My name is AJ [pronounced Ay-jay], and I’m an out and proud Optus employee.

My pronouns are they/them, and I’m also a proud member of the Rainbow community.

I’ve recently come out to my friends, family, and work colleagues as a non-binary person. I’ve never really felt comfortable in my skin. Sometimes I’d think it was to do with my weight. At other times I’d feel like it was to do with what was or wasn’t between my legs. Then there have been the times I’ve thought I might be transgender, coupled with the thought it was just a phase. But honestly, I’m learning new things about myself every day. Ultimately, I’m me, just like you’re you. Society’s expectations can be grand and foreboding when you’re part of the Rainbow Community!

Why am I talking about this, you may ask? Because Sydney WorldPride is bringing amazing experiences to our shores, and as a non-binary person and lifetime member of the Rainbow community, I’m freakin’ excited that Australia is taking steps in the right direction for equality! But don’t let that excitement fool you. I still think we’ve got a long way to go.

Over the years in my personal life, I’ve participated in multiple Sydney Mardi Gras events. I’ve spent time in Melbourne for Midsumma, and I’ve even been to a couple of Big Gay Day’s in Brisbane. Throughout my extensive career in customer service, I’ve helped large corporations like Optus establish and grow their employee networks to support their Rainbow people. One thing that has always remained consistent in my experiences has been the energy and love of our chosen family. It’s an energy and love that I wish more people had readily available to them.

I truly believe that Sydney WorldPride will bring that energy and love from around the world to Australia! It’s our time to shine, and SHINE, WE WILL!

For those like myself who haven’t been able to celebrate WorldPride in other countries, the experience of being able to do so in Sydney will be amazing! All the people! All the parties! All the love! All the RAINBOWS! ALL THE GLITTER!!!

But we must remember that it’s not all just one big party. The history of the Rainbow community is full of dark twists and turns. It’s important that people learn and remember their Queer History. Not just in Australia – but all over the world.

The still rather recent events of the Marriage Equality debate in Australia have been some of the darkest times for the Australian Rainbow community. Imagine waking up every day and seeing signs all over the place saying “it’s OK to vote no” to you being able to love the person you want to love and show that to the world by marrying them. That’s what we went through… I personally wasn’t thinking of myself at that time – I, like many of the older generations in the Rainbow community, was thinking about the younger members of the community who were facing this sort of public prejudice for the first time.

Prejudice still exists in so many ways, both inside and outside the Rainbow community; today, I challenge you to look at ways you may have shown prejudice and re-visit that to make a positive change.

Celebrations like Sydney WorldPride shine the light on the Rainbow community and show that we are here and we are amazing! We are loved, and we are important!

The knowledge and history I’ve been exposed to from my experiences in life as a member of the Rainbow community has shaped me into who I am today, and I wouldn’t change any of it; I use it to continue shaping who I am.

One of my favourite quotes about diversity comes from Japanese philosopher Daisaku Ikeda: “The differences between people need not act as barriers that wound, harm and drive us apart. Rather, these very differences among cultures and civilizations should be valued as manifestations of the richness of our shared creativity.” We need to celebrate each other inside and outside the Rainbow community!

Throughout this, you’ve heard me refer to the “Rainbow community”. I refer to the LGBTQIA+ community as the Rainbow community because it’s just that – not one colour or one voice, but a plethora of bold ideas and beings. Always open, ever growing and evolving, not caring for the fixed and formulaic. The community brings you in and lifts you up, no matter how you fit.

At Optus, we want to champion this ‘yes’ attitude as the ultimate superpower. We want to prove the potential of listening to diverse voices and everything they have to say. Because when we do that, the best things happen.

It starts with stepping up and showing the power of representation so that the next generation of Rainbow people can step out and up as their most confident selves.

I’m a proud member of the Optus family. I’m a proud member of the Rainbow community. I’ve never been happier to have said yes – and I’m over the moon that Sydney said YES to WorldPride. See you at the celebrations!