Why National Coming Out Day is so important to me

Mac Boatswain, committee member of JLL’s UK Building Pride internal employee network, talks about the importance of National Coming Out Day

Being accepting is hugely important.

Mac Boatswain, graduate surveyor, JLL

This week marks a special day within the LGBT+ community, National Coming Out Day. Taking place on 11 October 2020, it is a day to recognise and celebrate those who are publicly open about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, but also to inspire others, who are yet to live their truth, that they are not alone.

I have learnt personally that ‘coming out’ is not a one-off process, and the truth is, I never stop coming out.

Whether it’s a casual conversation with a client or colleague about what I got up to at the weekend, or who I’m planning my next holiday with, it’s these workplace situations that I find challenging day-in day-out.

I realised that for heterosexuals, you are also constantly coming out without even realising. I expect if someone has a casual conversation about their wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend it is usually meet with positivity. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case for the LGBT+ community which is why I want to raise awareness of this important day in the LGBT+ calendar.

Why is it even necessary for me or my colleague to come out as LGBT+ in the workplace?

You might ask why it’s important to come out at work. For me, the simple answer, is that I was so wrapped up in trying to be somebody that I wasn’t, in order to impress or ‘fit in’, that it became a massive drain on me. Looking back, I should have been spending this time and energy in focusing on bettering myself and my career, rather than worrying how my sexuality is perceived by others.

As a real estate graduate, working in an industry that has been slow to change, I couldn’t help but fear that I would be judged negatively and that my sexuality would impact my career. I am pleased to say that my fears never became a reality and I am constantly reassured by the reactions from my colleagues at JLL. I wish I could say that this is the same story for everyone. Sadly, this isn’t the case and I’ve seen LGBT+ friends within the industry who have been met by negativity.

There is no one size fits all to coming out.

It is down to individual choice to decide whether they feel comfortable sharing this part of themselves with someone at work.

To anyone who thinks their co-worker may be struggling with being LGBT+ in the workplace my advice would be let them come to you. Many LGBT+ people face a number of coming outs over their career – they may not be ready to have this conversation just yet. 

Being accepting is hugely important, ‘coming out’ will be a massive moment for someone and they’ll be hoping for reassurance.

And finally, respect your colleague’s decision if they come out to you. They may not be out in all walks of life, so it’s important to respect their journey and treat it privately. I know from my own experience that hiding a part of who you are can be extremely exhausting and they’ll no doubt be breathing a sigh of relief.

This year, with the pressure and stress from Covid-19, now is a more important time than ever to support all our colleagues. It is up to us all to foster an inclusive working environment so that everyone feels they can be open, authentic and can bring their whole selves to work.

Thank you to the positive reactions of others, including my colleagues and now friends within JLL’s Building Pride, about my sexuality. I no longer feel as though I need to hide part of myself to ‘fit in’. I hope this helps inspires others to be open so that they can feel the same way.