This post was written by my friend Sergio Meloni.

Growing up as a young gay boy hasn’t been easy. Especially when I chose High School, I have been bullied for who I am, and I didn’t know why. And maybe I still have no idea why. I have always felt different, but I thought it was because I was a “geek”. And I didn’t know that being different was a problem until other people started thinking about it as a problem.

Technology helped me during my teenage: I found a way to escape to people’s evil judgment by keeping learning what I loved the most and staying away from short-view people.
But in my perfect plan, there was a problem: I hadn’t a lot of friends, and I was timid. So shy that I was afraid to speak with strangers on the phone.

Then I started university, and my problem got worse. I couldn’t do an exam or attend a lesson without always thinking about the opinions of the people about me.
When people don’t accept your differences and try to repress yourself, you became a prisoner of yourself. That’s where I decided to do something for me for the very first time doing something that the young-me would have never thought to do: I applied for a Microsoft program where I would have to train other students like me. And that was also the first time that I had the chance to meet other students passionate about technology like me. People that only cared for what I have brought to the group.

Microsoft believed in the person I was. And I realized directly on the stage that all the differences I was trying to hide were unique skills that I had to show. And I started to believe in myself too.
I won against my shame of being on the stage. The shame of being not technically prepared. The embarrassment of telling people that I was different, that I was gay.

With this updated version of myself, I started going to technical conferences where I found an inclusive environment. An environment where it doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from or who do you love. Only what you can bring matters. What you can give to the other people.

And I think this is the ultimate goal; when you can share your experience and knowledge without being judged and treated like a human, you can help and include other people as well.
In particular in academic contexts and in technical conferences where the most important thing is what you say instead of who says it.

-Photo by Angela Compagnone on Unsplash