“This Pride month, I’ve been reflecting on my own journey as an LGBTQ+ leader and why equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace is so important to me.
“When did you first know you were gay?” – This is a question that people still ask, and it still infuriates me! Normally a quippy response asking them about when they first realised they were straight puts an end to the discussion. But on reflection, I have known for most of my life.
“Growing up gay you know there’s something different about you. Often, you don’t quite fit in. “He’s old beyond his years” they say, as you’re hanging out with the school dinner ladies at lunch time, discussing last night’s EastEnders and the best recipe for a Victoria sponge.
“As I got older, I became much more comfortable in my own skin. So came the inevitable ‘coming out’, followed by another 20 years of ‘coming out’ nearly every day (“yes we are aware the hotel room only has one double bed, no we do not need a twin room”).”
“Regrettably, the one thing I didn’t do early in my career was make it known that I was gay in the workplace.
“Looking back, I’m not sure why this was the case. I imagine it was fear of the unknown. There were no gay role models that I could look up to and think, “they’ve done well so clearly it isn’t an issue”.
There were no discussions around equality and diversity in the workplace. I don’t think people set out to create a heteronormative culture – but as a young gay man it certainly felt like it.
“So, there I was leading my two lives. Outside of work I was in a loving relationship with a man, and inside work I used gender-neutral pronouns to describe him, for fear of outing myself. “My other half? Oh, they work in hospitality. Yes, they really enjoy it.” It also helped that my partner’s name is Sam – it’s amazing how everyone just presumed I was with a lovely lady called Samantha.
“So how did this make me feel? Well, it was tiring. Constantly second guessing the language you use, not being able to share with your colleagues stories of the lovely things you were doing outside of work.
I never felt like I was bringing my whole self to work and I’m certain that my performance, and my happiness, were impacted as a result.
“Worry not, this blog isn’t about to become all statistics-heavy, but there are some important figures I want to draw your attention to.
Research by Stonewall has shown that more than a third of LGBTQ+ staff have hidden that they are LGBTQ+ in the workplace, for fear of discrimination .
Further to this, research by CIPD into LGBTQ+ experiences of work, from conflict and wellbeing to job outcomes, found that LGBTQ+ employees are more likely to experience workplace conflict and harassment than their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts. 40% percent of LGB+ workers and 55% of trans workers have experienced such conflict .
“I’m sure you’ll agree, these are worrying statistics. There were good chunks of my career where I was one of these statistics.
“It doesn’t have to be this way.”
How are things now?
“Skip forward a good number of years, and I have had the pleasure of working in many inclusive organisations where I retired Samantha, my loving wife of several years, to openly talk about Sam, the man I love.
It’s liberating to finally be able to bring my whole self to every situation. I’m happier, I get better results, and more importantly I get the best out of the people I work with by being my authentic self.
“This was only possible because I have worked in inclusive organisations that created a culture of psychological safety.”
Being an LGBTQ+ leader
“I’m now fortunate to be leading a wonderful organisation where we are making every effort to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in everything we do.
“I speak openly about my experiences, because I never want anyone to feel like they cannot be their authentic self in Everyturn Mental Health and Everyturn Mental Health.
“This is why equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace is so important to me.”
We’re so grateful to Adam for sharing his story.
As a key part of our ‘Shaping our Future’ strategy, we’re championing equality, diversity and inclusion so that everyone feels able to bring their whole selves to work.