• Julien

Leonardo Guzman, Venezuelan Technology Consultant

Leonardo is a senior technology consultant who has been living in London since 2010, originally from Caracas, Venezuela. He was born and raised catholic in a country where the macho culture is still very present up to this day and very inherited in all levels of society. Once he started to realise he was different, his main goal was to eventually go and live in a first world country where he could be his true self without being judged or discriminated against.


At the time he was very insecure and did not know if those “feelings” were worthy and wasn’t very sure what the future will hold but as he started to get to know likewise LGBT people and be comfortable with himself and his values, that allowed him to eventually leave behind a lot of inner saboteur voices and fears. He finally moved to London where he has been able to fulfil what he had envisioned for himself in the best possible way as a happy gay man.


"When you come out it will automatically boost your confidence and will make you feel much prouder (cliché but making lots of sense here) and happy about yourself. It will take that monkey off your shoulders and will allow you to live freely.

When did you have that “a-ha” moment and realise you were different?


Back in high school I had a crush with a classmate. The way I reacted with him was unique and different, something I did not experience with the girls.


How would you describe your experience of coming out?


Very challenging at first as the idea of coming out kept looming in my mind for years and I kept visualizing so many scenarios with family and friends. When I came out to friends it was way better that I thought as most of them did not care and it did not change much of their perception of me. Coming out to my parents was the real fear I had lived with for many years.


When I decided to come out, I had planned a two week trip back home to Venezuela to visit my family for my dad’s birthday. I was thinking already at what point during my stay I would say it, knowing that it couldn’t be right at beginning as I didn’t know what their reaction would be and also didn’t want leave it to the last minute almost like “Hey guys before I go back, I am gay, ok bye” kind of thing.


The day of my dad’s birthday was then the day I had planned to come out. I did not prepare or think about how I would break the news but had thought about what to say. I knew it was going to be an awkward moment so I tried not to make it a long story. After a few drinks (that really pushed me!), I opened by saying something in the lines of “I want to talk about my life situation and lifestyle that you might be aware of by now. I want to tell you that I am still and will be the same caring and loving person with all the qualities you have known about me for years and that I am happy and fulfilled. I just want to share with you how I feel and what my situation is, hoping that you will accept me and respect me for who I am”.


Thinking back, the way I said it was quite subtle, yet punchy at the same time, so they could clearly understand my message. I did not even say the word gay or homosexual throughout and still managed to get my message across to them.


Their reaction was split. My Mum was very supportive and said she would love me no matter what. My dad on the other hand stayed quiet and didn’t say a word for a while until he finally asked me to be careful and be discreet on social media specially with family members. I was relieved that there wasn’t any drama and also that I kept my ground all the time by saying that I was a grown man who could post anything I wanted with the people I love. I didn’t care about what people thought on my social media and if they were so offended then they could just unfriend me or stop following me. This was a hot topic with my parents at first as they were concerned about “what people would say”.


How did your childhood and family background impact both the timing and

the way you came out? 


Before moving to London, I wasn’t out to most people including my parents. I did not feel confident enough with myself at the time and was not independent financially which made me wary of coming out. Living in London for a few years helped me gain experience and independence from the shell of my parents and family and also feel more confident about myself and my situation.


"The society I grew up in, catholic conservative and macho culture-inflicted obviously deterred me from coming out earlier when I was a young adult for fear of being rejected within my circle of family and friends. The reality is that I was not confident enough with myself and still was grasping my way through life.

Coming out is a very personal decision in which each one of us knows exactly when it is the right time to come out. In my case, the burden of lying to the people close to me kept getting heavier by the day. I felt it was not even worth the effort of carrying on anymore. I realised that people would love me either way if they really cared for me and those were the people I wanted to keep in my life. I simply did not have any energy left to keep pretending to be someone I wasn’t.


What would your advice to anyone trying to come out? 


When you come out it will automatically boost your confidence and will make you feel much prouder (cliché but making lots of sense here) and happy about yourself. It will take that monkey off your shoulders and will allow you to live freely. I think there is always the fear of hurting or upsetting people when you come out as gay/lesbian but the most important thing for YOU is how YOU are affected. If someone does not react as you expect or simply rejects you from being who you are then it’s on them not on YOU, it’s their problem not YOURS, and this includes your parents too. At the end of the day nobody will live your life for YOU, they will not be in your shoes and most likely will not pay your bills either, YOU will.


For me it was a game changer coming out to my parents and to my close friends. I felt that being in the closet was limiting my opportunities to meet likewise people, to live more fulfilling experiences with other gay and straight people and even in relationships. Being out will give you a good amount of confidence heading into a relationship and it will reflect on how you interact with that person you are dating simply because you will have nothing to hide to others and you will feel fulfilled with your life and have strong values going forward.


What was the most difficult experience you faced in your life because of your

sexual orientation / gender identity?  How did you handle it? 


I would say the most difficult experience was always at the expense of the police back home. One day I got caught snogging a boy in the car by the police and they blackmailed me to pay them some money; if not they would come to my house and tell my parents. At the time I was only 18, in the closet and living with my parents.


In the end, I agreed to pay what they asked and was still frightened to think they would come back for more or tell my parents regardless. Fortunately, that was the last I saw of them.


Who is the most important role model in your life and why?


I do not have a specific role model that I can think of but I do look up to hardworking people who have overcome adversity and bullying to fulfil their dreams and be the best version of themselves every day by staying humble despite their circumstances and loving their family and friends unconditionally.


Now broadening our horizon, describe your experience being a member of

the LGBTQ community at work? In your industry?


My experience as an LGBT member in my work environment here in the UK has been pleasant overall, having felt included and looked after all the way through.


My first experience in a corporate environment was when I worked for a big pharmaceutical company, as they had a group in which the whole company’s LGBT people could gather and do activities together such as London Pride and events to raise funds for LGBT charities. I felt at ease being able to be myself at work without fears of being punished, ignored, or discriminated against.


From the start my colleagues and line managers embraced me, and I never had a bad experience or encounter with anyone due to my sexual orientation. When I changed companies, I came out to my colleagues on my very first day in the office by just telling the story of my weekend plans with my boyfriend. From that day I was able to take my partner to social events and the company’s annual end of the year party every year.


I remember that it took a few of my colleagues by surprise seeing how confident I was at talking about my partner and my life as a gay man.


And, what could make the biggest positive impact for the LGBTQ community? 


I think we need to keep creating and encouraging platforms online and in person when things get back to normal, where LGBT people can be comfortable in sharing their story, meeting new people, and creating strong connections via sport, art, music, drag and other means for people to feel they belong to something positive, and that they are embraced and loved.


I think the more organised and visible we become the more paths will open for us and this will make it easier for society to engage with us which will bring so much joy to our LGBT community family.


Finally and on a less serious note, what stereotype do you love the most

about the LGBTQ community?


A massive unicorn covered with lots of glitter!!

About


Leonardo is a senior technology consultant who has been living in London since 2010, originally from Caracas, Venezuela. He was born and raised catholic in a country where the macho culture is still very present up to this day and very inherited in all levels of society. Once he started to realise he was different, his main goal was to eventually go and live in a first world country where he could be his true self without being judged or discriminated against.


At the time he was very insecure and did not know if those “feelings” were worthy and wasn’t very sure what the future will hold but as he started to get to know likewise LGBT people and be comfortable with himself and his values, that allowed him to eventually leave behind a lot of inner saboteur voices and fears. He finally moved to London where he has been able to fulfil what he had envisioned for himself in the best possible way as a happy gay man.

Social Media

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/leonardo-guzman-ldn


Twitter: @lguzman21


Instagram: @lguzman21




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