I hated myself while I was growing up. I knew I was gay but the thought of telling everyone was terrifying – I thought those few words had the power to change the way people looked at me. I’m a very family-oriented person, so it was hard to think about the affect my sexuality could have not only on my parents and brother, but my aunties, uncles and cousins too. Growing up with that on my mind was difficult.
I always thought that if I could just stop myself from noticing men, then my brain would re-wire and I’d start noticing women instead. No matter what I did, all I could think was, ‘Is this too gay?’, ‘Will people think I’m gay if I wear this?’, ‘Don’t say it like that, say it like this!’
I carried these thoughts around with me like an accessory through to my early 20’s. Every time I left the house, I was always checking I had everything I needed with me – phone, keys, wallet and non-gay thoughts. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I thought it would be much easier if I lived the straight life.
Being LGBTQ+ at Alive
I didn’t start accepting myself until I started working at Alive. Being surrounded by such wonderful and accepting people made a huge difference. I thought, if these people can accept me for who I am and still want me around, then being gay can’t be bad.
We were a very small company when I joined but as Alive grew, I think I did too. One colleague in particular had a huge impact on my life, not only is she a lesbian and happily married with a family now, but her confidence and attitude towards homophobia is so inspiring. She made me want to be just like her and have the confidence to live the life I wanted to live. I can honestly say that I don’t know what my life would be like now if I didn’t start working with my Alive family – I’d probably still be in the closet feeling unfulfilled, and for that I can’t thank them enough.
Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace
My own experiences have taught me that having diversity in the workplace is a crucial part of creating a productive and happy working environment. For some people, being openly gay may not feel like a big deal, but for others it’s a very difficult journey.
“People can’t be expected to give it their all at work if they’re not accepted for who they are. If someone feels like they can’t be themselves, then it can really hold them back from getting involved, progressing and sharing their great ideas.”
What non-LGBTQ+ colleagues can do
- Try to be supportive and include everyone
- Communicate with people and be open
- If someone confides in you, respond in a kind and genuine way
- Reach further than simply being polite
- Show that you’re interested in the lives of other people.
We all spend a lot of time with the people we work with, so it’s important to create a safe, open and honest environment. For me, working at Alive has enabled me to be my most authentic self, and I hope that other organisations can have that kind of positive and long-lasting impact on people too.
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