This piece is the third part and last of our #ComingOutSeries, where we will be sharing insights from employees within the business to celebrate National Coming Out Day. Our #ComingOutSeries is centred around bringing your whole self to work. We hope that this content empowers people and promotes intersectionality for us all to support Coming Out.
My family’s coming out
“The old cliché that you never stop coming out is true – even for family members.”
I’m a heterosexual cisgender woman, so I feel a bit fraudulent calling this my ‘coming out’ story. The short version is that both my parents have come out to me. My mother and father separated when I was eleven and my mum’s partner moved in with us. When I was in my late teens and no longer living at home, my dad came out. Whenever I try to explain this, it leads to a lot of questions – most of them good-natured, but not all of them. The old cliché is that you never stop coming out, and to some extent, that’s true even for family members (of course it’s not the same, but it can be an ‘interesting’ experience…)
Creating a protective shield against an uncertain world
“Although we were very young, we still had an instinct that it wasn’t safe to tell people about our home life.”
If you’d asked me when I was younger what it was like to grow up with a gay parent, I would have told you it was exactly the same as it was for everyone else. We had the same arguments about homework, whose turn it was to do the washing up, who’d thrown a party when the grownups were away. But that answer wouldn’t have been the full story. When my mum came out, the UK government had recently implemented the notorious Section 28 (prohibiting the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality). We lived in a small place. Although we were young, we knew that it wasn’t ‘safe’ to tell people about our home life. If you’d like to know more about what it was like then I really recommend the film Blue Jean that came out last year. Don’t get me wrong, we had a really lovely time growing up, but I think we were always aware of a difference and a vulnerability. Despite my parents’ best efforts to protect us – and they did an amazing job, I think we ended up feeling protective of them.
Love is an act of bravery
“The real benefit for me was seeing someone I love find happiness.”
When my mum came out, I don’t know if I completely understood, I probably did when my dad came out some years later. I was surprised when he told me, but I was glad that he had found someone who made him happy. I’m not sure if you get many better benefits than that, really.
Making slow progress
“More than a third of LGBTQ+ people in the UK have hidden their sexual orientation at work.”
I think we’ve come a long way, in some respects. My son is the age I was when my mum came out and he has friends whose parents are in same sex relationships and it’s great that it’s not an issue in the same way. But it would be hugely disingenuous to suggest that it’s always easy for those families at my son’s school, or that everyone feels safe in the workplace. The statistics speak for themselves – more than a third of LGBTQ+ people in the UK have hidden their sexual orientation at work. We can do better.
It’s incumbent on everyone to be an ally and at a very basic level, I think what that means is: don’t let the burden of change sit with people who fall into a minority category. Don’t wait to be educated. Don’t wait for someone else to speak up. Don’t wait to reach out if you think someone needs support.