Let's talk about the B word
“Before M&S, I’d spent a lot of time hiding behind my work in environments whose culture didn’t lend itself to the idea of being yourself. Having got the right help, I was able to get back to the point where I was happy with who I am, and able to come out as bi. When I joined M&S, I didn’t want to have to feel like I was hiding again. So discovering the LGBT+ network during my induction was amazing. Finally, I’d found a workplace where I could be me.”
September 23rd was the 18th year of the annual Bi Visibility Day – a day to raise awareness of the ‘B’ in LGBT+. To mark this date, we spoke to Bryn, a PCI Manager in the Cyber Security Compliance team at Stockley Park, about his experiences of coming out as a bisexual man and how he has found life at M&S.
“To me, Worldwide Bi Visibility Day is an opportunity to talk about bisexuality – highlighting the lack of visibility in the media and the arts, and underscoring the message that being bi isn’t a stepping stone on the way to coming out as lesbian or gay.
“Coming out was a fairly late experience for me. I’d largely ignored my sexuality through my late teens and twenties out of fear of what it might mean. I tried distracting myself by burying myself in work, which led to a vicious cycle where I’d end up thinking about it, resolve to explore it some more, chicken out, hate myself a bit more, then dive more into my work.
“Things came to a head (as they invariably do), and I ended up in a bad way – which included some severe physical symptoms. I sought help from a counsellor, and came to realise that burying parts of myself wasn’t a healthy thing to do. My fear over what people might say about me was stopping me from finding out who I was – which was making me miserable.
“My counsellor encouraged me to start taking improv classes, which helped me get out of my own way. These forced me to stop over-thinking and embrace the moment, and accept that there isn’t always a right answer. That approach spilled over into the rest of my life, and I came to realise what I’d been burying away for so long. I came out to friends, and found a new level of happiness, a freedom from the fears that had been weighing me down for so long.
“This happened just before I joined M&S. I came into the company having made a start on this journey, and one of my fears was having to hide myself away again. I’d worked in companies whose culture didn’t lend itself to the idea of being yourself – carrying an expectation to look and act a certain way.
“Finding out about the LGBT+ network was a revelation. I then met Leanne, Scott and Jon (M&S LGBT+ ambassadors), and was really encouraged by what they were doing. They (and everyone else) deserve masses of praise for the great work they’ve put in and what they’ve achieved – both in public and behind the scenes. For me, I think it’s important that we can support the whole LGBT+ spectrum, and I’m really proud to be able to play a small part.
“Since coming out and joining M&S, I’ve been asked if it’s a good LGBT employer. I’m not sure I can answer. It certainly is for me, but, then I work in the HQ bubble and part of an excellent team. I see an amazing foundation, and built in a sustainable way, which makes me confident there’s a firm commitment to create an open and inclusive workplace.Inside M&S