Category: testimonial, LGBT, LGBT event, Testimonials, Leading LGBT Organisation, Lgbt diversity, LGBT Community, Capita, Business Services, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, National Coming Out Day
Today is National Coming Out Day, a day founded to raise awareness of civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Founded in the US in 1988, it’s also observed in Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK. To celebrate, we’ve asked employees from around the business to share their coming out experiences with us.
Coming out itself was one of the scariest and hardest things I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic as I dreaded it could have been. I was 25 when I finally came out to everyone in my life as gay. There was no pivotal moment or life-changing event that made me finally come out after waiting so long, but when I finally did, it was a turning point and everything in my life changed for the better – my mental health improved, my relationships with family and friends became stronger and more open, my self-confidence sky-rocketed, and my sense of hope was clearer than it had ever been before. For the first time, I felt optimistic about my future and happy that I was finally living my life how I wanted to.
There’s no right or wrong way to come out, all we can do is what feels right for us at the time but I’m so fortunate to have family and friends who support me and just want the best for me. I also feel proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Be confident when you tell people – in my experience of coming out both in the workplace and in my personal life, hinting or dancing around the idea can seem like an easy option, but it can cause uncertainties and it’s better to be as open as you can be. Coming out at work can pose a different set of challenges to coming out in your personal life, so don’t feel pressured if you are just not ready. I am personally only out to a small group of my colleagues because that’s what feels most comfortable for me. For me, being out in any environment – even if it’s only to a small group of people – gives me confidence in myself, and that improved self-confidence benefits my work.
I came out as transgender before I came out as bi. I first came out in my second year of university, after being introduced to the university LGBTQ+ society and learning that this was actually a thing that existed – that being trans wasn’t restricted to caricatures and the punch line of a sit com. I didn’t grow up in the most diverse or accepting of towns. Seeing the treatment the gay kid got at school was enough to drive me deeper and deeper into the closet.
I don’t want to drop the cliché that I always knew something was wrong, because I didn’t really. I was just depressed, anxious and wanted nothing to do with anyone. All in all, when I came out, it went down fine – my mum was scared for my safety and my dad was in denial for a little while – but both of them assured me I was accepted. Now I’m less depressed, much less anxious and actually don’t mind people so much anymore.
My top tip – don’t come out as transgender at a homophobic/transphobic pub quiz on a work outing! Do it casually, not heatedly or under pressure.
Following my “main” coming out aged 25, I tend to let the coming out happen by itself, by the use of pronouns when talking about my partner. An exception to this was with a new manager I had a while ago, who, hearing that I liked Sophie Ellis-Bextor, proceeded for several days to imply that I fancied the singer. It got to the point that, while humorous, it was starting to be uncomfortable for some of my colleagues (to be honest, the innuendoes mostly passed me by!). I ended up having to have ‘that chat’ with her, which, to this day, is possibly the only time I’ve actually had to sit someone down to make my announcement. After being very embarrassed and apologetic, she was obviously fine with it!
My advice would be not to stress about coming out at work. In the UK in 2019, it’s likely that people will be open and understanding and your coming-out will be a non-issue. If not, remember that is their problem and that you are not at fault – your colleagues, manager and HR will always fight your corner.
It’s an odd concept, ‘coming out’. Those of us that find ourselves ‘coming out’ find that it isn’t a one-off event, rather an ongoing process that continues through life. I came out again only three days ago at a conference. I’d hit it off with a director of a housing trust; we were discussing the future of housing, the benefits of landscape and designed place and the needs of communities. We talked about our need to balance work and family, the demands of having young children. I suddenly felt awkward. A tightness formed in my gut. This whole conversation had taken place under her preconceived notion that at home my partner was my husband (by judgement of the ring on my finger). Over the many occasions that I have come out I’ve learnt to deal with this passively; a quick reference to my wife generally does it; ‘Oh yes, my wife has term time only, it makes life much easier’, I reply. The tightness dispelled; however, out of the corner of my eye I was looking for her discomfort, her judgement, her being repelled. It didn’t happen, and we moved on.
We hope you’re inspired by the stories shared by our colleagues this National Coming Out Day. One final piece of advice from Sophie, “Take it at whatever pace feels right, be proud and unapologetic about who you are.”