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Working On Coming Out

Mar 20, 2015

I am not one for labels but let’s just consider me a baby-gay, or a ‘baygay’ as my American counterparts would call me. I have been dating women for less than a year – so please excuse any clichés.
It’s been a big learning curve, but a mostly happy and exciting one at that. Coming out for me is an ongoing process as it is for many. I am afraid I didn’t throw a big-fat-I’m-gay-party, although it seems like a very good excuse for a shin-dig. I viewed the act itself as more of a step in the individual relationships I held. And I suppose I let people know pretty soon after I had an inkling, for which I will explain my reasoning later.
The first people I ‘came out’ to, were at work.
I recently watched this TED talk in which Morgana Bailey (feature image), a successful Financial HR Exec, came out for the first time to a packed auditorium (including some of her unknowing colleagues) after 16 years of silence.
She references a Deloitte survey that reveals 61% of employees claim to change an aspect of their behaviour or appearance to assimilate into the workplace. And most poignantly for this article, 83% of LGBTQ employees did just that so they wouldn’t appear ‘too gay’.
These facts make me feel unbelievably fortunate to work where I do. I have always avoided conformity, and opting for silence would almost certainly work against my desire to hold my own and adhere to the person that my employers had initially hired.
To quote Morgana, “it wasn’t necessarily a case of hiding the fact that I am gay; the more imposing issue was that I would be hiding who I am and whom I was becoming”.
So down to the numerous events themselves… There was no flinching. There was no awkwardness. It was unbelievably relaxed, and I would say the lack of these preempted reactions are paramount to the self-confidence I hold in myself today. They provided me with a platform to face and overcome the bigger personal hurdles: telling my oldest friends, my parents, and hardest of all, my ex boyfriend.
I take a lot of pride in my professional work, and knowing the direct correlation between my personal situation and my performance, I saw silence could act as a threat to the latter. It’s an alien feeling to hold back information that makes you happy, and like any foreign emotion – it takes up a fair amount of energy to digest and decipher. That energy could be spent addressing everyday conundrums. And in the longer term it should be spent on my professional progression and ultimate development into a more valued member of the organisation.
I completely appreciate that industries differ hugely in their ways of culture and social expectancies. And being in a less corporate and creative industry, where freedom of expression and the importance of buying into people rather than a processed service, is held paramount, I cannot deny that this has stood me in good stead. Integrity is a quality that is valued in any walk of life, and I feel that this in itself cannot be ignored when weighing up whether to speak.
Don’t get me wrong, I do get asked the slightly irksome ‘what do you label yourself as,’ ‘sooo… are you more into girls now?’ and occasionally I will parrot the same rather tedious answers back. But this is nothing to complain about. My integrity is still held intact, and in my eyes, that is all that matters.
Each case is different of course, but what I can take from my experience is that I could not imagine spending most of my waking hours in a workplace which is not characterised by inclusion. After all, the very value of diversity includes all talent. Who doesn’t want to work with the best cats around? Both of these values should be at the heart, rather than on the fringes, of an organisation’s internal ethos.
My colleagues are totally accountable for this continually positive path I skate along. Meanwhile, I will carry on with my ambitions of Adland domination and the hunt for the Friday hangover cure.

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