LGBT+ History Month is a time to remember those who have fought for our right to be who we are and look forward to the future.
Prospect is continually working for greater equality and inclusivity in the workplace. Have a read below of some of our members experience of how being ‘out’ in their workplace has helped them and how by sharing our stories we can create a better understanding of our diverse heritage.
All of these stories came from Prospects National LGBT+ Network members and their ‘straight allies’.
Don’t forget to sign up to our event, Telling our stories - Why history is important for LGBT equality with the National Trust on 27 February here
Not a member of Prospects LGBT+ Network? You can join online under the ‘Activities’ tab, or simply email firstname.lastname@example.org
Read our members' experiences below
I have been continually coming out over the last 20 years. Every new workplace, every new person I meet, every conversation I have - and it can be exhausting! Authenticity is essential, and openness is healthy for me. It is important that I too have a conversation with workmates about partners, holidays, hopes for the future, thoughts on issues especially relating to equality.
It is only when we are authentic that we can truly be comfortable in our own skins - when we accept ourselves, others readily do too.
It took me a very long time to actually understand my own feelings, but once I worked it out I went through a phase of coming out one or two people at a time.
In general people have been very accepting. There have been some comments that I found difficult, but I think (or hope?) that's mainly because of people's misunderstanding rather than being intentionally insulting.
When I talk about attending Pride, or other LGBT events, I don't want the response to be "but you're married..."I am male, and married to a woman, so people tend to assume that I'm heterosexual. It probably makes it easier for me to avoid the need to come out - I fit the neat heterosexual stereotype when I talk about home life for example. For the same reasons, it also makes it harder to come out when I choose to. I don't want to have to come out twice - the first time where people assume I'm gay, then again when I explain what bisexual means.
I think this is where allies can help us. It's becoming increasingly common for people who don't identify as LGBT+ to attend events like Pride. The more we embrace diversity and challenge the stereotypes and compartmentalisation, the better. If there are more feasible options then it might stop people before they make assumptions.
The real challenge is that I don't want to have to "come out" at all, because that means I'm challenging a perception or stereotype imposed on my by other people. I just want to be myself without needing a label or a stereotype, but I think that will take
Graham, Civil Servant
As a new graduate, albeit this was 5 years ago, I quickly discovered that coming out in the workplace was very important to me. It became increasingly difficult having entered a new relationship to use veiled speech and clever language to make all references to my home life, my weekends and my partner gender-neutral. More than that, to do so made me feel disingenuous, unfair to my partner and a de facto liar. Not very nice thoughts to have swimming around your head when trying to concentrate on work!
It is easy and naïve to say ‘leave your personal life at the door’ when it comes to work; it ignores what we hope to achieve in the workplace, which is to feel comfortable and to perhaps even build strong friendships with our colleagues. For me, the presence of a sexual orientation and gender identity employee support network at Dstl was key in giving me the confidence to gradually ‘come out’ to my colleagues, and now it never even crosses my mind to worry about such a thing when meeting new people. I feel very lucky and grateful to have landed in such a supportive environment in this respect.
Jayne, Government Scientist
I saw an intranet advertisement to go on Stonewall’s LGBT+ Allies course and thought it’d be a great opportunity to learn more about an area that already interested me. I really enjoyed the day and now feel much better equipped to both empathise with the workplace experience of LGBT+ colleagues and to help promote an environment that’s more inclusive, supportive and diverse. Since becoming an Ally, I’ve had loads of great conversations about LGBT+ issues – it’s amazing how much of a conversation-starter a pin-badge can be!
Mark, Defence Civil Servant
I’m bisexual but at the beginning of 2015, my spouse presented as a man. During 2015, they Came Out as transgender, and began to present as a woman.
I had not thought that I wasn’t Out about being bi at work, but it didn’t really come up much
However, when my wife Came Out as trans, I soon found that there was a lot of ignorance about LGBT matters in my workplace. At first, when I tried to explain, to people I had thought of as friends, that my husband had transitioned their gender, I got a reaction that upset me quite a lot. Everyone I told assumed I was going to be getting divorced, despite the fact that I’m bi. I think that this reaction came from ignorance rather than malice, but that made no difference to how hurtful it was, and I was thoroughly dissuaded from talking about that with most colleagues. As a result I felt extremely isolated and was under a lot of stress.
I wanted to be free to talk about my life outside work, but as things were, I did not feel able to do so. I found the atmosphere at my workplace uncomfortable and somewhat oppressive. It made me feel like I was some sort of embarrassing dotty relative that no-one really wanted to have around.
I began to look for jobs specifically with inclusive workplaces. I rejected a job at an otherwise very promising rail company because they made a remark on their website about accepting people with “all lifestyles” implying that my sexuality is a choice, which obviously it is not.
Through a friend who worked for the same employer as me but in a different part of the country, I learnt that the office where she worked was a lot more inclusive, so I applied for jobs there for that reason.
I was offered a post at that office and accepted. I decided that, when I started my new role, I would be completely Out at work. I did not make a big dramatic announcement to my new team, saying “I’m bi!” or anything like that. What I did do was to begin to talk openly about the fact I’ve got a wife. I had a photo of her on my desk. I found that I was able to be Out to most colleagues, and have been able to talk to some of them about having a transgender wife. I admit that, due to my previous experience, I was nervous about that at first and sometimes still am.
Overall, I have found that being Out at work has considerably reduced my stress levels both in and out of work, and has made me feel more like I’m actually part of a team. Now, when I’m at work, I feel like I can think with my whole head, rather than having to always be worrying about what I’m saying constantly.
Anonymous, Energy Sector