In UNDP I can be me
Meet Frank Garcia, UNDP HR Assistant from the Dominican Republic who shares with us his workplace experiences and the importance of LGBTI+ inclusion.
I am from Puerto Plata, a place with amazing beaches in the Dominican Republic, about 3.30hrs from Santo Domingo and I define myself as a poet, an activist, and planning to write my novel.
I joined UNDP in June 2019 in Santo Domingo. I started to cover a maternity leave with a short-term consultancy and eventually was retained even after the colleague came back from leave. We are a very international team now with colleagues from Chile, Finland and Spain.
I had a different life before joining UNDP.
When I turned 26 years old, is the moment I realized life is too short for not being who you are and for being unhappy. I had a stable job, a stable income, I was what many people in my country would call “a successful man”, fulfilling the wishes of family and enduring the pressure of society. I wasn’t happy, on the contrary, I was suffering from regular anxiety. Mondays for me were terrible, I was just waiting for the weekend until I could be me again. I felt I was never accepted for who I was, I had to conform my hairstyle to everyone else’s, take off the earrings I like to wear, to behave like every other man that grew up in my culture.
It’s not easy being gay in Santo Domingo, it’s still not easy being gay in many places.
So, I chose a different path, decided to teach English for some time and as a psychologist, I gave informal talks to an NGO helping trans women to feel empowered. It started with a chat, and I eventually became a regular support to their projects. I quickly realized that in the process of helping them, I was also helping myself to heal.
While I was there we received visits from various experts and that’s where I met the UNDP Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, how I learnt of UNDP’s work and Diversity team. At that time I was living back in my hometown with my family and decided it was time for me to try, to start pursuing the happiness I knew I could reach. I applied for UNDP and when I was called for the interview, it was the first time I attended feeling “myself”, with my colourful shirts, my long hair and my ear pierced. It was the best interview I ever had. The stepping-stone for me was knowing there were places where all of this wouldn’t matter.
In UNDP I can be “me” without any problem, any related issue, any explanation, any stereotype.
In my role as HR assistant, I help with different aspects of HR. I serve internal clients, listening to the requests of current staff members for contracts, certificates, entitlements, holidays, and policy advice.
Being “successful” for me now is not about having a “good” job, but it’s about being able to support others the way I would have liked to be supported in my past, with empathy and respect.
I feel privileged to work in a place where I can be myself, especially when I see that many of my friends don’t have the same freedom. This awareness is what pushed me to focus more on poetry and to become an activist. I wish to express the reality of being judged all the time for things that are normal. We may co-exist in one environment but “we” are multitudes, we are all different and we owe it to ourselves to bring out that diversity.
In UNDP, the concept of “feeling accepted” doesn’t fully explain how I feel, because acceptance may be conditional or temporary, it’s an assent to something. In UNDP it is different, there is nothing outside of the ordinary to “accept”, I am just me. What’s important is my work, my ideas, my values, not how I look or my sexual orientation.
I learnt a lot from my team, for example, I have a colleague in a wheelchair and she told me about her difficulties of living in a country where most structures are not welcoming for her. We compared experiences and realized in the office we all come as people, as colleagues and we can fight for everyone’s cause.
I shared my passion for writing when the pandemic first hit, when we were asked to describe what it felt like to be home for so long, as a way to connect among ourselves. I remember I was asked for the recording of the session where I shared my thoughts and when we went back to the office, colleagues kept asking in the hallways how my poetry was going. So, I decided to start posting on YouTube and become more active on social platforms. My colleagues helped me feel empowered. I also perform regularly in an open mic of poetry in my hometown. I share thoughts about being gay in my society, about family struggles, about accepting what you don’t understand.
Mine is just one voice, but the work we do at UNDP, towards Diversity & Inclusion, is important to reach everyone, not just people in big cities because capitals don’t define a whole country’s culture. We need to raise awareness everywhere, in the provinces, in small towns, making sure that everyone knows, that 2022 is about human rights, is about change, is our present and is happening now.
In UNDP I understood it’s not utopic to have a better world, to not leave anyone behind. The more we share these experiences, these personal stories, the more we re-think of the whole concept of education, the more we listen to people, the more people won’t be left behind.
UNDP for me is growth, it’s about connecting humans, remembering that strength is not being different, it is being true to yourself.