Stories and Viewpoints
By: Niki Kapsambelis
June 15, 2022
|Esmée De Zwaan|
In Esmée De Zwaan’s homeland, the Netherlands, Pride Month does not exist the same way it does in other countries. Nonetheless, the concept has meaning for Esmée, because it helps others recognize that there is still progress to be made for the LGBTQ+ community to gain full acceptance.
“Often people think in the Netherlands, everything is very progressive,” they said. “I live in Amsterdam, but even here, you get comments or looks sometimes.”
Having grown up in the countryside, Esmée didn’t know any other queer people or hear about Pride celebrations until they went to university. Gaining that recognition was an important milestone, and they – Esmée’s pronouns are she/they -- pointed out that parades and other Pride events can be self-affirming: “For once, you’re not a minority. Most people who are there are queer, so it’s a safe space.”
Similarly, Viatris’ recognition of Pride is also valuable, they said.
“I think it’s important that as a company we give attention to it, because in other parts of the world, people might not know that much about it or feel that it’s something that can be talked about,” Esmée explained. “So when we say as a company that everyone can be themselves at work, they feel like they’re welcome.”
As part of their commitment to building resources for LGBTQ+ colleagues at Viatris, Esmée joined VIVID, the employee resource group (ERG) for the community and its allies. Today, they serve as part of VIVID’s leadership council.
“If people see other people being comfortable with who they are, it makes you feel seen,” they reasoned. “If you have to hide a part of who you are – not just sexual orientation – it takes up so much energy that you probably can’t perform your job as well as your peers who don’t have to hide.”
And for colleagues who live in countries where LGBTQ+ rights are restricted, “if you can come to the office and be who you want to be in the office, at least part of your life is a safer space,” Esmée said.
VIVID is planning a workshop in June that will help Viatris employees learn more about allyship, as well as offer practical tips that people can implement in their daily lives, both at work and elsewhere. Esmée hopes it will raise awareness in addition to providing meaningful advice to those who want to support the LGBTQ+ community.
“For me, I think my close colleagues from my team are good allies, and it gives me a lot of support,” they said. “It makes me feel safe, so I can just be myself. I want to do that for others, too.”