This time last year I decided to celebrate Pride by talking openly about my journey coming out to my family. For many of us who identify as LGBTQI+, coming out is the never-ending task that we undertake every time someone new comes into our lives. But there is also a deeper impact. As Alexander Leon, an online equality activist, wrote on Twitter: “Queer people don’t grow up as ourselves, we grow up playing a version of ourselves that sacrifices authenticity to minimize humiliation and prejudice. The task of our adult lives is to unpick which parts of ourselves are truly us and which parts we’ve created to protect ourselves.”
This “unpicking” that Alexander refers to has to happen in our personal lives, but also daily in our professional lives. With most of us spending over 40 hours a week in the workplace (or in Covid times, on Microsoft Teams with colleagues), being able to be our authentic selves is therefore essential.
I joined Edelman in July 2014, in our London office. I had worked in the public and private sector but had often struggled finding an authentic version of myself in the workplace. The battle that was still ongoing with coming out in my personal life, was of course impacting my professional confidence being an openly gay man. Arriving into Edelman, I was adamant that now was the time that I should strive for a 100% authentic version of myself. I was in a loving relationship, and we were on the verge of getting married and so if not now then when?
But to be yourself, the culture you walk into needs to be able to accept, celebrate and equalize. We need to be able to accept the diversity but also ensure it is able to inclusively integrate.
Thankfully for me, the Edel-culture has been exactly this place. I have never felt here that I have to be a version of myself, but instead feel comfortable being 100% my true self. I openly speak about my husband, our life together and our future dreams. I speak to colleagues about whose turn it is to do the laundry at home, who is on cooking duty, but also how lockdown has impacted our home life together. I speak freely about our families – his a Polish family, and mine a Sikh Punjabi British family. I speak about our nieces and nephews (one is now 19 and very definitely in the adult phase while the others are still very young).
For me, Edelman is a fantastic place to work. A safe and inclusive environment where I feel comfortable being my genuine self. I am always proud to bring my total authentic self to work, and that speaks volumes about the culture we have built as a company. But we are not perfect, and we must continue to strive for even better. Also, the world is not perfect, and while this is my reality in London, it is not for so many of our colleagues who operate in markets across the world where LGBTQI+ issues are not accepted. Therefore, even if my experience has been positive, if there is one person reading this article feeling that the above is not reflective of their experience at Edelman, then we have work to do.
Pride month is an opportunity to teach tolerance, educate in pride history and move forward in equality. It falls on us all therefore to be educated about the LGBTQI+ community. So, let me call on you to take just 10 minutes this month to familiarize yourselves with the language (e.g. what does the T in LGBTQI+ stand for?) and spend a little time understanding the history, struggles and challenges that the community has faced, and continues to face, around the world. If you have a coworker or friend who identifies as LGBTQI+, ask them one question this month to help to get to know them personally – what you share in common and what, if anything, actually makes you different. And if you are from the LGBTQI+ community, then be as open as you can because the educating starts with us.
To create a truly inclusive environment it falls on us to educate, understand and share. This Pride make sure you are playing your role.
Looking to learn more but not sure where to start? Here are some of my favorites that you can easily access:
- BOOKS - Losing Matt Shepherd by Beth Lofreda
- The Boys in the Band (available on Netflix)
- Your Name Engraved Herein (available on Netflix)
- Loev (available on Netflix)
- TV SERIES - RuPaul’s Drag Race