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Pride stories: Allyship can help amplify LGBT+ voices

During Pride month, we’re exploring the importance of our LGBT+ colleagues being seen and heard

Discover Steve’s experience of coming out later in life and the difference this has made.

I grew up in a small conservative town and it was only in my 40s that I accepted my sexuality and choose to come out as gay—first to my wife and then to each of our three children. It was not easy, but it was necessary. I needed the people I loved the most to know who I really was.

It's fair to say that I’ve had a conflicted experience with visibility. It’s always been something I’ve been afraid of, but - at the same time – something I have craved. This narrative has profoundly shaped my life and career choices. Early in life, I was involved in music and theatre, but as I got older the fear of visibility and ‘being found out’ steered me away from this path. I wanted to keep my head down; not stand out from the crowd.

It’s hard to describe what living in the closet feels like to someone else who is LGBT+ and out, much less to heterosexual, ‘straight’ folks. It took up an enormous amount of energy to keep up a front. I’ve spent years worrying and analysing how I present when I talk, sit and walk, analysing every aspect of how I live my life instead of just living it. And there’s a cost: by not being all of who I am, I presented as less than who I really am.

Starting a new chapter

The painful but necessary decision to come out to my wife and children was the beginning of an ongoing journey. I was lucky to find acceptance and understanding and my wife and I have decided to stay together because that works for us. The freedom I got from being honest made me feel lighter. The difference was immediately noticeable to the people around me. Being out isn’t just more comfortable for me but also allows me to be a better version of me for family, friends and the company I work for.

However, coming out is something I have to do continuously. Because people make assumptions, especially if they know that I’m married and have children. I’m learning to be more open earlier, more of a risk taker and embrace being ‘seen’ as I continue on my coming out journey.

The power of allyship

It’s not always easy for people in the majority to relate to the lives of people who are different. Having lived as an ‘invisible minority’ for much of my life, I understand that allyship can create a bridge connecting the lives of LGBT+ and the people around us. It’s especially powerful when leaders speak up as visibly committed allies, it helps amplify the quieter voices and creates an environment of inclusion and makes the workplace a safer space for LGBT+ colleagues.

The voices of allies aren’t more important than LGBT+ voices, but they are equally important and together we can make a real difference.