Successful Hispanic Google Product Manager Michael Sayman Reflects On How 'Coming Out' Changed His Life
Before his 22 birthday last summer, Michael Sayman made the life-changing decision of coming out. The Google product manager, of Peruvian and Bolivian descent, talked to People en Español exclusively on his birthday last August and announced to the world that he was in a happy relationship with another man. Almost a year later, he is still in love with Drake Garner and Sayman assures he has no regrets about coming out. “What helped me the most was taking the jump and saying: ‘Who cares what the world thinks?',” he tells People CHICA. “I felt that there was this pressure on me that would weigh me down, and after that moment it let me and Drake just live, it just felt normal.”
Although he was afraid that his traditional Hispanic parents would reject him, they have embraced both him and his boyfriend with open loving arms. “They love him maybe too much!”, he jokes about his parents approval of his life partner. Sayman's parents have also changed their overall attitudes about the LGBTQ community. They now turn cold when if their conservative friends make a gay joke over dinner and speak up against it, where they would go along before and not refute it. “I feel like I can be more honest about myself with them,” he adds about his mom and dad. “My mom says she sees me happier than she has ever seen me.”
The software engineer —who became a millionaire as a teen by creating apps and previously worked for Facebook—has always been approached by Latinx youth who see him as a role model and he is thrilled to say that they still reach out to him after coming out. “Most kids and parents still reach out to me,” he says of teens who look up to him. “A couple of parents said: ‘My son is gay and you inspired him. I feel so proud that he is able to have an example of someone who is too.' If you don't see a lot of people who are like you in the roles you dream of being in, there is a chance that you will feel that they aren't for you.”
Sayman sees that coming out was also positive for his relationship with Garner. The couple recently traveled to Europe on a cruise, visiting Spain, France and Italy. Although they are more free now to hold hands and show affection in public, Sayman admits that there are still some stares from people in the street, especially at attraction parks. “If we hold hands, people will give us weird looks, they will whisper to each other,” he says. “It's not like they're hurting us, but when every single person that you walk by at a theme park does that two-second glance, you feel like the whole world is staring at you.” He hopes that changes over time for same-sex couples. “I would rather people not look at us like we are some strange animals in a zoo.”
Accepting himself and not judging his own feelings was the first step. “For the longest time this part of me that was attracted to guys felt like a weird thing that wasn't normal, and the moment I came out and my family told me: ‘Congrats, we are so proud of you,' that all changed,” he recalls. “It was the opposite of what I expected. I felt so much more calm about it.” Sayman's friends and coworkers also fully support him. “At Google, everyone is so open and friendly, it's almost like it wasn't even a thing, it wasn't an issue at all,” he says. Reactions on his social media where mostly positive. “Of my Latin American followers, there were a handful, maybe two people, who said: ‘I'm unfollowing you and this is against God,' but most were very supportive.”
Sayman realizes that every ‘coming out' story is different. “It's a tough situation. If there is a kid who lives in an area where he feels he is not safe or his parents might hurt him, in my opinion those are situations where you have to be more careful and maybe see a school counselor or someone you can feel more safe talking to about it, especially if you feel like you're in a dangerous situation,” he says.
However, in his case, it was the best decision. “To me it was the most liberating thing, it's made me so much calmer, so much happier,” he concludes. “It disarms me, it disarms people around me and my family and friends have learned so much about how we can be more sensitive and empathetic to other people who are going through this.”