– By Elyse Lopez
Growing up and being LGBT in Brazil was not always easy for Out & Equal accounting and human resources associate Jackson Rodrigues de Oliveira.
Jackson said he only came out to close friends and family in Brazil last year.
“When people find out a person they love is gay, they change their minds about the concept of what it means to be LGBT,” he said.
Jackson said he chose to work for Out & Equal because advocating for LGBT rights is important. He hopes that he can lead by example. In school, Jackson remembers the bullying being very scary and sometimes violent, but he doesn’t regret coming out.
“Coming out comes with responsibility,” Jackson said. “The reason I came out is because people need us (who are out) to fight for them.”
One of the biggest issues for the LGBT community in Brazil is legal access to the word “marriage.” While Brazil has civil unions that offer the same legal protections of marriage, the country’s Constitution still does not include same-sex couples in the traditional definition of marriage.The Brazilian civil union is a marriage in theory, but Jackson wants his partnership to be legally called a marriage.
“The concept of marriage in the constitution is still one man and one woman,” Jackson said. “My wish is there to be no differences in marriages between any of the sexes.”
Because LGBT people are still fighting for fundamental rights, and often risk violence and murder, it should come as no surprise that sexual or gender orientation is not protected in the workplace either.
“They won’t say you can get fired for being gay, but they’ll create another excuse for it,” Jackson said.
This week, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates continued our support with founder and CEO Selisse Berry traveling to Sao Paulo to participate in an LGBT Forum. At the forum, dozens of multi-national corporations and local companies in Brazil gathered to express their support for LGBT workplace equality.
Executives from 12 companies signed a pledge of 10 Commitments supporting workplace equality. Over 150 people representing more than 40 companies were present, including: IBM, Procter & Gamble, Accenture, BASF, Caixa Economica Federal, Carrefour, Dow, PwC, HSBC, GE, DuPont and Whirlpool.
Key executives pledged their support for these 10 commitments:
- Commit – presidency and executives – to the respect and promotion of LGBT rights.
- Promote equality of opportunities and fair treatment for LGBT people.
- Promote a respectful, healthy and safe environment for LGBT people.
- Raise awareness and educating for respect to LGBT rights.
- Stimulate and support the creation of LGBT affinity groups.
- Promote respect of LGBT rights in communication and marketing.
- Promote respect of LGBT rights when developing products, services and customer care.
- Promote actions of professional development for people in the LGBT community.
- Promote economic and social development of LGBT people in the value chain.
- Promote and support actions in favor of LGBT rights in the community.
It is the first time in Brazil that companies of this magnitude have publicly shown their commitment to LGBT equality.
Jackson is happy to see some momentum in the LGBT community and wants to continue to advocate for his home country.
“It can be a great asset to push Brazil to think about the workplace,” he said. “Because we’re so behind fighting for rights, Out & Equal can push Brazil to think they can go ahead and ask for more equality even in the workplace.”
As a sign of support for their efforts, Selisse Berry gave a keynote speech about the importance of expanding the workplace movement to every part of the globe.
“I believe it is up to us to make a difference for those who may not be able to speak out on their own behalf for fear of retaliation,” Berry told the executives gathered at the forum. “It will be our combined efforts — the pride and reach of a truly global family — that will allow us to create lasting progress in our quest for equality.”
Out & Equal is proud to be part of this historic movement to expand LGBT equality in workplaces globally.