When I moved to Canada from Jamaica, I was struck by how different everything was—the cold winter, the accents—it was all new to me.
When I got here, I remembered what my parents would always say to me: excellence is a great equalizer. At the time, I believed that to be true even for a Black person or a closeted gay person.
Jamaica is very homophobic. People in my community were shunned if they were suspected of being gay. I grew up as an altar boy and looking back, I realize how mentally tough I was.
I finally saw light at the end of the tunnel when my parents decided to move to Canada in search of a better life. Deep down, I knew that was my ticket to freedom!
Gaining acceptance for myself didn’t happen overnight. I had my own journey of self-discovery. After arriving in Canada, I still felt ashamed about who I was and continued to live a dual life. Throughout university, I lived in Brampton with my folks and took the GO Train back and forth to Ryerson, graduating with a bachelor of commerce in 1999. When I got a job in diversity and inclusion at TD Bank, I eventually came out to my colleagues before coming out to my family and friends. In a way, I became a new person then.
I was hired by the bank in 2005 to create its community relations program, building the brand in diverse communities. I helped launch TD's first same-sex couple ad in mainstream media. Despite a lot of backlash, we stood firm in our principles, which helped us become a leader in this space.
Eventually, I led the creation of TD’s LGBTQ2+ customer strategy that brought the company recognition as a leader in the financial industry across North America. As a result, I was promoted to the executive ranks to further help the organization evolve other diverse customer segments.
In my current role (associate vice-president, sales and strategy and head of LGBTQ2+ business development at TD Wealth), I’m grateful that I can lean in and use my authentic voice because of the support of my leaders. I take every chance I get at the leadership table to discuss diversity and inclusion. Not everyone has the opportunity or the environment to make a difference. My job is to make sure that we authentically embed diversity and inclusion here. As exemplified in my case, the Black experience and the LGBTQ2+ experience is unique.
Recently, I’ve had many conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement and have been involved in educating my colleagues. It has been especially important to support our Black employees during these traumatic times.
We’ve made a lot of progress, but there is still more work to be done. I feel very lucky for the support I have in my personal and professional circle. I want people to be intentional in their actions, use their platform and privilege to make impactful change and help dismantle systemic racism. I remain hopeful about our ongoing fight.
—Interview by Tiffany Mongu, Journalism ’20