Céline Béland remembers when her two children came out as gay in 2011 and 2012.
When they first told her, she was shocked. She now says she shouldn’t have been so surprised.
“When my husband and I go back in memories, we realize it was really there,” she says.
Béland is the general manager of Sodexo at the University of King’s College and has recently become a executive member with Sodexo’s Equity Diversity Pride. She is the first and only representative from the Maritimes.
She decided to join the Pride committee in November after hearing a touching testimony from another Sodexo employee at a conference in Toronto. This inspired her to use her experience as a parent with two gay children to help people.
This position offers Béland the chance to achieve her goal – ensuring people are comfortable coming out to their families.
Béland admits the process was challenging at first for her, but that she quickly adapted. Her son Mick says she was hugely supportive of him and his sister Jessica when they came out.
“She never treated it as a choice,” he says. “It made everything that much easier.”
As a mother, Béland ensured her children knew they were loved after they came out. When anyone asked questions, she answered by telling them they were an ‘all-dressed’ family.
Mick says this title works for his family.
“She found a way to put a name to our family, because we’re different. We’re a bag of all sorts of different flavours,” he says.
Béland is excited to begin working with the rest of the committee. She has worked for over 30 years at Sodexo, and says it makes sense why the company partners with Pride. She says Sodexo has always welcomed people from various racial, religious, and social backgrounds.
Daughter Jessica is extremely proud of Béland and the way she’s embracing diversity. Jessica says this position offers her mother the chance to help people come out.
“It means so much to Mom to help other parents be accepting,” she says.
New role and duties
Sodexo, which has 10,000 employees in the country across a range of service sectors, calls itself “one of Canada’s most diverse companies.” Its website calls diversity and inclusion an “imperative” in its corporate mission.
The committee has 12 members, including Céline. Its members come from various regions across the country. Each member has a different role, but they all relate to Pride.
Sodexo also partners with Pride at Work Canada. According to Sodexo’s website, the partnership is to “champion an environment of acceptance” for all LGBT and allied employees “through employee engagement, community involvement, education and awareness.”
The role and its duties have not been completely laid out yet, but Béland will be participating in her first conference call this week.
She is eager to begin her work with the rest of the committee.
It is important to Béland that people are comfortable coming out so they can live their lives as who they really are.
“Just be yourself, and be proud of yourself,” she says, “and then you will develop a passion for everything around you.”