Vanguard’s Out Professional Engagement Network (OPEN) works to create an inclusive environment for LGBT individuals and their allies, and plays an active role in Pride and National Coming Out Day festivities. In recognition of this year’s National Coming Out Day, and to further our goal of creating an inclusive workplace, we share crew member Jason N.’s coming out story:
“I heard you are a poof,” Simon announced to everybody around me. I was 18 years old and in a group outside a lecture theatre. Simon and I were embarking on a friendship. Or at least I thought we were.
Even if you haven’t heard the word poof, you can easily guess that it isn’t flattering. I wasn’t entirely sure of my sexuality but I knew that I wasn’t straight. When Simon levelled his accusation, years of shame bubbled to the surface. I stood humiliated and exposed as everyone filed into the classroom. I was alone on the precipice of a lifetime of coming out.
I followed everyone into class and considered what I was going to do next. It was just a remark but it cut deep enough to make me shake. Boys call each other gay all the time. I could have just let it go. As the lecturer’s words washed over me, it was clear that I wanted to come out. I had to. Although I hadn’t yet acted on these feelings with anything other than shame, I knew it was riskier for me to not share my secret. I couldn’t remain hidden any longer. The burden had become too great. It was time. I told Simon that I was gay.
In coming out, I expected to lose Simon. I expected to lose all of my friends. I expected to lose my family. I firmly believed that I’d lose everyone close to me. I would no longer be a friend, a son, or a brother. I thought I would be alone.
I went home and cried.
The next day was a new beginning for me. When I found Simon at university, he said he wanted to talk. He told me that he went home and considered whether he could be gay. He told me that he just couldn’t conceive of it. But he also realized how unnatural it would be for me to ignore my own sexuality. He told me that nothing had changed between us. Little did he know, everything had changed for me! I was liberated. I was no longer in hiding. It was my first step on a path to self-acceptance.
I didn’t lose Simon. Coming out to him brought us closer together. But coming out isn’t just telling one friend in the hallways at university and then you’re done. It’s an ongoing experience. Your sexuality isn’t apparent in the same way that something like skin color is. While being gay is not a choice, coming out is a choice that you have to face every day. When your colleague assumes you have a wife. When a taxi driver asks if you have any kids. When you start a new job. When you move to a new house. When you get too friendly with your local grocer. When you check into a hotel with your partner. When you make a new friend.
Of course, you don’t always come out, but the assumptions and the choice to come out never goes away. The relevance isn’t immediately obvious but if I choose to come out to you, it’s because I’ve decided not to censor myself with you – I’ve decided to let you know who I am. It allows me talk as freely about my weekend or my family life as you can to me. It allows me to be me, and it allows us to have an authentic relationship.
So here goes – my name is Jason. I am a friend, a brother, a son, and a colleague. I’m also gay.
Jason N. is a Project Manager in IT in our Australian office and is on the committee of the Australian OPEN Crew Resource Group. He is an advocate for bringing your whole self to work. In his spare time, he enjoys photography, camping, and playing squash (with great enthusiasm but much less skill).