community

Coming out at work: 'I didn’t want to be seen as someone that had lied for all this time'

Anthony Francis from Lloyds Banking Group talks to myGwork about representation and why there is still a way to go when it comes to role models.

2021-02-17

Words: Louise Sinnerton

In partnership with myGwork.

When Anthony first started working at Lloyds as a graduate he wasn’t out with his colleagues and very quickly decided that was something he wanted to change.

“I wasn’t out to my team when I joined as I just thought, 'Oh I don’t want to be different' But then I started to feel like a liar and wanted to be myself”.

Anthony recalls not being able to tell his team about going to Heaven at the weekends and how not coming out to his colleagues within the first few months soon became a barrier to being open.

“I didn’t want to be seen as someone that had lied to them for all this time,” he says.

After attending London Pride in the Summer and tweeting about the experience, Anthony’s comments were shared in an internal briefing pack, which he thought would be the perfect way to share who he was with his colleagues.

“I sent the Pride briefing pack around to my whole team and that was how I came out to them.”

Anthony has now been at Lloyds for over six years. After starting on the graduate scheme for IT project management he is now the Executive Business Manager to Zaka Mian, Group Director of Transformation. As well as this he is the role model and intersectionality lead of Rainbow, Lloyd’s inclusive network for LGBT+ colleagues and allies.

Anthony Francis (left) from Lloyds Banking Group

“If your sexuality is something you’ve been hiding for a few months or even twenty years, it doesn’t matter, I want people to see themselves both in the network and wider Group, which is why I’m working to have more role models that can share their diverse stories with others”.

The value and impact of role models in the community is something that Anthony has been acutely aware of ever since childhood.

“When I was younger I used to hate being gay if I’m being honest, and part of that is because I never really saw anyone that reflected me or my experiences. I grew up just outside of Birmingham, our second biggest city, but there still weren’t that many gay people that looked like me.

"Even though I’m not religious I would always hope that God would come along and make me straight tomorrow.”

There was one gay person that Anthony knew but he didn’t relate to him at all and felt the impact of not having mixed race gay role models to look up to.

“I’m mixed race and all throughout coming to terms with my sexuality it was on my mind how my Dad, this big Black man, would react. I always thought how he would hate it if he knew I was gay.”

At first, Anthony didn’t go to gay bars and would constantly worry about what others might think. It wasn’t until his first boyfriend that he became more comfortable with who he was.

“Someone once said to me when you find love you won’t care who knows. I think that’s what happened in that sense.”

Anthony’s sisters and mum found out that he was gay, and he wanted his dad to be in the know as well. “I actually texted him and included that I was sorry, to which he replied saying 'Don’t say you’re sorry, you’re my son and I love you'.”

Anthony Francis from Lloyds Banking Group talks to myGwork about representation

Anthony had total support from all of his family and talks about how our own prejudgements are so often wrong about people.

“With my Dad and also a religious colleague at work I was so afraid of how they might react, but neither of them had any problem and were totally supportive. As I’ve had that experience, it just shows you why you shouldn’t make assumptions about people.”

When Anthony did decide to go to gay bars there were a few comments that stuck in his mind. “One security guard asked me if I knew it was a gay bar, and when I left said he hoped I had enjoyed the experience, and both of those comments were because he wasn’t used to seeing mixed race gay men, I’m pretty sure he thought I was straight”.

All of these experiences led to him pitching the idea of a role model and intersectionality lead. “I want to make sure that everything we do has a diverse lens to it. If we are showcasing people and telling stories it is making sure we work with everyone from all communities, working from other networks.”

Rainbow supports charities such as Opening Doors London and Diversity Role Models and is working to push forward and celebrate more ethnically diverse role models as well as.

“I would like to see more diverse faces in the LGBT+ community here at Lloyds. It is difficult to find ethnically diverse role models, I’m one of them, and there are a few of us, but I think there’s more work that needs to be done to better represent our whole community.

"That’s true when it comes to trans people too. It’s so important that everyone can see someone like them”.

Anthony feels the same way about advocacy and being an ally outside of Lloyd’s too and is passionate about the community being there for every single person there.

“I’m really keen on the LGBT+ community supporting each other. I identify myself as a trans ally and always wear my trans badge so people know I’m there to support that section of the community as well. I would like to see the community protecting and serving absolutely everyone in it.

"Things globally need to improve drastically, with everyone championing each voice, not just in the instances where it affects them. I don’t think that happens enough in the community at the moment.”

Lloyds Bank Group is a corporate partner of the myGwork business community.