I told my team at work that I'm gay at a meeting about how we want to work together last Summer. When I first decided I would do this, out loud and in front of everyone, my initial internal responses were unkind. "You shouldn't do that, it's unprofessional", "don't rub it in people's faces", "you're more than just your sexual orientation" and "sex has nothing to do with work" to name a few. These are far less harsh than they would have been four years ago.
But they weren't my voices. I inherited them. What they really mean is "Be someone else and suppress who you are" and they come from a place of shame, frozen in me sometime around 1999, from the age of 12 onwards.
It matters to me that my team know this about me for one huge reason: if you don't know I'm gay, I can't invest my whole self in our friendship knowing there may be a bombshell of rejection waiting for me the day you do find out. So, no matter how irrational that seems, it's about disarming potential friend-terrorists, or at least revealing them early. At least it is in my head. Nobody I respect post-2002 has actually done this to me.
I'm just more comfortable knowing early that this rejection won't happen so I can relax into our friendship without fear, and that's reasonable.
So after I told my team, they became even more lovely to work with. I don't know if that's because showing vulnerability and braveness warms people to you, or if I just relaxed into those friendships as my whole self. Either way, my life is happier, safer and more comfortable when I know the people I spend my weekdays with accept me.
I'm an advocate for people making it known they love the gays. When I was 16 I made a new friend at college and when a guy I knew made it known to her that I'm gay, her knee-jerk reaction was the cliched "some of my best friends are gay", which she later confirmed she'd never met a gay person before. People may criticse lines like this, but it comes from a place of empathy and I value when people do this, especially if they do it in front of someone who might be gay, as it makes it known to that person you are an ally. If people do it around me, I warm to them immediately.
I'm lucky enough to work at FutureLearn, an organisation that couldn't be more embracing of diversity if it tried. But even there, when you're new and although everything seems so safe, there's still that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that rejection could be just around the corner. Knowing my team had my back after that meeting was enough to make me feel more relaxed around the rest of the company.