Jake Hallas, shares his experience of coming out at work - the challenges and the highlights.
During the month of June, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) is celebrated to honour the 1969 Stonewall riots and to recognise the ongoing fight for equal rights and equal opportunities for the LGBT+ community. I wanted to mark this occasion by sharing my story.
I've known I was gay since the early years of secondary school and so I guess did everybody else! There was never a day that went by that I wasn't subjected to some sort of bullying. Whilst everyone assumed I was gay it was not something I felt willing or able to deal with through school, especially as my older brother came out when I was 16 which made me feel guilty for my family and put me under pressure to stay in the closet.
I joined Rolls-Royce in September 2006 aged 16 as an engine fitter apprentice and later as a fitter at the Production Test Facility (PTF). The environment was male-dominated and macho and again I still didn't feel comfortable coming out although the questions and comments never really disappeared either. The 'banter' was as you might expect in the environment and did at times add to my discomfort in feeling unable to be my true self.
After a few years on the shop floor I thought a move into a different role would make it easier to be myself and so I moved to become a Programme Controller. Early on and having told my family and friends (who couldn't have been more supportive) I told a couple of trusted colleagues that I was gay. It then transpired that my manager had found out and had outed me to my team without my knowledge. My first reaction was of shock and anger but having time to digest the situation, and reflecting back, although I knew that was wrong, it did me a favour and meant I didn't have to have the awkward conversation with people…
It wasn't long before my old mates in the PTF found out and they were brilliant, even holding a coming out party for me! This helped my self-esteem and showed me how wrong I was in thinking the shop floor is an area that you can't be your authentic self no matter who you are. I've since moved back to this type of environment within Engine Overhaul Services (EOS), where I have always felt I can be myself. I've been fully supported and even encouraged to get heavily involved in Prism (our UK LGBT+ Employee Resource Group), supporting our community outreach work. Prism launched just as I came out and it felt like it was meant to be, with Prism giving me support and the boost needed to be myself and help drive change within the organisation and educate people on the topics affecting the LGBT+ community.
Looking back, I wish I'd been able to come out much sooner. Being in the closet made me unhappy, less productive and my mental health suffered as a result and that's why I now want to be a visible gay man to show people you can work wherever you want to work, do whatever job you want to do and being out and proud isn't detrimental to your career. If anything, the increased productivity and application at work aids development and progression within the organisation.
Sadly, so many people still can't be open about their true identity and, for me, that is why it is so important that we still have Pride Month.
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Rolls-Royce Holdings plc published this content on 18 June 2021 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 18 June 2021 06:22:01 UTC.