Choose Your Location
By: Niki Kapsambelis
June 21, 2023
As a gay man, Shane Laffan knows the value of visibility in the LGBTQ+ community.
Growing up in rural Ireland, the only time he ever saw or heard anything about queerness was through television. He came out gradually, starting when he was about 16, testing the waters with one person at a time.
“My journey really started in college, where I kind of came into my own,” he said. “I met a lot more like-minded people. And I was exposed to a wider variety of cultures, a wider variety of people, and really got to see what was out there in terms of LGBTQ people and culture.”
When Shane joined Viatris in early 2023 as a senior associate in quality systems and operational support, he looked at the company’s approach to diversity and inclusion. And he considered VIVID, the company’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, to be an important benefit.
“When you’re gay or queer – or however you identify – there’s always, at the back of your mind, that ‘what if:’ Do I have to mute myself? Do I have to tone myself down? Just because you never know how people are going to react,” he explained. “But if you see something like VIVID, and you see that it’s encouraged to be yourself and be open, and you also see senior people within the company supporting that, it gives you a clear path forward.”
He came out to his family later, when he was 22. Though he knew they’d support him, he wanted to be more grounded and comfortable with himself first. Finally, he reached a point where he didn’t want to hide anymore, and he blurted it out.
While at college, “I, as a person, changed quite a lot,” Shane said. “Sometimes it can be quite hard to reconcile the person that you were with your family in the past and the person that you’ve grown into.”
Fortunately, his parents were very accepting. But Shane is mindful of the fact that other people aren’t so lucky – and that’s another reason why company support is so critical.
Hear Shane’s message to LGBTQ+ colleagues who might be struggling.
“LGBTQ people are almost under attack in a lot of countries. And people are really scared. So I think for companies to come out in open support of their LGBTQ employees is really important,” he said.
He urged people to seek out safe conversations: “Even if it’s only reaching out to one person, having one other gay person in your life can really make a difference, because they can relate to some of the things you’re going through,” he said. “I know personally, I would be happy to talk with someone who is struggling. I’m sure that plenty of other people would be happy to share their story.”
And he also urged people who might be in danger to protect themselves.
“Look after yourself and take care of yourself,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk about how coming out can change your life and coming out is important, but never do that if you feel like you’re uncomfortable with it or if you feel like it will make you unsafe.
“That’s the first thing: just really look after yourself and just be careful.”