Monday, June 8, 2015

Florin Helf: Pride Embodied

Florin Helf

Most people have a general understanding of the word pride. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pride as “a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people” and “a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.” Florin Helf not only understands the true meaning of pride, but he embodies and radiates its essence: Passion, Respect, Inclusion, Determination, and Eternal Gratitude.

Passion:

Florin Helf is a 23-year-old charismatic person with an amazing story that he tells with the same passion that has displayed in his life. He was a Romanian orphan until he was 7 and ½ years old. Adopted by American parents, Don and Linda Helf, Florin moved to Ohio where his excitement for a new life allowed him to quickly assimilate into a culture so different from the one in which he was born: “I wanted to learn the language as quickly as possible. I didn’t want to feel ostracized. After one year, I spoke fluent English.”

Around the age of 11, Florin realized that he was gay, but kept it to himself: “At first I tried to hide and deny these feelings that I thought were wrong. That didn’t work, so my solution was to join every group and attain leadership roles.” Florin thrived academically and was extremely involved in extracurricular activities through high school, while he simultaneously helped manage his father’s art gallery and supply store. Florin then attended his freshman year of college at Ashland University in Ohio: “I went to college in hopes to come out and in hopes to be free,” he said.  During this year, Florin made the decision to tell his parents that he was gay.

A young Florin with his father Don

Respect

Florin talks about his parents with such a high level of love and respect. He said that in hiding who he was, he was distancing himself from his parents, and he felt that keeping the truth from them was a dishonor. Unfortunately, Florin’s parents had a difficult time with this truth, and their relationship with him became strained. The situation did not improve later that year when he told them he wanted to transfer to Ohio State University. His parents told him he would have to do it on his own; so Florin got a partial scholarship, took out a loan, got a job, found an apartment, and moved to Columbus, Ohio. “I was finally taking the wheel of my own life,” he stated.

In Columbus, Florin joined every LGBT group he could find, developing a real love for networking in the process: “I finally felt secure with myself, and I finally got to know who it was that I had been hiding all of my life. That is where I got my love for LGBT businesses and LGBT organizations,” Florin said.

Inclusion

“I wanted to give back. I wanted to understand what it was to live as a proud gay man, and be a force for equality,” Florin stated.

After his sophomore year, an opportunity to intern for Gindi Theatrical Management, a New York City Broadway production company, had Florin packing his bags once again. His love for business eventually led him to his current job at Barney’s New York. Meanwhile, his love for inclusion brought him to the NGLCCNY. In his role as NGLCCNY Chamber Ambassador, Florin serves as a host, greeter and liaison for members and corporate partners at chamber events.

Florin is incredibly appreciative of his relationships with chamber members Erin Geoghegan, Smith Banfield, Derrick Brown, and Richard Oceguera, who took him under their wings from the beginning: “I felt like I was part of the family,” he said.

He is also involved in organizations like Next Gen Trevor Project, American Ballet Junior Council, Live Out Loud, Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids, and the Ali Forney Center, and works hard to introduce them to the NGLCCNY.

Determination

“My mission has always been to educate, support and give back to the LGBT community,” Florin stated. Florin’s determination recently led him back to Romania to not only revisit and understand the place he was born, but also to start his personal project: Romania Unscripted.

I created the Facebook community, Romania Unscripted, to share my personal quest to reclaim my Romanian heritage, but also and with great pride, showcase the critical works of the LGBT and NGO organizations on the ground in Romania, its surreal landscapes, and the extraordinary people I met on my journey.”

Florin met with Remus Cernea: a Romanian politician, LGBT activist, advocate for the separation of Church and State, and founder of the Solidarity for Freedom of Conscience Association. “Meeting him was quite an honor,” Florin said.

Florin also met with an official from an LGBT organization called ACCEPT in Bucharest, Romania, who also owns the only Romanian gay nightclub in the city.  He said he was honored to meet the director and staff of Viitorul Tinerilor, which combats many issues including sexual orientationThe representation for the LGBT community is incredibly small and underfunded. Hearing the stories from these extraordinary LGBT leaders was a truly humbling experience, and I hope to help them in any way possible,” Florin said.

Romania

Eternal Gratitude

“My biggest takeaway from going back to Romania was just one of undeniable gratitude. Having seen the issues that the LGBT community is facing, and having gotten the full scope of what my life could have been like in Romania as an orphan, I now know the true value of the gratefulness I have to my parents, my family, and the many friends that have helped me become the person I am today,” Florin reflected.

He said his relationship with his parents has improved immensely from a renewed foundation of love, kindness, and mutual respect.

For Florin, his incredible journey is one toward not only Pride, but also genuine happiness…and this is only the beginning.





Written by Ashley Bellman,
Corporate Journalist, Media Communications Committee.

If you'd like to be featured in one of our upcoming communications, please contact me at ashley@nglccny.org

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