It was on GCSE results day and when I built up the courage to tell her it was luckily a wonderful moment. I was reassured that I was loved and supported. However, many in my position weren’t so fortunate. This was in the late 90s when things weren’t quite as accepting as they are now.
However, I didn’t avoid some of the gay bullying and I was quick to escape to a big city, in this case Leeds, to better and more inclusive surroundings. Throughout my early career I came in and out of the closet as needed – in some places you were accepted and welcomed, in others not. Learning when to hide your true self became a skill that would warrant inclusion on your CV.
Looking back this seems wildly unreasonable, at the time it was literally about survival. Overhearing bosses throw around homophobic slurs under the excuse of jokes made sure I went into stealth mode to avoid negative attention.
Fast forward to completing my degree in Public Relations and after working through a few agencies, I landed at GOLD79 (formerly Lucre). I was embraced for my skills and potential, but crucially, for my most authentic self. Almost ten years on I’ve gone from intern to being an integral part of the senior management team and not once have I had to be anything but myself.
There’s been challenges along the way, having to convince more ‘traditional’ clients that I was a good fit for their business, but results speak for themselves and luckily for me, I’ve been a formidable force in media relations. I owe the love of where I work to the women who took a chance on me a decade ago, the founders of GOLD79, Tamarind and Sophie – they’ve never faulted in their support of me and made me the PR professional I am today.
Luckily the world has moved on considerably since, with my 11 year old nephew having ‘out and proud’ school friends who identify across the LGBTQ+ community and in his words, “Who cares if you’re gay… it’s so not a big deal any more Uncle Nick”.
However, there’s industries that are still not as accepting as the world of marketing. Many of my friends who work in the likes of professional services and construction still opt to keep one foot in the closet over concerns about how they’ll be treated, or if it will impact on their career progression. Swapping boyfriend for ‘partner’ and making excuses when a plus one is invited to a work’s party is still prevalent. I’m not sure there’s a one stop solution to fixing this, but I truly believe that by continuing to create a sense of inclusion and equality, we’ll reap the benefits of people who feel comfortable enough to be themselves.
On this National Coming Out Day, the advice I would give is to be true to yourself, never hide who you are to get ahead and if where you work doesn’t value your authentic self, there’s an employer out there who will – trust me, I’ve found them!