Yesterday I did something I had never done before. I joined a working group at work. Not just any working group. An LGBT+ group. Not as an ally, but as someone who fits that category. I am the B in LGBT+.
I have never been comfortable about being ‘out’. People judge you or don’t understand, and anyway, I hate being put into a box. For decades I kept it quiet. I locked it away and tried to forget about it. However, in the last five years I have come out to a few friends and my kids. Everyone I have told just took it in their stride. However, I have that invisibility cloak. I have the protection of people’s assumptions. I am married to someone of the opposite sex, I have two grown up children, to the outside world, I look straight.
The truth, however, is I am not. I have been bi since I was a teenager. I think back then I dated more men simply because it was easier to avoid the discrimination, and if you fit the expectations of society, you are accepted. This is why it is so brave to come out. Because I could carry on pretending that I am straight, but that is not being true to myself.
I am attracted to men and women. But let me tell you now, this does not mean I suddenly fancy you if you are my friend. Please don’t think that. I am in a long-term relationship with a person who makes me laugh every day. By saying I am bi, does not mean I suddenly want a bit on the side of the opposite sex, or I can be more promiscuous. Nothing has changed. I am still the same person you know. I still love David Bowie. I just need to be honest with myself.
Joining the LGBT+ group yesterday felt like a huge step. One of the members of the group contacted me afterwards to support me. She shared a fantastic ted talk with me which I have posted below. But I am not ready to tell everyone at work yet. I have seen discrimination first hand. Working at another organisation, my friend Scott decided to marry his long-term partner on the first day it was legally allowed for gay men to get married. He invited everyone at work. I was the only person who turned up to support him. I was shocked. Scott was such a lovely guy and seemed to get on well with everyone at work. There was clear discrimination. It was not explicit but it was there. I can name you another hundred examples of LGBT discrimination that I have witnessed over the years. Has this kept me in the closet? It’s certainly a factor.
One of our trustees told her story a week ago (as its LGBT history month). She said she has married a guy but knew it was a sham as she was a lesbian. She lived a lie for many years before moving out of the city and being honest with herself. Her story moved me. It was about time I was honest with myself. I was nervous all week about joining the group. I felt a bit like an imposter. Would I be accepted? It’s a big first step and I volunteered to do a piece of work which will tell my organisation why people feel uncomfortable to bring their full selves to work. But right now, today, I feel good about it. Brave enough, right now, to write this and share it. Not an easy piece to write and even harder to post online for the world to read. But as Ru Paul says, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?’ The first step to loving yourself is to accept your true self.