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My Pride Story
Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Ales Rudisar

June 2022: Ales Rudisar is the Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion at White & Case, based in New York. He shares his #MyPrideStory with us and tells us about the important part that Pride celebrations have played in his life.

I struggled with coming out for a number of years

I was worried about the stigma attached to being gay. Then a moment comes in your life when you realize that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I learned a lot from my first partner and his friends. I always admired how accepting, empathetic and open-minded they were, how they embraced everyone's individuality without judging. Coming out made my life easier and more authentic in many ways.

"Covering" at work can be exhausting

It is so much better when you feel comfortable at work to freely express yourself, when you can talk about your partner, family and everyday life with your colleagues. Being able to be yourself at work is liberating; it frees energy that you can spend on developing quality relationships with your colleagues and your personal development. Plus it opens doors for people seeking allies at work to approach me for help or support.

Allies, be intentional in educating yourselves

Everybody has something to teach us. You can be curious about the LGBT+ community and want to learn more about it, about challenges the community is facing but also what makes the community happy, proud, etc. Pride is a good opportunity to do that. And of course, you can stand up for the community if you see, hear or feel any inappropriate or hostile behavior.

Diversity and inclusion matters to our clients too

Clients care a lot about our actions to support any diverse members of our staff; they want to work with law firms that actively support diversity and inclusion. They also want to know that the work they send to us creates opportunities for diverse lawyers to learn and develop professionally.

Our LGBT+ network, Spectrum, is important on many levels

It is good to be able to talk to like-minded people who share part of your identity and can relate to you. It is also an opportunity to contribute to educating other members of the Firm about the LGBT+ community. I believe that Spectrum is helping make this Firm a more inclusive place to work.

Embrace who you are

I would say "be you no matter what!" But I know it is not exactly realistic for everyone or everywhere, so I will just say try to find a way and courage to be as authentic as you can within your personal circumstances. Try to find a way to embrace who you are and find satisfaction in what makes you unique. And of course, surround yourself with people who are open-minded and supporting. You really do not need to be friends with everyone.

Pride events have made a real impact on me

My first Pride was in San Francisco in 2001, and a friend's mom persuaded us to go to the parade. The truth is I wasn't really out back then and I was anxious about joining a huge crowd of gay people. I was afraid of "being seen." Thanks to her, I had an amazing day watching the parade, dancing and, most importantly, realizing how wonderful it is when people feel comfortable being themselves with absolutely no judgement. And suddenly, I was one of them…

My second memory is from 2019 in New York. A friend was visiting from Beirut and he had never seen a gay parade before. So of course we had to take him! He was standing on the side of the street and his wide-open eyes were jumping from all the colourful floats to the crowds lining up the street and back to people dancing in the parade. He laughed and seemed very happy. When we came home, we sat around the kitchen table with a glass of wine and he thanked me for taking him. He was overwhelmed with what he saw that day and told me that this could never happen in Lebanon. He was especially impressed with NYPD and FBI teams marching in the parade. He was blown away with the Palestinian and Israeli floats going one after another and dancing together.

I struggled with keeping my tears in. He was awestruck with the fact that thousands of gay and straight people came to celebrate together, including families with kids all dressed in rainbow colors. "If this was to happen in Beirut", he said, "parents would be locking their kids at home to prevent them from seeing this." I saw my friend leaving full of emotions and I felt like I passed the torch of showing someone a gay parade for the first time. Just like my friend's mom did for me in San Francisco. I myself ended that day with a strong sense of privilege of living in a city where I can indeed be myself and where uniqueness and individuality are celebrated openly.

I'm looking forward to celebrating Pride 2022 in New York

I will join the White & Case celebration on the Pride weekend. We also have a friend coming from Los Angeles, so we will go to watch the parade. And I suspect you might find me on a dance floor somewhere around the city that weekend but, most importantly, it will be about catching up with friends and celebrating together with them and my husband, David.