Every New Year’s Eve, every birthday, every milestone always brings with it the opportunity to reflect on our achievements and think about our future plans…how we might do things a little bit differently. But going into 2019 I knew, without a doubt, that it would be one of the biggest changes in my lifetime. Not only did I change my job and take on a great deal of new responsibility with it, but I also moved from my home city of Birmingham, where I spent the first 26 years of my life, into the UK’s bright and shining capital! It’s a move I have wanted to make for a long time but which sees me leaving behind all my friends and my entire family. This was not a decision to be taken lightly. I always knew there would be several career opportunities for me in London, but part of my decision to move was down to the amount of LGBT groups and events I could get involved with here. This is something I’ve felt I’ve missed out on in the past, and when I realised I was at a point in my life where I was financially stable and had no huge commitments tying me to the Midlands, I just had to make the jump.
Before this year I really didn’t know more than a handful of people in London and I was risking a lot by taking a senior position at a new firm whilst attempting to continue my studies. Still, I was extremely excited for the beginning of my new adventure, and to live the London lifestyle I had always fantasised about.
The move came with a lot of worries: Would I get on with my new housemates? Could I handle the extra workload of my new role? Would I cope with not seeing my mother every week? (Okay that one was probably going to be easy). But one thing that hadn’t crossed my mind until I got here: Would everyone be accepting of my sexuality?
I’ve been out as a gay woman now for 5 years. All of my friends have somehow known for longer than me and my family have always been incredibly accepting of who I am. I’ve been met with very little homophobia or negativity and I think I had seriously underestimated just how lucky I am to have such an amazing and supportive circle of peers. London is generally known as being a city of culture, diversity and acceptance—far more so than the little suburb just outside Birmingham that I grew up in. So why was I worried?
Most people in the LGBT community quickly learn that coming out is not a “one-off” occasion and from my own experience I know that 99.9% of the time it’s going to be a non-issue, yet I still have that niggling thought at the back of my mind: “What if they’re not going to be okay with it?” This comes down to the importance we assign to each individual’s acceptance and what it means to you. For example, coming out to your parents is usually a lot scarier than coming out to your hairdresser, because you can always find a new hairdresser. Without any friends or family in my new city, the acceptance of the people I would be living and working with was extremely important to me because there might be nobody else for me to turn to if they rejected me.
I’m now a month into my new London life, and I’ve got to admit that everyone I have spoken to thus far has not batted an eyelid. Nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder if this is an issue that non-LGBT people are aware that we have to face. Do they know that sometimes we have to make a millisecond decision whether to come out in any given situation?
It highlights why allies are so important in our community. Knowing beforehand that someone is an ally eradicates any fears a person might otherwise have about coming out to them and reassures us that even if we aren’t fully out, this person will accept us for who we are. We spend so much time telling each other to be out and proud, and I think we should be saying the same thing to our allies. Come out as an ally! Be proud of yourself for being an incredible and accepting human being. Even within our community, we should be showing our support to those outside of our own sexuality. To the gay gentlemen and our bisexual and trans brothers and sisters whose struggles all differ to my own: I see you. And I will try to support you as best I can.
Allies are hugely appreciated. So… share this article with your friends and colleagues. Encourage them to continue to wear those rainbow flags, come to Pride with us, and to keep this in mind:
If you accept and respect us, we ask you to stand with us and trust that you are completely welcome in the LGBT community. Being a visible and vocal ally might just make those hard decisions a little bit easier.