MARIO FRENDO, TALK TO US ABOUT HIS PERSONAL EXPERIENCE BEING APART OF THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY
What do you think it means, to know who you are?
It is Everything! It is the key to your very existence. One of the most important things one will do in their lifetime is to discover who you really are. Becoming aware of who you are allows you to grow to you full potential, to gain confidence and allow free expression without fear of judgment and bias
How do you see yourself?
Equal to everyone else, as part of the human race, with different opportunities attributes and flaws
If I asked your colleagues to describe your personality, what sorts of words do you think they would use?
Funny, Kind, Generous, Passionate, extrovert, helpful, team player, moody, cheeky.
And if we asked the same question of your friends and family?
Funny, kind, dependable, honest, kind, loving, moody.
The term LGBT has become broader and broader with the addition of Q.I &A- how do you see yourself as a member of the LGBTQIA family?
I definitely Identify as being part of the LGBTQIA plus family as I believe gender and sexuality are fluid and should include all aspects of the communities.
We know that more and more organisations have networks to support and amplify the voices of those with protected characteristics, how do you feel when in corporate spaces?
I still feel vulnerable in many corporate settings, as power differentials can affect me personally and am aware that others may hold negative bias views which can impact on me and my work. I am aware though, that many organisations are waking up to the fact that looking after issues, like metal health, wellbeing, racism and issues around gender and sexuality can greatly affect their employees, which in turn affects the company! Still a long way to go!
What are the challenges, if any, do you think that those from the LGBTQIA community face at work?
Discrimination, being Accepted, breaking down barriers, increasing awareness, breaking down stereotypical held views, prejudice.
As a starting place, what one thing do you think companies could implement across the board, as standard, to support their LGBTQIA people?
It would be amazing to live in a culture where it is not required to have a need to implement systems and protocols to ensure the safety of LGBTQIA employees, but until that comes to fruition as a start there is a need for a company to ensure its current employees are informed, kept up to date and included in relevant training pertaining to matters of LGBTQIA.
What do you think it does for the community, having more openly gay people in high office, most notably, Leo Varadkar, the Irish PM?
For me the answer to that is two-fold, obviously I would want to see any person being able to live their own authentic life irrespective of their sexuality. Until that time comes, we won’t see in actuality, how many gay people there are in High office! It helps to see people that identify as LGBTQIA because that is a reflection of how far we have travelled, in being a fair and equal society.
Where do you hope we will be with the LGBTQIA conversation in 5 years time’?
Hopefully we will be seeing some of the fruits of our labour with all the work that is going on currently, to adjust the inequality that is allowed presently to continue.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
To be true to one’s self, In fact, I have a tattoo with Shakespeare’s words inscribed ‘’to thine own self be true’’(Hamlet)
What is the thing you are most proud of?
Discovering me, my consciousness, my resilience and being here, still in the game.
What is the questions you most want to be asked when having this discussion?
Knowing what you know now about being a Gay man of mixed heritage what would you change?
And what is the answer?
What I have been through, discovered and all the mistakes I have made has made me who I am today. I wouldn’t change a thing, everything happens for a reason and we don’t always need to know at the time it happens
You’ve spent quite some time in a Caribbean country, you were married to a black man. As a white man you can mask or pass if you wanted to. A black gay man cannot hide. The question to you is :- What changes if any have you witnessed over the last 5-10 years in regard to the treatment of the LGBTQ community by the wider black community?
My perception of the wider black community, in terms of the treatment of the LGBTQIA community would be the similar to other communities within the UK which I feel is slow, but progressing, which I feel is largely dependent on intergenerational aspects.
I have found the elders of the black community, like my father’s generation, although accepting of some change, have far more to travel in fully accepting the LGBTQIA than their younger family members.
I have experienced, as humans, we are usually far more comfortable in what we are familiar with than as younger people, who are far more in contact with other diverse communities, so will be generally far more familiar and accepting with difference of those communities. Like most things in life, we only know and begin to understand difference when we experience it.
And / or – Over the years how have you being treated differently as a white man to that of your black gay friends.
I have experienced a difference in the way black gay men and women have been treated within the wider gay community based on skin colour and perceived and non- perceived culture differences, than myself.
Having been in a relationship and then Being married to a British born Black man of Jamaican heritage, I have experienced close hand the stereotypical misconceptions displayed to him.
My own personal treatment would depend on who I was treated by. I feel we are all biased and make assumptions on others, as a matter of course, our experience of the world is informed by our close communities and families when we are children branching out to discover new things in the wider communities. I have been treated as people see me in different communities and cultures around the world, from those I am familiar with to others, less so.