Looking back over the past 12 years, which is how long since I ‘came out’, I had it surprisingly easy. That said, the amount of worry and anxiety I experienced up to that point was overwhelming.
I was 21 when I came out but with the benefit of hindsight, I think I knew deep down I was gay from my early teens. I thought that if I ignored it, it would go away. It wasn’t until I met other LGBT+ people through work, that I realised it could be done and I could be accepted for who I was. I’m very grateful for all those who supported me at that time.
I mentioned at the beginning of this blog that my coming out was easy. It was, in terms of acceptance. Most of my family, friends and colleagues were supportive and nothing changed between them and I. That’s not to say I haven’t faced some obstacles along the way, from light-hearted banter about my sexuality which might have been slightly funny (context dependant) the first time but wears thin by the 107th time of hearing it, to, on a couple of particular occasions, outright contempt.
In the few years prior to my coming out, I recall a considerable amount of ‘banter’ about whether I might be gay. I know this was intended harmlessly and was with a specific group of people who knew me quite well. However, it did make coming out to this particular group much harder. I must stress that I don’t blame them, I have no animosity towards them because I know it was never intended to ridicule me. In fact I’ve never mentioned it to these people, some of who I still know now and enjoy good relationships with.
I think what is sometimes overlooked is that ‘coming out’ isn’t a one off thing. Sure, there’s that moment where one might tell all of their friends and family, but in terms of work, I continue to come out to colleagues and clients. On the most part, it’s a positive experience – sometimes it gets a bit awkward when someone asks about my wife, but, on the whole, my being open leads to better working relationships.
Whilst I know I am incredibly lucky to have had such an easy ride, it does not pass me by that many other have not had the same journey. I have friends and colleagues who have been through the most horrendous time and this shouldn’t be how it is. I am also incredibly thankful to all those who came out before me and faced prejudice who have made it easier for all of us.
Things have moved on a lot in recent times, particularly since the time I came out. Most organisations these days will have excellent diversity policies. I hope this continues.
Working at Ellisons is fantastic for me, I have no need to hide who I am or create a fake persona for the workplace. I have some of the most supportive colleagues I think I’ve ever known.
I mentioned earlier how meeting other LGBT+ people through work helped me greatly when I was coming out. I think there continues to be and will continue to be a need for LGBT role models in the workplace, perhaps particularly in the legal sector- although this is greatly improving. I hope now that I can give a little something back and I can step up and be that role model for future generations of lawyers.