For National Coming Out Day today (October 11), Luca Sale, the chair of glamazon UK - Amazon's LGBT+ employee affinity group - has given some advice on people who are struggling to come out at work.
Read his advice below:
It took me 19 years to come out to myself, 22 years to come out to my mum, 24 to come out to my colleagues and at 33 years of age this process isn’t getting any easier.
I certainly care less about potential negative reactions and brush unwanted comments off quickly, but every time I meet a new colleague and small talk ensues, I’m conscious I’ll have to drop the G(ay) bomb at some point.
I used to think that what I do outside of work is private, that I didn’t need to share my “private” life with colleagues and that they would respect me as long as I was a hard worker and a team player.
I would expertly dodge any non-business topic, use gender neutral pronouns, talk about the “West End” instead of “Soho”, my summer holidays were in Greece, not in Mykonos.
All of these tales were still technically accurate, I never lied, but it was exhausting and required me to use precious brainpower to entertain conversations that didn’t help me bond with my colleagues, as the real me was hiding behind a façade.
It wasn’t until I was 26 that I had an awakening and realised that the only thing keeping me from creating a professional network was myself.
Coming out to my colleagues was a cathartic experience, it helped me build new friendships, create more trust within my team and take back that mental energy that was being wasted on telling my creative version of the truth.
Working in a company like Amazon, you are bound to bump into people you haven’t met before and after four years and two different roles I have definitely had enough coming out opportunities to create my personal style.
Coming out today happens organically, from having a casual conversation in the kitchenette when I get a cup of tea, to a meeting where we innovate on behalf of our customers and I bring my diverse perspective.
Coming out at work requires a good dose of humour, the ability to casually drop gay-related culture in any conversation and an open mind to make your peers comfortable if the situation becomes awkward.
Back in 2015 I founded glamazon, Amazon’s LGBT+ network for employees and allies in the UK, and took it upon myself to create a safe space for everyone working at Amazon to ask questions and show support.
I’m lucky enough to have an employer that is both understanding and supportive, open to create a culture of acceptance and encouraging employees to take ownership in making the workplace even more inclusive.
At work, I talk about gay culture when relevant, which has the dual purpose of coming out and educating, sharing knowledge about key LGBT+ celebrations and why I take part in them.
Nowadays, it’s unlikely to see someone reacting awkwardly to the revelation, but if they ever did I’d like to let them know that it’s okay and that I can answer any questions they may have.
Every time I come out I have an opportunity to learn more about others and for others to be closer to me. Here is to many more relationships made by being my true self.