Pride at Wise: An open letter 2023

Gabriele Galassi

Hi, my name is Gab and I head up People/Organisational Development here at Wise.

I grew up in the 80’s in a small town in the north of Italy. Beautiful mountains and lakes surrounded my childhood, but to me they often looked like the walls of a prison for a life that would never fit me.

At the peak of the AIDS epidemic, I grew up in a family, a country and a system that did all they could to let me know that choosing to be myself was like signing my own death sentence. I was bullied in school for being effeminate, for hanging out with girls instead of spending time playing football with the boys. I was too loud, too quirky, too different from everyone else. I was always reminded I did not belong.

"The opposite of pride is shame."

At 19 I decided to leave my home town and move to a big city. There, I promised myself, I would be who I truly was with no compromise. But it would take me years to shake off the insecurities that travelled with me to my new life. As a young man, I didn’t have to deal just with the ambiguity of a whole life in front of me, but also with how I would fit my sexuality into my plans.

"The opposite of pride is shame."

It took me a long time to figure out how to be myself and I would be lying if I said that this didn’t affect some poor choices, not to mention opportunities and people I lost along the way. Years of arguments with my family, a distorted, heavy image of myself that I carried around like a giant trolley full of shame and anxiety.

And all of this because of a tiny, tiny aspect of my life, which is the fact that I am a man who loves another man.

"The opposite of pride is shame"

I am a happy man now. I have been with my husband for more than half of my life and we have braved the world together. We have truly lived without borders, we have disintegrated every single obstacle that was put in front of us, with love, compassion and tenacity. We never took no for an answer, even when the only way to get married was emigrating to the UK and leaving everything behind. We did what we wanted to do, even when nobody else agreed.

We travelled the world together, achieved our dreams, studied hard, worked hard, played hard. We met people, made friends for life, found our “elected family”, lived in three different countries, changed careers a couple of times and we still haven’t stopped dreaming.

I am aware we operate in a privileged space. The education opportunities afforded to us, the system in which we happened to be born allowed us to make certain decisions. Too many queer people are still under constant threat, our challenges would seem so small compared to physical threats, legal persecution and the deliberate discrimination some queer people receive daily across the globe. Even in the “self-proclaimed” liberal world, in front of our eyes, our transgender brothers and sisters are being persecuted on a daily basis.

But in workplaces, as a place where people come to work, thrive, express their creativity and talent, we can make a difference.

So, as a queer Wiser, I do not choose shame. I choose pride. And my company stands behind me.

Wise is committed to building an inclusive culture in which every team member feels comfortable being themselves at work, respected for who they are and supported in order that everyone can thrive.

As such, Wise is signing the Human Rights Campaign National Business Statement on Anti-LGBTQ+ State Legislation to clearly state our concerns about the bills being introduced across the United States, deliberately targeting transgender youth.

Together with more than 500 other U.S. companies, we proudly stand in joining the HRC's Business Coalition for the Equality Act, declaring our support for federal legislation that would provide the same basic protections to LGBTQIA+ people as are provided to other protected groups under federal law.

At work, we regularly hold LGBTQIA+ spaces for discussion, support and friendship. We hosted our Annual Global Queerwise party in Tallinn, a moment for our global Queerwiser community to get together. We provide education to those who are not familiar with the challenges our community faces, and we're distributing learning content across all our offices.

Some of us are more visible and vocal, to reassure those who are still fighting to accept themselves or be accepted, that it is going to be alright. We marched together with Queerwisers and allies at the Baltic Pride parade in Tallinn. We will continue to amplify the stories of our Queerwisers.

For this is not a time to be quiet. And if you choose not to be proud, then you choose shame.

If I could express a wish, for anyone who is going through uncertainty and suffering to become their full selves, I would hope they found an opportunity to work in an environment that will not see their queerness as the only defining factor. You are who you are, you love who you love. Life is so much more than spending your days trying to make people see you have a right to thrive, like everyone else.

If you live in a country where this is possible, choose an inclusive employer and hold them accountable for protecting diversity and equity for all. If you don’t have this privilege, carve out those spaces that allow you to feel okay with yourself and focus all your energy on what you really want. Whether that’s mastering a craft, expressing your creativity, challenging your intellect, solving problems, leading a revolution, being part of something bigger than yourself, or making a difference for someone or something.

And when it all feels a bit too much, remember the words of Dominique Jackson to a crowd of 3,500 people when accepting her HRC national Equality Award:

“You do not have the power to accept or tolerate me; I take that from you. You will respect me.”

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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