My path to being out at work hasn’t been an easy one. When I was young and relatively new to the workplace I was forcibly outed as bisexual by a colleague at a former employer, leaving me feeling humiliated and isolated
This was at a time when I was still coming to terms with my sexuality and certainly didn’t feel confident to discuss it with the people around me, let alone in such an abrupt way.
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I immediately began receiving invasive questions and remarks, including around whether I was actually bisexual or just gay, an insult which is unfortunately often directed at people who share my sexual orientation.
It won’t shock you to learn that I left the company a few weeks later, not only because of the outing and subsequent hostility I faced, I should say, but it was certainly a major contributing factor.
When I joined my next employer I decided that I would take back control. I made it clear to everyone what my sexuality was and by coming out again, this time on my own terms, I felt confident my identity was my own. I was no longer a victim.
This in hindsight was an incredibly empowering experience, and though at times I still felt awkward — coming out is of course not something a person has to do just one and people’s reactions will differ — but the experience helped me begin feeling comfortable with who I am as a person.
It is all too common for LGBT+ people to isolate themselves from situations and conversations within the workplace, hiding a core part of their identity to avoid promoting a negative response from colleagues.
Of course, there are so many people in the workplace today who are vocal about their support for LGBT+ rights, offering a sort of safe space for colleagues to discuss their sexuality or sexual identity, but it’s still a difficult thing to do for many people.
For me personally, coming out was a fantastic way to keep myself grounded. Through being open about my sexuality, I was able to make new friends and networks, people who love and support me inside and out.
Events like National Coming Out Day and Bi Visibility Day have helped me celebrate and cherish the beauty of being myself.
Unfortunately, although society has made many stride on queer acceptance and visibility, coming out at work is still a monumental, and sometimes risky, decision for many LGBTQ+ people.
When we talk about and share with each other what coming out was like for us we can offer much needed strength and support to those who may be struggling with similar fears and anxiety that we once may have faced.
Joshua Cookson is HR administration assistant at Addleshaw Goddard