Coming out often happens in stages. We tend to tell different people/groups at different times. Friends and family are often the first ones but there will come a prime when you will ask yourself “should I come out at work?”. This is tough question to answer because your sexuality is a personal thing and for many people they want to keep their private lives separate from their professional lives. However no work place is except from personal questions such as you seeing someone etc and this can create pressure that you don’t need at work. There is no perfect answer for everyone. You have to make that decision yourself based on different factors and if you do come out only do it when you are ready to and not because of pressure from others.
Making My Decision
I made the decision to come out at work because I wanted to stop hiding who I was. I spend most of my time sat alongside my work colleagues and I realised that but being open about sexuality meant I wasn’t being a true self most of my time even though I had come out to family and friends. I have some good friends at work and this small group of people were some of the first people I told I was gay (even before my parents). I didn’t tell them as work colleagues though I told them as friends. Once I had told my parents and some other friends I then made the decision to tell everyone. I did that through this blog and then let others pass it on. I know they did this because my views for that blog post went through the roof in the first few days after I posted it. I was nervous going into work that first day after posting the blog as I wasn’t sure who exactly had seen it (still don’t) and if they would say anything to me or not. Shortly after getting into the office a colleague came up to me and said well done and then went to their desk. It was an odd feeling I was still at the stage where I got surprised with people knowing and some friends at work who saw this also looked a bit shocked and not sure how to react either. They soon realised I was OK with it and they didn’t have to jump to my defence. The thing is I had already made that call in my head that it was safe for me to come out at work. Although you never know how people will react when you come out I did know that I had a good support network from friends at work and that the organisation I worked for was very good for diversity and equality issues.
Being Out At Work
After I came out at work it made me think about what support I could get from my organisation and for the first time I had questions about my career and sexuality. I found out that my place of work has a staff LGBT network and I e-mailed them to ask to join the mainline list. I got a lovely reply back and I started relieving e-mails about social events. I really wanted to go to one but I was finding it a big leap to do. Although I had come out and had been on dates with guys I only knew a couple of other gay people and had never really talked about LGBT issues. I kept saying I would attend a meeting and then changed my mind at the last-minute each time (I’m really sorry to the guy who was running the network). Finally in December 2011 I went to my social event with the network. I was pushed my a friend at work who said they wouldn’t speak to me if I didn’t. I had a couple of hours before a staff Christmas Party so I decided to go for an hour. I’m so pleased I did as it was really relaxed and we just chatted about work stuff really. I realised that being part of the network wasn’t only a good way to learn about what was happening regarding LGBT issues in the organisation I work for but a great way to meet new people and make new friends.
Being A Role Model
As part of the network I attended meetings in my own time with other members of the network and staff from the Diversity team to work on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. I was thrilled that my organisation was getting invoked with this as it sent out a really strong supportive message to all staff about the organisations commitment to equality. Later in that year I had to write-up my annual staff review and I realised that I probably should mention my involvement in the network. At this stage I had been out for over a year and I comfortable with my sexuality but if I am honest I still had reservations about mentioning it on my form. I redid this part of my annual staff review so many times. I would put it in then take it out and then put it in then take out. Finally I decided what the hell I was putting it in. Yes it meant I would discuss it with my line manager and more senior members of staff would see it but I actually wanted them to. I knew they would want to know as well and by me mentioning it I was opening up that channel of dialogue for the future if it was needed. It turned out to be a good decision and it was a turning point for me as a person. I realised that although my sexuality is not an issue with me doing my job I had an extra responsibility that had slipped my mind. I was a role model. I have a responsibility to show I can be myself and be open about my sexuality and be treated exactly the same as everyone else. I know this sounds silly and this should be the case anyway but remember society still has some way to go in acceptance of sexuality. For some people I work with I was the only openly gay person they knew and now they had someone they could ask about LGBT things. I hope I am a good role model to colleagues and friends and I am always happy to find time to discuss things with them, whether that is my thoughts on a documentary or offering advice to them on how to support a friend or family member or simply discussing the finer points of certain celebrities. Nobody is perfect and I am sure I have made mistakes but I have just put that down to experience.
The Benefits of Coming Out At Work
I have been out for over 3 years now and I am now in a good place. I have a career I am passionate about and I am now invoked in the running of the Staff LGBT Network where I work. Before coming out I was a mess physically and mentally and those close to me saw me at my lowest point in my life. My health, wellbeing and performance at work were all suffering. Within days of coming out a friend said to me “it is nice to see you looking so happy and for the first time I see the real you and the weight on your shoulders has gone”. That is why coming out is the best decision you can make in your life. Yes it is scary and it is a big deal but you will realise it is the best thing to do. There is no right way to do it and no perfect moment to do it just do it when you are ready. I realise I am very lucky as I have had great support from friends and family and work in a place where I felt safe to come out. I know not everyone will have this experience but I would say you should still come out. You have people in your life who will support you. They might not be the people you think of straight away but they are already in your life and there are more for you to meet. So although today is National Coming Out Day don’t feel you have to make an announcement today but use today to think about your sexuality. You have to come out to yourself before you come out to anyone else.
Here are some tips/advice if you are thinking about coming out to friends or family or even at work
- Tell someone you trust first. Telling the first person is tough and scary but it makes the next step easier I promise you.
- Do it when you are ready but at the same time don’t leave it too long. It won’t go away and you can only push it to the back of your head so many times.
- When you are ready to come out make sure you are the one telling people direct. This is you opening up the avenue for dialogue in the future. They will want to talk to you about things and may be unsure how to say it if you haven’t been the one to tell them.
- Test the water with friends and family. Talk about LGBT related stories, movies, TV shows etc.
- See if your place of work has a Staff LGBT Network. Even if you are not out they can help you find people to talk to about your sexuality in a confidential and safe environment.
- Talk to someone you know who is out. All those questions and doubts and feelings you are having they have had too. You never have to go through this alone.
I have put a playlist together of songs that you may find useful when thinking about your sexuality
Katy B – Crying For No Reason
Antony & The Johnsons – Hope Theres Someone
Cast of Avenue Q – If You Were Gay
CeCe Peniston – Finally
Diana Ross – I’m Coming Out
Emeli Sande – Read All About It II
Fergie – Big Girls Don’t Cry
REO Speedwagon – Can’t Fight This Feeling
Katy Perry – Firework
Lady Gaga – Born This Way
Cyndi Lauper – True Colors
Michael Jackson – Man In The Mirror
Jeff Marx – You Have More Friends Than You Know
Idina Menzel – Let It Go
Idina Menzel – Defying Gravity
Jodi Benson – Part Of Your World
John Barrowman – I Am What I Am
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love
Steve Grand – All American Boy
For more information and advice about coming out then why not visit the following websites.