MongoDB Employees Share Their Coming Out Stories
October 23, 2020
#Culture#Diversity & Inclusion
National Coming Out Day is celebrated annually on October 11 and is widely recognized in the U.S. This year, however, as a company that embraces and supports all of our employees across the globe, MongoDB reimagined the celebration as (Inter)national Coming Out Day.
In honor of (Inter)National Coming Out Day, we interviewed employees who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community to learn about their coming out experiences. These are their stories.
Cara Silverman, Team Lead, Executive Assistant, New York, NY
I didn’t know or understand who I was for a very long time. I didn’t have any gay or queer community members growing up, and my parents were more on the “traditional” side in a lot of ways. Things started off pretty confusing because my mom was a die-hard Irish Catholic and my dad is a non-practicing Jew. I went to Catholic school until 4th grade, where being gay was hardly even talked about — and if it ever was, it was described in a very dark way and definitely never something you were encouraged to think about or discuss. Even when I went over to public school, kids would make fun of someone if they thought they were gay, and it was this taboo thing that I never wanted to admit to. The only thing I could really tell was that I was supposed to grow up and find a nice boy to marry.
When I was still fairly young (in middle school) and starting to have different feelings, my sister came out as being gay. Her being four years older, she was at a more mature stage in her life and was ready to take that step. My dad didn’t take the news very well, not out of hatred and not in any way cutting her off, but seeing it as more of a “phase” and a time of uncertainty that she would perhaps grow out of. He thought maybe it low was self-esteem, rebellion, or a number of things, none of them being that she was actually just gay. The denial was strong.
As I watched this all unfold and I saw how hard it was for him to digest, it became even harder for me to talk about. I didn’t want to be seen as a little sister copying her big sister, or cause my dad more grief. I didn’t have a close relationship with my mother at the time so my dad’s opinion literally meant the world to me. I tried to date men for many years but just never felt a real connection. I thought there was something wrong with me, even when I started secretly dating a close friend of mine. I said she was my best friend (which she was), and that’s why we were inseparable. This went on for about three years when I was a teenager.
I started feeling comfortable enough to talk to my sister about it, who surprisingly didn’t take me seriously at first. We were very different people, and our own stories are different as well. I didn’t know how or what to think and didn’t have the exposure like my sister did. I didn’t know what to ask or how to ask. Eventually, my sister told me to get to a good place in a relationship, and after we’d been together for a year to then tell my dad so that he would take the relationship and me seriously. So, I did. I waited to hit a year with my then-girlfriend, I went out to eat with just my dad and had a few drinks, and then I just let it out: “Dad….. I’m gay.” There were some moments of silence as the news digested and then a sigh, followed by “You too?!”
At this point, my dad had had a few years to adjust to my sister’s news, but this didn’t make his acceptance of mine any easier. Since my dad had some traditional views (although he was also a hippie — weird mix), he thought he must have failed us as a parent. “Where did I go wrong?” he said. I told him he’s a great dad (he really is), and that my sister’s and my preferences are no reflection of that. We talked through everything, and he told me that he will love us both no matter what, even if he doesn’t fully understand it.
Fast-forward about 13ish years to today, and he has fully embraced my partner and my sister’s wife as family (seriously, the cards he writes to them would make you cry). He knew nothing of the LGBTQIA+ world then, but he knows so much more now, simply from being around us. I know I’m lucky to have that and not everyone does, but it’s still a scary thing to bring up in any situation (work, family, friends, etcetera), especially when you don’t know where to even start. I’m even luckier now to work at MongoDB, where I’m not just supported, but embraced and empowered to share my story.
I only hope my experiences can help others navigate their own way.
Julien Contarin, Senior Solutions Architect, Partners EMEA, Paris, France
Ten years after coming out to the world at age 23, a friend asked me something that took me by surprise: “Can you remember little things your family would say while you were growing up on how you should be different?” I spent the night thinking about it and couldn’t find one single example. I do think my parents would have been more comfortable if I was into traditionally masculine sports, mostly for health reasons. But overall, they never tried to change or shape me into something I wasn’t.
I think this is the source of a coming out story in reverse. I came out to my parents at age 17, and it was a non-event. We were watching a TV show featuring a gay character, and I just dropped it. At that age, TV was the only representation of LGBTQIA+ people I had ever been exposed to. My parents and siblings onboarded this path to self-discovery with me, and I am extremely grateful for this.
I always felt incredibly lucky at home, but none of my quirks and behaviors went unnoticed at school. Growing up in the countryside in the center of France does not exactly allow you to explore being different at an early age. I waited patiently, hoping to change, but I didn’t.
Middle school was the peak of several bad years. Then came high school, and things started to turn around; I had a stable group of friends and we organized summer parties together. Because I thought this group of friends would be in my life forever, at 16 years old, I used the “Truth or Dare” game to ask them if they’d ever been attracted to somebody of the same gender. Everybody said “no” and laughed. We never spoke of it again. I decided to wait longer before coming out.
I don’t think any of this was intentional or even conscious, but it was at that point I decided to work very hard in school to get accepted to any college that would take me more than 400 kilometers from my hometown. The idea was to have excuses for why I couldn’t commute back home every weekend like most of the other students did.
Two years later, and when I was sure I was accepted to college, I came out to the same group of friends from the “Truth or Dare” game on my 18th birthday. The experience was not great, and they slowly pushed me away from their lives afterwards. But at least I was at a place in my life where I didn’t need to be around them.
It took three years of college for me to meet the right people, and even though none of them were LGBTQIA+, they made me so comfortable and happy that I ended up coming out to them all at age 21. It wasn’t until I moved to Boston for a year at age 23 that I started to be “out first” to any new person I’d meet, work or otherwise. What’s funny about coming out is how boring and casual it ends up being. Only homophobia makes our stories seem more like epiphanies.
Now, at age 34, I am grateful to be working for a company where people have a positive bias for growth. What I love about people at MongoDB is the obsession they have to listen and to learn. Time and time again, people have made me feel like I truly belong here.
Seán Carroll, Marketing Operations and Analytics Manager, EMEA, Dublin, Ireland
Looking back on my childhood and teenage years, a lot of things that made me different started to make sense once I embraced my sexuality. I grew up about 5 kilometers outside a small Irish town in County Limerick. I was never into the traditional Irish sports such as hurling or Gaelic football and never had any interest in soccer, but I adored animals, horseback riding, and outdoor sports. While this environment traditionally would have been quite conservative, I always found people who were supportive and inclusive of me.
I was fortunate growing up because I always had an incredibly supportive family that did not enforce traditional gender roles or stereotypes. I did, however, face bullying throughout my school years for my sexuality, which although unknown to me at the time seemed evident to my peers in school. In my teens, I was fortunate to make some great friends who were either LGBTQIA+ or had close friends who were part of the community. This was the part that helped me grow as a person and discover who I really was.
When I finally came out, my family was amazing. I was so nervous, having seen and heard from friends who had come out and been completely rejected, or worse, kicked out of their homes. I told my mother the night before my 18th birthday, and her response was simply, “Okay. What do you want for dinner?” She then told my father and sister, who saw no issue with it.
The true turning point for me was university. It was there that I found my tribe — my group of friends who never made an issue of who I was or treated me any differently due to my sexuality.
Coming out can change your entire life. I had a great experience, and my life truly changed when I was no longer carrying the weight of that secret. Unfortunately, it is something that people from the LGBTQIA+ community have to do again and again throughout their lives. I’m lucky to work for a company that embraces the power of differences and values employees’ intellectual honesty. This is something I wish could be shared by all people and organizations, because it can truly change peoples’ lives.
Robson Gomes, Workplace Coordinator, EMEA, Dublin, Ireland
Back in 2013, there was me, Robson, a gay guy who was super anxious about coming out to his parents (this is usually the most difficult part). But let’s start at the beginning. When I was a teenager watching famous Brazilian soap operas with my family, I realized I was paying too much attention to the guys instead of looking at the girls. I remember thinking, “Why am I doing this? This is so weird.” I didn't have anyone to talk to about it. I had no queer friends nor queer family members (as far I knew at the time).
My family had always taught me that I should grow up, get a good job, and marry the woman of my dreams. I also grew up in the Brazilian countryside, and back then, people there could be very cruel if they found out that I was (am) gay. Some people just love to drag you out of the closet without your consent in order to make fun of you to your face. The following thoughts constantly ran through my head: “How will I be able to tell the world about myself? My family won’t approve of it, and my friends will reject me. Not to mention other peoples’ prejudices as well.” I even tried to date some girls before I came out just to be really sure because I thought being gay was unacceptable, which I know now is completely untrue.
When I was 17, I applied for a university in another town, which was my way of trying to explore this side of my life without impacting my relationships with family and friends. I thought that would be enough, and it was enough...until I met someone.
When I was 22, I met my husband and realized that this closet I was in was too tiny for two people. Being in the closet was affecting my relationship with my boyfriend (now husband) because we couldn’t “be free.” I started telling my family, person by person, until everybody knew and respected it. I won’t say everybody was happy about it in the beginning, but at least they respected me and our happiness.
Three years after coming out, we decided to move to Ireland. My family and friends were very supportive of us moving to another country together; their main concern was whether we would ever feel at home. In fact, this feeling came quickly. I made a lot of friends in Dublin, but I wanted to work in a company that was very embracing of LGBTQI+, where I could be my true self.
I had a job interview at MongoDB back in February 2020, and once I stepped into the office, I could feel the great culture we have. I was impressed by our employee affinity groups such as “Queeries,” and of course, the Pride flags at people’s desks. I got hired, and today I can say I’m very happy here!
Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us!