June 11, 2015 — Being one’s authentic and beautiful self can often be a difficult and challenging journey. The story of guest blogger, John LaVeck is, unfortunately, not an uncommon one, but one Catalyst is privileged to share—particularly during LGBT Pride month.
I went to a private, all-boy’s high school. In 1982, at the age of 16, I was the captain of the swim team, an excellent student, popular, and I wanted to kill myself.
My story is not unique, unfortunately. According to the CDC, LGBTQ youth are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts. When I went to a teacher I trusted and pleaded with him to help me cope with the fact that I was gay he said, “We’ve never had this conversation. Don’t ever bring this up to me or anyone here again.”
The very next day the principal called me to his office. I nervously walked in and saw my parents. Before I could sit down, my Mom grabbed my hand as the principal said, “We can’t help boys like John and we’re sorry to say we can no longer support his education. We are asking you not to return to school effective immediately.” He then dismissed us without any further comment.
Later, my parents begged me to tell them the reason why I thought I was kicked out. I gathered my courage and told them about approaching my teacher the previous day. My Mom, through a torrent of tears said, “Rather than helping you they wanted to see you die.”
I pleaded with my Dad not to be disappointed in me and he held me close and whispered in my ear, “The only times you disappoint me is when we play golf. You truly suck at golf.” He looked me in the eyes and gave me the warmest smile I’ve ever seen and said, “We love you, son. There is nothing you could ever do that would change that.”
Today, I am proud to be working in the Diversity and Inclusion space as the Director of Sodexo’s Employee Business Resources Groups. I’m more proud to be from a family who showed me that love conquers hate and fear every time.
Happy PRIDE Month, everyone.
John was recently featured as a panelist at the inaugural Catalyst Employee Resource Leadership Initiative (ERLI) conference on May 5, 2015 and in a webinar on ERGs and alliance building in January. Watch more about Sodexo’s PRIDE (People Respecting Individuality, Diversity and Equality) Employee Resource Group (ERG).