Comment: Coming out is one of the best decisions I’ve made
William Fox of the Foreign Office Lesbian and Gay Group (FLAGG) writes about his coming out experience for National Coming Out Day.
We each have our own story
My name is Will. I’m 27. I’m half Australian, half English. I live in Brussels, and work at the UK Permanent Representation to the EU, aka UKREP. I’m gay, I’m out, and I’m happy being the full me.
Growing up in Sydney, attending an all boys school, I knew I was gay when I was 14. It took me until university to be comfortable with that, and start to surround myself with friends who I could tell about my sexuality. Fate forced its hand with an accidental email to a friend, but this nudge to come out to more friends showed me that my friends loved me for who I am, and my sexuality wouldn’t change that. And all that time I struggled to tell my family and others around me – who knew that three simple words could become so difficult to say?
It took me until 25 to finally come out to my parents. Being half a world away from them, I knew I wanted to tell them in person. Three weeks before their arrival, I had it all planned out, but I still struggled to find the right moment. . But their reply when I did – “We just want you to be happy and find someone to love” was all that I needed.
Starting at UKREP this year, I knew I didn’t want to hide the ‘real’ Will. From a supportive line manager, to a buddy who happened to be gay, to the friendly atmosphere surrounded by colleagues my age, I found it easy to weave into conversation. Doing so, I felt a new-found confidence in myself, and this is reflected in everything that I do in my job.
Coming out boosted my confidence – this year I attended my first Pride in London with FLAGG Co-chair Jonathan Marshall.
Coming out is difficult
From loved ones to strangers alike, it takes a lot of courage to come out. It is hard. Facing the unknown of how people will react is a daunting process, and there is no perfect recipe or perfect line to say.
You never stop coming out
It is not just a one-time thing. With each new job and each new social circle, questions always arise. This is amplified in the FCO where changing teams and posts is commonplace. In between briefings and meeting new colleagues, time also has to be carved out to bring one’s sexuality into conversation to avoid future awkwardness of “Mr & Mrs” conversations and invitations.
Coming out is rewarding
Whether explicitly or subconsciously, coming out does release a burden that many LGBT people carry and struggle with. At least in my experience, the process does give you a new-found sense of confidence, or contentment, and helps you to be the full 100% version of yourself.
Coming out is for anyone, not everyone
There are many people who struggle with coming out or choose not to and this is perfectly fine. It is a very personal decision, and should only be done when people are ready and feel comfortable. What’s important is having a workplace where people feel comfortable being true to themselves.
Coming out is for straight people too – showing support for LGBT colleagues and friends.
So for this year’s National Coming Out Day, take a moment to think about how you can create a more welcoming and inclusive environment at work.