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Coming out without fear - sound advice from LGBT+ network GLOBE

“It started about a year ago with a phone call from my 13-year-old son’s school. The teacher asked if Cameron had mentioned that she was going to call – he hadn’t. She explained that he had told a fellow pupil that he was bisexual and the pupil had broken his confidence, with the news getting out around school.

Lots of things go through your mind when you receive a call like that. Is he okay? Are the kids being mean? Why didn’t he speak to us first?

When I got home I talked with Cameron. Thinking back, I now fondly dub this as ‘the most awkward conversation in the world.’ He was hiding under the duvet asking me not to tell Granny, while I reassured him that we were totally fine with his news. We let him know that we love him for him, and this wasn’t the catastrophe I feared he thought it might be.

If I’m honest, the news itself wasn’t much of a surprise and was something my wife and I had spoken about before. It was now a question of how we could be there for Cameron and support him the best way possible.

Asking for support

I’ve been a GLOBE ally since the programme was first introduced – our approach to respect and inclusion is one of the reasons I’m proud to be a partner at Deloitte.

I decided to get in touch to see if there was anyone else who had gone through something similar and could offer advice.

I must have drafted that email four or five times before hitting the send button. It felt like quite a personal thing to talk about with someone I didn’t know well, but the response I got couldn’t have been warmer.

Tom Kohler, the network’s lead, wrote back to tell me that, surprisingly, he wasn’t aware of anyone, but offered to meet up for a coffee and a chat. We did – and it was good to talk. We spoke about Tom’s experience and it was great to get a different perspective and some guidance on the support available to teenagers who come out.

Out and proud

After speaking to Tom, we decided to attend Pride as a family. We joined the Deloitte float and celebrated all things inclusion with my colleagues and thousands of people on the streets of London. It was an incredible experience for all of us, but especially for Cameron.

Pride came at a time when he was experiencing some bullying at school. Being surrounded by so many people saying "this is okay", "we’re supportive" and "this is who we are and we’re proud" was really powerful.

I was also proud that I could say David Sproul, who was dancing next to Cameron on the float, was our CEO at the time. It says a lot about what we stand for as a firm. It said to Cameron that if a CEO of a big company is supportive of people like him, not everything would be the same as school. The workplace can, and should, be an inclusive environment.

Since Pride, I’ve been to several more GLOBE events and found out more about programmes that support schools. I’ve had difficult discussions with our school as we’ve explored how they could challenge bullying, create a more inclusive environment and get input from others, such as the charities I’ve come across. Some of the tips and contacts that GLOBE members provided really helped.

I’ve changed how I approach the topic in the office; small things like using my GLOBE water bottle and becoming more comfortable talking openly about my family, with Cameron’s sexuality being just another incidental fact in our lives. I used to think the bottles were just a bit of internal marketing, but now I realise that if people see partners and other colleagues using them, it sends a powerful signal.

Being there for others

I wanted to tell my story as a way of saying thank you to GLOBE and to highlight how they made a difference to me. Given we have more than 18,000 colleagues in the UK, I can’t be the only one with a family member who’s coming to terms with their sexuality. There are people at the firm they can speak to, and they can share, and learn from, each other’s experiences.

GLOBE members have had really varied experiences of coming out to their family – some positive, some dreadful. While we’re totally supportive and proud of Cameron, I’m sure we could have done more to support him, even if it was just having better answers to some of the weird and wonderful questions you get from older members of the family! So, having someone to speak with who is in, or has been through, a similar experience helps.

I’m also proud to sponsor GLOBE families. It’s something we’re doing with our Working Families Network to support colleagues with relatives or friends who, like Cameron, are coming to terms with their sexuality.

As for Cameron. It’s been over a year since he came out. While it’s not always easy for him, he’s happier and we’re really proud of him. Whether it’s taking him to see Everybody’s Talking about Jamie or slightly nervously accepting he will wear make-up to school on casual dress day, we’re enjoying seeing him become more comfortable with who he is.”

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