"I want to be the representation I needed to see when I was in school, and again at work."
In June 2019 our partner Ascential hosted JLU's first ever Ambassadors' Day, a day of skills development and socialising for our LGBT+ ambassadors nationwide.
As a tribute to the courage of Just Like Us LGBT+ ambassadors who share their stories in schools, Ascential Pride's co-chair Faye delivered her story growing up LGBT+.
Faye's story - growing up bisexual
Growing up, I didn’t realise I was bisexual. To be honest, I didn’t even know what bisexuality was.
I grew up in a good household with a good family, of course with our share of family problems (because, who doesn’t?!). I had crushes on boys at school and fancied Gareth Gates, Dom from ‘Dick and Dom in da Bungalow’ and Darius. But as I grew up I realised I had a growing appreciation for female celebrities – Holly Willoughby, Christina Hendricks, Gloria from Modern Family. I thought I just wanted to be like them. I’ve realised now, that I obviously had a type...
I went through school into year 9 blissfully unaware that my sexuality was going to
be a source of anxiety and heartache in my life. My best friend Ian came out that year, and was accepted with open arms by all of us at school as well as his family. It was great – I was super into supporting him, and went with him to my first Pride parade. I was chuffed that I was the best ally.
Then my brother came out as gay, which was fine too. Our family reacted well, and I became an even bigger ally. I wanted to go to more Pride parades and celebrate the LGBT+ community even more. I was proud that I could support my brother and my best friend, and give them the support I now realise I needed for myself.
In year 11 I made friends with a wonderful person, Jane. She was my best friend and we did everything together. We wrote letters to Stephen Fry, we had sleepovers, we went to parties and hung out constantly.
One day we stopped talking. In my version of events she ghosted me. But I don’t know, maybe from her side I did something to cause it. I’d been picked on and ditched by people before, but this was a new level of hurt.
It wasn’t until the summer of year 13 that I realised the admiration that I felt for her, other women around me and in the media was more than just admiration. I couldn’t name a single male celebrity I found ‘hot’ but I had an endless list of women. The loss I felt at our missing friendship was heartbreak. I realised I liked women too, and I had loved her.
I didn’t really realise that was an option, to be honest. I knew about being straight. I knew about being gay. I’d heard once too often that a character in a TV show ‘was gay now’, or that they ‘were greedy’, or doing it for attention. But I knew I wasn’t gay, I wasn’t ‘greedy’ and I didn’t tell anyone – I actively avoided the attention. How could I be bisexual, if those traits didn’t describe me?
I eventually came out to my best friend. I cried over my secret heartbreak, and we grew closer because of it. I left for university that year and the world around me changed. I was no longer surrounded by people I’d known since I was 5. I no longer had anyone else’s expectations of what sort of person I was and who I should be, so I came out.
Coming out at university was a liberating experience. I didn’t 100% accept or understand myself at the time, but it was a huge step in the right direction.
Things changed when I started a job out of uni, the one that I’m still in now, because I went back into my closet. I chose to hide the part of myself that I still didn’t quite accept. I was no longer surrounded by the open-minded uni kids I was used to. I was in a corporate world, and saw no place for self-expression there. I was dating a man so had no reason to out myself. But every day felt like I could only bring a part of me to work. The rest stayed at home, watching drag race and waving her rainbow flag.
I couldn’t see anyone else like me in my office. I knew Dave, who spoke of his male partner and their son, but beyond that – they were of unknown status. I just couldn’t risk being open with them – I was afraid of becoming close to people and then getting pushed away. I couldn’t let that happen again.
That all changed when I went to a work social and got drunk and came out to…everyone? I sought out Dave – who felt like the only gay person in the world – and told him my secret. He hugged me and accepted me and told me that there were at least a few other people like us in the office. I was so relieved I told everyone. Dave was what you do for a lot of kids in the schools you visit. You provide visibility and support - and I truly believe it makes a difference to those kids, just like the difference knowing Dave made to me.
Since then, I have been trying to change the company from the inside. I wanted to make sure that no one felt how I felt – too afraid to come out and bring their true selves to work. I want to be the representation I needed to see when I was in school, and again at work. When I heard about an opportunity to work with Just Like Us, I jumped at the chance. Just Like Us encourage and organise all of you, the amazing ambassadors, to do what I’ve been trying to do myself for the last year - and I’m so excited to help in any way I can.
I got hundreds of people wearing rainbow lanyards and celebrating the LGBT+ community, and have raised funds along the way too. I’m unfortunately leaving this company in a few months (don’t worry, I’ve told them), but I promised myself that I would leave it in a better place than when I started, and in doing this talk today, I really think I might have made that difference.