This week, in celebration of Pride Month, we're recognising and celebrating the contributions of our LGBT+ colleagues to our NHS and society by highlighting their stories. At NELFT we’re proud to support #PrideMonth and champion an inclusive organisation where staff can bring their true selves to work.
Samantha Craighill: Speech and Language Therapy Assistant, Brentwood Community Hospital
I’ll start by saying that I use inverted commas for the term ‘coming out’ as I don’t tend to use it all that much. I feel that if we have any hope of all the varying sexual orientations being normalised, the process of ‘coming out’ won’t need to exist.
Needless to say, this blog is based on personal opinion and experience only and is in no way an attempt to suggest or claim fact-based evidence.
In this blog, I hope to reach members of any sexual orientation classification, as I feel my experiences as a gay woman can be easily related to the many other wonderful forms out there.
I was sad to see that so few people declare their sexuality to their employer, even by simply ticking a box for HR Equality and Diversity purposes. This is one thing I was able to do for the first time in my working life when I joined NELFT, and I hope more people can feel that way in the future.
Yes, that’s right, I’ve never ‘officially declared’ my sexual orientation to an employer before November 2019. I’ve really been quite lucky and I think it’s thanks to the fact that NELFT as an organisation has shown itself to be so openly diverse from the moment I started, less than a year ago. It’s made me feel at home and not as closed off as I was in previous workplaces. In my last workplace, where I was for 5 years, it was only when my ex-partner’s nan got ill and I had to leave work early to go to the hospital, that it came out that the ‘girl I lived with’ was in fact my partner! That was probably about 2 years into the job, if not longer.
When I say ‘coming out at work’, for me, this isn’t standing up in my office and making a big statement of ‘I’m a lesbian’. It’s when it comes up in conversation, for example; people asking ‘so do you have a boyfriend?’ or when I’m talking about my ex-partner; they instantly refer to this partner as ‘he/him’. That is a common misconception and one I have very much gotten used to, but it will always bug me just a little.
I think now I feel comfortable enough to correct most people, but I’m not completely comfortable yet with ‘coming out at work’ to the remainder of those that don’t know, simply because of my own insecurities and being worried about how they’ll act towards me. I know it’s silly because I work with amazing people and as an organisation, NELFT has made it clear that any discrimination or prejudice in any way won’t be tolerated. That’s why I say it’s my own insecurities!
My best experience so far has been in our lunch room. Our whole team pretty much goes to lunch together and one lunch time, it escapes me what we were talking about, but the typical ‘he/him’ misconception came up with a lady who represents a lot of who I would not normally have the confidence to correct/’come out’ to. I would play along, still referring to ‘my partner’ or ‘my other half’ or ‘my ex’ as just that. Due to cultural and religious differences, and my insecurities being what they are, I thought that me being a gay woman might dampen how she felt about me if she found out my sexuality. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I must have known inside that she would never think any less of me, because I instantly came out with it and told her that my ex was female. She simply responded ‘that’s okay’.
Was it an awkward moment? For me, yes, but she showed no awkward feeling at all and we just rolled on with the conversation. I’ve never forgotten that moment and I’m sobbing just thinking about it now. It was pivotal for me to be able to overcome this barrier with someone so culturally different to me. But at the end of the day, we are all the same in the sense that we all care for the same people and have the same goals in what we’re doing in our work environment, which really is in this situation, ‘the best care, by the best people’.
I think it’s really important to encourage people who don’t see themselves within the LGBT+ community to read the ‘Coming out at work’ guide, as without an understanding of what some colleagues may be mentally battling with regard to opening up at work, or opening up in general, due to the language we use and the actions we take, we’ll never be able to truly even contemplate anything other than hetero relations as ‘normal’.
The 'Coming Out' guide by NELFT will be released on Friday 26th June.