“I was never for a moment asking for anyone to accept me,” Taciana explains. “I did, and always will, [want] everyone to respect us. You might not, for whatever reason, accept me. But you will respect me.”
For Taciana, the information comes out casually during the first part of any interview. She is careful not to delay it. She knows when talking to employers she must be smart and engaging, and market herself well.
And she is mentally prepared for whatever outcome when telling potential employers about her family: she has been married to her wife, Fernanda, for seven years and lives near her adult children in New York. Coming out to friends, family, and potential employers is something Taciana said was a learned behavior.
“There was a lot of anxiety…it’s a completely different ballgame when you immigrate to a new country,” Taciana says. “You don’t fully comprehend the business culture, how people interact. Each country has its own rules about engagement. We were kind of afraid of that.”
Taciana, 53, and her wife immigrated to the U.S. from Brazil in 2015, first settling in California before moving to New York in September 2021. For the couple, the move was the culmination of years-long stints back and forth between the two countries. Taciana previously lived in the U.S. while pursuing her degree specialization in business administration at California State University, East Bay; and again with her now ex-husband, with whom she had twins—a boy and a girl she named Pedro and Mariana.
Taciana and her husband always appreciated and valued experiences with other cultures. They knew early on that their transient lifestyle wouldn’t be easy for their children, but they were also confident that experiences with other communities and cultures would ensure that they grew up respectful, open-minded and tolerant.
“When my kids were fifteen years old,” Taciana says, “I said to them, ‘You know, I think now is a good time for you to leave the nest and have new experiences outside of Brazil.’” After the children completed primary and middle school in Brazil, the family moved to Montréal and enrolled the twins in a Canadian high school, eventually returning to California.
But her life soon drastically changed. Divorced from her husband and separated from her children, who remained in the U.S., Taciana returned to Brazil to work at a law firm. It was there that she met Fernanda, a coworker with whom she shared many interests. Until this point, Taciana had never been publicly out of the closet or addressed her romantic interest in women with friends and family, much less with her colleagues. But as they became closer, Taciana realized that Fernanda shared her feelings, and they began seeing each other romantically in secret.
“When I met my wife at our workplace, neither of us was open, neither of us was out. That, of course, as you can imagine, added a lot of pressure,” Taciana explains. “There were issues around the workplace; you never knew how people would react.”
After falling in love with Fernanda, Taciana was faced with a decision: remain in Brazil and continue hiding their relationship, or move as a pair to the United States, where they could be closer to her children and finally share their love in the open. But that meant coming out to her two grown children, with whom she had never previously discussed her sexuality.
“I had to have a good conversation and prepare the environment [for them] so that they could understand, you know, first and foremost that I was happy, which is the most important thing that you can have—happiness, no matter who the person beside you is,” Taciana says. “Also, my family, my parents, come from another generation. So I also had to think, OK, how am I going to present that?”
Not long after arriving in the U.S. and coming out to her family in 2015, Taciana and Fernanda married. “We were living here, and in 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court made [gay marriage] the law of the land. We decided to marry here, kind of to celebrate what it meant for us.”
But once the sound of wedding bells faded, the couple soon faced another hurdle: finding professional jobs in the United States. When Taciana and Fernanda relocated to New York, they were pleasantly surprised with how easy it seemed to find work. However, many of the jobs that were available did not align with their education levels or skill sets.
“We would spend all day long searching online, trying to contact people,” Taciana says. “But when we found Upwardly Global, they certainly helped us a lot. Working with a job coach was super-informative, but also put us at ease. To have a personal mentorship was key, because you had someone who could certainly empathize, so you felt less alone. They knew how I felt; they knew my fears and anxieties, and what was going through my mind. This was important, to simply have someone who knew what I was going through.”
Taciana and Fernanda both found jobs within three or four months of working with Upwardly Global.]
“There was a moment for both of us, actually, where we were fortunate enough to have two or three offers on the table from companies that were really interested [in hiring us],” says Taciana. “That was surprising, because when you are going to a new country, immigrating, it’s funny, because you feel relieved just to be there—‘I reached my goal to be here.’ But at the same time, there are so many questions in your mind. It’s a bittersweet moment, because you are ready to celebrate, but you also know you have so much farther to go in your journey.”
Now working as the marketing and communications manager at Accenture, primarily with its Corporate Citizenship Program, Taciana is proud to be able to lift up the stories of other immigrants like herself.
“We should absolutely strive to bring down all the barriers and prejudices and stereotypes that affect all minorities, or those who are perceived as minorities—so that goes for LGBTQ people, refugees and women,” she says.
“My main goal is to keep trying to make a difference in somebody’s life, [whether] personally or professionally. I’m still new to this country, so I am still meeting new people, making new friends, and trying to learn how to be a part of this community. I will always learn something and, humbly, I believe that I can teach something: about my country, about my culture. That’s what makes life rich!”
Taciana Mello spoke at Upwardly Global’s recent public board meeting, and provides guidance for LGBTQ jobseekers in the workplace.