One sentence. Three words. Six letters. And, yet, this one sentence can be someone’s biggest secret and fear. What if it costs you your friends? What if it costs you your family? Your life as you know it? What is the price you need to pay to be your own true self?

“I am gay” is one of the most difficult sentences to say, and when my cousin was brave enough to share those words with me – it was as if she told me her favourite colour was yellow. My love for her did not change, and I cannot imagine the strength it took her to tell me.

Mariya holds the Pride flag at the Portugal PRIDE parade with fellow members of the Cisco Pride Employee Resource Organization.

She is why I joined Cisco’s Pride Employee Resource Organization (ERO) and became an LGBTQ+ ally.

Last year, I marched in Lisbon, Portugal’s PRIDE parade where I had the honour of carrying the BIG Pride flag (thankful for that upper body strength here!) I was so worried that I was going to accidentally hit someone with this massive flag, that I kept turning around to make sure no one was behind me.

In the middle of the parade, I turned to make sure I was clear of swooping anyone off the route – and I will never forget what I saw.

Behind me stood a man who appeared in his 60’s. He was looking up at the flag as it billowed in the sunlight – with tears in his eyes. He was so happy by the sight of the flag, by the surrounding support, that it moved him to tears.

Did I know this person? No.
Did I have some sort of deep meaningful conversation with him? No.
Did I have some sort of impact on his life? Yes, even if briefly and indirectly – I believe so.

I found myself taking in the moment. I didn’t expect that this day or my carrying the flag would matter so much. That it would mean so much to even one person to bring them to tears – but I’m glad I was there. I’m glad I showed up to be part of that moment.

Pride Flag

My Pride story started with my cousin, but it won’t end with her.

To me, Pride is about being able to be who we are and to be able to love who we love with no fear and no prejudice. It is about being a safe space and a voice for others, and it is about being human – which is already a hard-enough feat all on its own without bringing others down.

There is a common misconception that you must be LGBTQ+ to be a part of or support the community, but a powerful part of the community are its allies. It is important to me to be an ally, even more important is that as an active ally – I show up.

For all you know, when you show up – it might be the only moment of acceptance a person will have that day.

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Mariya Popova

Virtual Partner Account Manager