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shifting the conversation

Pride month: Shifting the conversation with Branko Karlezi

Branko shares his journey towards embracing his authentic personal identity despite societal pressures. 

At Sabre, we are committed to embracing and celebrating our diversity. In this inclusion & engagement series, Shifting the Conversation, our people share their stories to engage in open dialog and shed light on their broad, rich and unique perspectives. In celebration of Pride Month, Branko Karlezi, an active member of the Sabre Pride inclusion group, shares his journey towards embracing his authentic personal identity despite societal pressures. Pride is dedicated to establishing Sabre as an organization that meaningfully stands for equality, by visibly engaging in business practices, social issues and outreach programs that are inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.

I was born in Viña del Mar, Chile, a country that hosts the driest desert in the world – Easter Island – millions of lakes, eternal glaciers and even a part of Antarctica. As the longest country in the world, Chile is comprised of exceptional geographic diversity. To illustrate, if Chile were in Europe, it would extend from Norway to near Tunisia, North Africa – a direct flight that would take six hours.

Despite this wonderful geographical diversity, Chile tends to be a classist country. The first question in social circles is, “Which school did you go to?” A way of asking for certification to automatically access contacts that could open doors for your social and professional future. If you pass the first hurdle, the obligatory questions focus on marital status, university attended, neighbourhood of residence or sexual orientation.

I do not seek to portray my beloved country in a bad light, but rather to bring a barrier to discussion that we must overcome as a society. I imagine individuals in every country have their form of “social certification,” which creates a barrier to uniqueness and diversity. I also observed it during my time living in France and Italy.

I believe we wrongly seek out those we find similar to us. Perhaps it seems easier to go through life with opinions that do not confront our values and ideologies.

My grandmother, whom we affectionately refer to as “Nonna,” instilled in me the need to never omit a part of my personality just for the sake of fitting into certain moulds. From my Nonna’s actions and wise words, I learned that life is more enjoyable when we are able to embrace differences and opposing opinions, and value discussions that make real growth possible.

But if we do not enjoy ourselves, if we are not capable of liking ourselves, what is the point of going through life? In my case, being gay, having a personality that tends to be loud and that does not adhere to political correctness were elements I yearned to embrace, rather than suppress.

Being oneself is not easy because the social barriers that make it difficult are present in family, friendships, but also in the workplace. A professional environment that bases its success on diversity does not mean it is a space of respect and where one feels safe. It is much more than that. It is a place that allows you to unlock your full potential because you do not use a single neuron trying to fit in.

This is why I deeply enjoy my space at Sabre. Whether I was based in Milan or London, the teams I have met have accepted who I am and truly valued our differences. To me, Sabre exceeds all expectations of inclusivity. It is the true sense of belonging that creates a genuine relationship between the brand you represent and yourself.

Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,” but he forgot to mention how difficult it is to reach that summit when many people expect you to be not yourself, but more like them. However, when you have tools, such as the unconditional love of those you consider family and a safe work environment where there is no doubt you can be yourself without hiding any part of you, the climb toward peak happiness is much easier.

Sabre is shifting the conversation with stories from passionate and bold inclusion group members. At the heart of our inclusion & engagement efforts, our eight inclusion groups, and counting, aim to amplify the voices of our team members and create a sense of belonging for all. Together, we celebrate diversity, applaud individuality and embrace unique perspectives to empower our global team members to bring their true selves to work every day. Learn more about our inclusion & engagement mission.

about the author

Branko Karlezi is a proud member of the Pride LGBTQ+ inclusion group at Sabre. Branko helps foster our accepting and inclusive company culture in his role on the Global Communications team. 

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