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Pride Month: Celebrating SymPride in Dublin, Ireland

Rachel and her wife, Shelly in Dublin, Ireland

While enjoying the Dublin Pride Parade last year, cheering and waving my flag in the sunshine (yes sunshine in Ireland!) I saw contingents from Facebook, Android, Google and eBay pass by, full of joyful faces. I remember thinking, “Why isn’t Symantec in there?”

A few months later, I was working on some culture activities for Realt (our culture program in eBusiness) and learned there was a group called SymPride, which celebrates LGBT people and our allies in Symantec. I immediately got in contact with Ruha Devanesan, Manager of Global Diversity & Inclusion, and checked to see if we had a group in Dublin. There was not a chapter established in Dublin yet, so I took it as an opportunity to create one myself! Interest was immediate and now we have a small core group of around six, with others helping out and participating via email.

One of our biggest challenges since becoming an active chapter is that most heteroual people think that SymPride is for LGBT people, similar to how men think that the Symantec Women’s Action Netowrk (SWAN) is only for women. Not true! Everyone is welcome; SymPride is about support, networking and engagement, no matter your uality.

For example, many of the people marching in last year’s Pride Parade, including those tech company employees, were straight allies who want to support and celebrate LGBT culture in Ireland as well as show how welcome people of all ualities and genders are in their companies. That’s what we’re trying to do in SymPride – extend a hand of friendship.

This year has been incredible in Ireland. Our government decided that the wording in our constitution “protected” the concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Any change to the constitution requires a referendum – a national vote. So on May 22nd, the country went to vote.

To be honest it was a terrifying experience. To have people you’ve never met judge you and assess your worthiness and the worthiness of your relationship was equally enraging and nerve-wracking.

My wife Shelly (I can say that now!) and I have been together for 16 years. When Shelly’s sister was left parentless at age 14, we took her into our home and have been as normal and boring as any straight marriage and parents. To have people judge that made me angry. But you have to be humble; people ask questions that may seem intrusive or judgmental, but if it’s an honest request for information, you have to take a breath and step out of yourself. The issue is larger than the individual.

The fight for Marriage Equality has been going on in Ireland for 10 years and in those years, Shelly and I have appeared in every national newspaper, on national television and on the radio, explaining and educating those who would be voters this year. Our work was tough and the exposure can be jarring, but all we ever got from people on the street was a thumbs-up. So, I suppose the over-whelming YES vote on May 22 shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it was.

Our work was nothing compared to the endeavors of those volunteers who canvassed door-to-door for a YES vote. Shane, one of our SymPride members, was at the forefront of his district, even canvassing outside his local church after mass. That’s courage, and it’s people like him who were willing to open their lives up and speak to people on the street about their experience, that won the vote for us.

People outside of Ireland are amazed at our YES victory, as Ireland is known as a traditionally Catholic country. But Ireland and its faith is based on family - in Ireland, family is the most important thing in your life. Now, so many people are out and so many people have an LGBT person in their family, that their vote was a YES for their brother, sister, cousin, pal, mother, uncle.

This year’s Dublin Pride Parade will be huge. It’s twice as big as last year and the city is ready to celebrate the proud members of the LGBT community and proud allies who voted YES for a group of people they see as equal. 

Rachel Armstrong is Symantec’s Product Specialist, Norton eBusiness

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