Real Estate Entrepreneur and Family Man Harma Hartouni Shares ‘What Pride Means to Me’
Harma Hartouni’s story is one of survival, resilience and overcoming odds. He was raised in Iran, where being gay was punishable by death, and where he was subjected to abuse and bullying before a near-death accident left him unable to walk. And even when he moved to the United States he was an outcast, a gay Middle Eastern man who couldn’t speak English and was on food stamps while financially supporting his mother and siblings.
But oh, how things have changed. Today Harma Hartouni is one of the country’s most successful real estate entrepreneurs, employing hundreds of residential and commercial agents in Southern California, where he calls home. He’s now happily married, and he and his husband share a beautiful family of three children. And he’s documented his life’s story for all to read in the book Getting Back Up: A Story of Resilience, Self-Acceptance & Success.
Hornet asked the man behind this inspirational life story to share his thoughts on the meaning and personal significance of Pride and Pride Month. Here’s what he had to say.
“What Pride Means to Me” by Harma Hartouni
My very first Pride I did not go. A couple of friends invited me, but I refused to go with them. I feared that I would see people I knew and would be uncomfortable because I had not come out yet.
I celebrated my actual first Pride with my partner after coming out three or four years before. I felt comfortable but was overwhelmed with the variety and diversity of people I saw. I thought I was going to see people that looked like me, talked like me, acted like me but instead found everyone very open and from all different walks of life. I had never hung out with lesbians, but they were there and I also saw so much straight support.
Although there’s a big difference between now and 15-20 years ago. I could party like that then but would not share with my family I was going. It was something that I just did and didn’t talk about.
Since then, Pride has changed for me because of how we celebrate. We used to travel to a few cities each year to participate, and some of our friends still do. We don’t have the flexibility anymore to do that because of our family.
My struggles with a conservative culture and family have impacted and influenced Pride for me in such a way that we celebrate with family and friends who have been supportive of us and our family. There have been times where we have skipped it because our schedule just hasn’t allowed for it.
Thinking about Pride and our family, I had an interesting conversation with our kids a few days ago. They said, “We are very, very proud right?” and I said “Yes”. Then they asked “Proud of what? We’re just proud.” My response was “Yes.” Then the kids asked “What is gay?” You would think by now they would know the difference, but they don’t. I told them it’s two men or two women and that our straight friends support us and we support them. Then the really tough question was asked, or so I thought. “Do all straight people support gay people?” I said “Well, not really.” They said, “Well, we like our gay dads. Can we go play on the iPads now?”
My parting words for Pride Month are to have a safe and happy month. Take time to celebrate with the people who accept, love and support you because there were many people, many years ago who could not tell the people that they loved who they were.