remembrance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history. It looks at the history of gay rights, with the collective aim of promoting two things: equality and diversity.
To recognise this month, Louise Meehan, Marketing Executive at Cpl talked to BeProud@Cpl Chair Stephen Molloy to chat about his story, his experiences of discrimination and what we can all do to improve genuine LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality.
Listen to the full interview here:
To learn more about BeProud@Cpl click here
Read the transcription of this audio interview below.
Hi, my name is Louise Meehan. I'm a marketing executive at Cpl and as part of LGBTQ plus History Month I am joined today by Steven Malloy, chair of our BeProud@Cpl committee. Stephen shares with me the challenges he faces because of his sexuality, in his career and life. Thank you so much for joining me, Stephen.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Where did you grow up? And what was it like when you were growing?
So I grew up in Kerry, and I'm from Tralee, which is a small town on the West coast of Ireland, and my family are quite religious. My dad was a pastor. So that definitely impacted the environment I grew up in. And we had a clear set of values and responsibilities, which we had to adhere to.
We certainly didn't discuss anything about sexuality or gay issues, and truly itself as a small town. So there was nothing in relation to LGBT facilities, especially for the youth. So it wasn't really until my late teens that I really developed my own individuality, I decided to come out. And I decided to see the world and travel. So I travelled as quickly as I could.
And how did your family take it when you came out?
Yeah, it was a journey, it wasn't something that was instantaneous. I mean, it wasn't open arms. And yeah, a gay son. Definitely. It was an educational journey for all of us. I think people live in their own comfort zones.
So you if you want to kind of relate to somebody on a certain level, you have to meet them on their grounds too. So I gave them space and the time that they need as I was blessed with being able to travel and that truly allowed us that space to digest and dissect maybe, whatever feelings and emotions we had around us.
And I think establishing myself as an adult and them seeing me as an adult and just a good person, that's the most important thing for them is to see me as a good person, you know, and trying to achieve something with my life, then the gay thing was secondary. So it's not something that's ever been open arm accepted, I guess because there's a bit of conflict there.
It's a contrast between belief and a "lifestyle choice" as it's been deemed, which I'm always having an issue with, it's not a lifestyle choice. But I mean, the love is there, the love and acceptance and kindness is there. So that's all I can ask for.
There's only so far I think that you can push with people too. I think if you want acceptance, you have to accept all differences and other people's differences too. As long as they're not being rude or not being deliberately discriminatory or bigotry against you for any reason, then I think people are different.
After you came back, what did your career look like? How did you start off and kind of, did you face any challenges starting in a career specifically as a result of being part of the LGBTQ plus community?
I've met a lot of different people from all walks of life. And you do meet people who have instant homophobia, they don't know you, they don't know anything about you but they have a stereotype built in their head. So whatever bias and stereotypes that they have built-in, they reflect on you.
I've had situations where there have been jokes, there have been comments there has been, "are you one of the girl's team, or one of the boy's team". People just don't know where to fit you into things. And I think people are always trying to look for that comfort zone to fit you into something. So career-wise, I suppose in my junior jobs starting out, I would have encountered that a bit more.
I think the more you move away from certain types of roles there's more education, there's more awareness, there's more effort put into everybody being accountable for their actions and words.
With that comes respect and dignity. Unfortunately, it's not educated across the board, or it's not implemented across the board.
But yeah, I mean, me growing up and travelling and doing all of these things, you develop a thick skin. Like most LGBT people, you develop a thick skin very early, because you have to.
Do you feel it would be different for someone starting off today? That is from the LGBTQ plus community, if they're going into a job, what would be your advice for them?
Today, I think there are so many more resources available, and we are a lot more connected. I'm not going to show my age but social media wasn't as prevalent when I was starting off my career and it's something that I think had I had at the time, I would have felt a lot more supported and maybe more confident in what I was doing. I think it took me a long time to get that confidence because I have to give it to myself.
So you have to be broken down sometimes to build yourself up. That's kind of what my journey was initially at the beginning of all of that.
Whereas now I think the support and the structures and everything that's around, reach out, talk to people engage with a community that's around you, you're not alone, no matter how remote you might feel, how isolated you might feel, you're never alone.
And it's kind of not a good thing that everybody shares, similar journeys, no journey is the same. You're unique. You have your unique feelings, your unique emotions, nobody else has those. But we can definitely share in the struggles and support each other and provide each other with advice or guidance if need be.
That's the thing. It's all about supporting each other, you know, tapping into people's talents, understanding that working with different people is going to bring a range of great things together.
You learn so much from different people, their upbringing, the challenges they face, and you take on so much learning for yourself. In terms of industries, you had mentioned previously, how some industries weren't very supportive. Do you feel that in your company, there is a support structure there, and you can bring your whole self to work?
Just to clarify as to what about those industries are not specifying a specific industry but I think with the flow of certain types of employment, you have a lot of casual staff and people who come in and come out and people who don't necessarily come from the same backgrounds who might not have that same level of education.
So it might be industry-specific as it is to that type of background if you know what I mean. But in relation to CPL, there's always a story that I tell when I talk about CPL, and why I landed on the doorstep of Cpl.
I was actually going to another agency for a role as a training and quality coordinator because that was my initial background. When I was in London, I was working as a training quality coordinator. I went for a role there and the manager came out and asked me to prepare a presentation for 30 minutes on the spot.
I said, Okay, no problem. Let's do this. I was given a room and a laptop and asked to prepare a presentation on myself. I took the 30 minutes, prepared the presentation, and then afterwards, he came in, and he was like, Okay, let's go, let's do the presentation. I asked, Would you like me to stand up or sit down because the screen behind for the presentation wasn't working and we just had the small laptop screen.
I did the presentation and went through everything with them. Afterwards, like normally, when I do a presentation, even when I'm talking to you now, my hands are moving, it's just normal. It's natural and very gesture oriented. I wouldn't have thought excessively but when I finished the presentation, this person made a very homophobic comment and said it in an undertone, or in an indication that it was homophobic and "you're very handsy and then did the limp wrist thing". I thought, wow, we're here again.
And it's that kind of that superior masculine energy that came across that was like, I am a man and you are something different. I was like, listen, you're an agency and you're supposed to represent me to a company, how are you going to represent me to accompany if you can't even respect me now? I just thought that in my head. I didn't say anything. I said, Okay, thank you very much. I understood exactly what he stood for and I left and the next door that I walked on, was Cpl.
And I went to CPL and the first person that I met was Claudia from the language jobs team. And it was chalk and cheese. This person just treated me with instant respect, genuine respect.
It wasn't straight into business. Let's talk about the role, It's let's talk about you, who are you? What do you stand for? What's your previous life experience just to get a real understanding of what I stood for, and then suggested some roles, even roles that I hadn't applied to because she felt that they would have been a good fit. I went and interviewed for the roles and I got the offer, actually, for those roles.
But she recommended I apply for CPL because my background had been slightly recruitment as well through the training and quality position. And that's history. So I thought I can I can make sure that people don't have the experience that I had in that other company. I wanted to mirror the same level of genuine respect that Claudia was giving the team.
I've worked in CPL now for three years, it's something I've witnessed across the board, every single person in that team has gotten the same level of respect because it's something that's mirrored from management down. And it was something that I really valued and appreciated.
Even to this day, I still do and CPL overall really allows you and enables you to bring your full self to work. I think it's understanding that excellence is in the everyday moments. It's not just in the bigger picture. It's in everything that you do.
And Claudia for one has mirrored that across so that everybody understands that and tries their best to do that. It's encouraged within the team. And that's just another reflection of CPL overall, which has created that safe space for people.
So much so that I actually decided to go for Chair of the BeProud Committee, which I never would have seen myself doing before, but I felt safe and supported to be able to do that. And I wanted to give other people the opportunity to feel that same level and make sure that we were accountable. And that we were being active in what we do to further that facilitate that.
What you mentioned with the other agency, that is honestly awful and it's not anything to do with your presentation. It's just they put you in a box, they've decided to stereotype without actually understanding, your experience and your knowledge. It's horrible to hear that's going on and that's still prevalent today.
Because, you know, you hope that when a hiring manager, or especially an agency that's putting people forward, that they're inclusive, and they value the person as an individual understanding their skills.
I remember my mom saying to me, and she's like, when you go into work, she's like, no matter who that person is, you value everyone the same, you give everyone the same respect.
And if you give people respect, then you will be respected. But if you don't, you won't, and you won't succeed, which I thought was really interesting, it's really kind of touching on those points of respect.
Absolutely. So there's a term within the trans community that's used quite often. And it's whether somebody can pass as being female, or passes being male, it gets them a different interaction with that person, because then that person feels more comfortable, because they can identify them as one or the other. It's the same for a straight or gay person as well, obviously, not to the same extent.
But it's similar in the sense that if someone identifies you as a straight person they can relate to you and treat you in that way. Had I gone into that meeting and been all masculine and butch and maybe talked in a certain way or be less handsy, I could have had a completely different interaction with that person. But because I was myself, and whatever that indicates, I got a different reaction from it. It's not an isolated incident.
It happens to many LGBTQ people in all walks of life. It's unfortunate that it's still there. It was very obvious on that occasion but sometimes it's not as obvious, sometimes it's a lot more subtle. So I think our role as active LGBT people, is to highlight that and to call it out, you know, and say, hey, guess what, that's wrong.
that person wanted to represent me, they sent me emails after saying, I'm gonna send you to the client. I was like, it's okay, but thanks for the offer. If it means walking away from opportunity and doing what's right, you're doing the right thing.
You have to give the respect to yourself first because that's the person that deserves it. If you don't respect yourself, how are you going to give that same respect to anybody else?
So important, because you need to stand up for what's right. For me working in a company, it's so important that everyone can bring their whole self to work. No matter what - whether you're part of the LGBTQ plus community or if you have any disability, like it's essential, and it's so important to be that ally.
If we're trying to build awareness this month I would definitely encourage people to stand up for what you think is right. Don't be afraid, because you will do well at the end of the day.
And that's kind of one of the reasons why I mentioned Claudia's name there as well. She has been such an ally to not just me to every single person, gay, straight, it doesn't matter.
She has just been an ally to do what's right, you know, equality and fairness is at the forefront. And that's the driving factor. That's one of the main reasons actually why I moved forward for the chair position because I got that encouragement, you know, and I felt I felt safe enough to be able to do that. I wish more people were like that.
You know, looking into the future, what would be your hope for people that are part of the LGBTQ plus community? And in terms of work and the world of work, and even day to day, what's your vision, and your hope for people?
I hate to use the word normal because there's no such thing. You know everyone is unique and individual, but that there's no need to identify as LGBT or any other. That sexual preference doesn't become something that even has to be discussed.
Straight people do not have to go in and declare that they're straight anywhere. It's not a life. It's not a lifestyle choice for straight people. You just are, but for LGBT people, it becomes a completely different journey.
So the day that it doesn't become a journey, and it's just the same, everything is the same. Then that would be the future, I guess. That would be the ideal.
Yeah, no, completely. How can people celebrate, and LGBTQ plus history month?
I think the best way to do it is to educate, raise awareness, and appreciate how far that we've come as a community. I mean, I know that there's a lot of negativity. There's a lot of heaviness when it comes to even look into LGBT history because it's one that's built on bigotry and discrimination on blood and death.
There are still countries around the world that people are dying daily, that people are discriminated against daily, that people are not free to be themselves daily just because they're LGBT.
So educate, raise awareness, donate if you want to, or share a link. The more there's education, the more people ask questions, the more people evolve, and the future becomes sooner.
Brilliant. Thank you so much, Steven, I really enjoyed speaking with you today about your story and your hopes for the LGBTQ plus community in the future. And thank you so much to everyone who's tuned in. If you'd like to know more about our BeProud committee at Cpl, check out our website cpl.com Thank you