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My LGBT+ experience at DWF

05 September 2019

Matteo Lissana, Fourth Seat Trainee in litigation, shares his experience of being LGBT+ in the workplace.

Name: Matteo Lissana
Job Title: Fourth Seat Trainee
Qualifying into: Litigation

Why did you want to go into law?

I have always wanted to work in a profession that would have allowed me to be challenged to learn and develop. Working in commercial law perfectly met those requirements. In my everyday work, I am constantly pushed to strive for excellence and refine my skills. Intellectual rigour and the ability to be adaptable in an evolving economic and legislative framework are elements that I have always valued in this profession, and which I see as unique to commercial law.

What's it like being LGBT+ at DWF?

I've been shown acceptance and support from my colleagues here at DWF. The business understands that being yourself means being better in your role and ultimately better for our clients. I am currently the Chair of InterEnergy (the LGBT+ Network for people working in the Energy sector), and this role has been supported and encouraged by the business – we have hosted several LGBT+ events at DWF and provided an opportunity for people across the City to connect and network.

What advice would you give to an LGBT person thinking about a career in law?

Do your research into businesses that not only talk about inclusion but also act on it. Your diversity is an advantage both personally and professionally, and the legal industry has a strong track record of LGBT+ inclusion. Get involved in your company's LGBT+ Network, or join networking groups such as Interlaw, where you will have a chance to meet LGBT+ professionals working in law. These are great opportunities to meet people outside of your team, network with senior leaders, and there's always more to do and learn. /p>

Why is it important for businesses to be visible advocates for LGBT+ inclusion?

I grew up in a small town by a lake in northern Italy, and everybody around me knew I was gay before I even had a chance to admit it to myself. I would have breakfast every morning facing a calendar of St. Father Pio hanging on the wall. A bus would pick me up just down the road, and take me to the catholic school where my parents had enrolled me. On the bus, I would often be subject to homophobic bullying, and in school, I would be taught by teachers that LGBT+ people should not marry nor adopt.

When other kids would occasionally make fun of me and my mannerisms, being called "gay" always gave me the greatest sense of shame. I did not know what it meant to be gay at the time, but I knew I did not want it. In fact, I would tell myself I was not. I felt different, but I did not know anyone who identified as LGBT+, neither on TV nor in my community. I had no role models, nor did I conceive how anyone identifying as LGBT+ could be one. Whatever being gay "looked like", I knew that, on all accounts, it was something to be avoided. How could anyone want to be gay, when everybody around me made it sound so shameful and humiliating?

Now, after many years, I have come to understand that I had most likely been surrounded by numerous LGBT+ people throughout my whole childhood without even realising it. But they were hiding. The visibility of role models is a particularly challenging topic within our community - our "invisible characteristic" can allow us to be invisible and indistinguishable from anybody else. In fact, why would anyone want to be openly and visibly LGBT+ in an unaccepting environment? But growing up in a world where I could not find people like me made my coming out experience extremely difficult, to the point where coming out to myself became the hardest part of my journey towards acceptance.

It is challenging for a young gay kid growing up in a rural region of Italy to appreciate the importance that his story can make to other LGBT+ people. Now, on the other hand, I do understand what being LGBT+ means, and how being visible can positively affect those around us.