Let’s celebrate National Coming Out Day and make coming out easier every day
Misa von Tunzelman reflects on her coming out story to mark 34 years of National Coming Out Day
This October marks 34 years since the first National Coming Out Day was celebrated to mark theone-year anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Since then it has taken off all over the world as a time for us to remember the highs and lows of coming out and reassure those who are yet to do it, that it will be ok.
My own coming out journey started as a teenager. I came out to my family just before going to university as I didn’t want them to think this was just a student phase. My family reacted really well. I was lucky, unlike a lot of people back then.
In the early 1990s, the AIDS epidemic was rife and the age of consent laws were stopping young men from getting help when they needed it. Our community took abuse, sacking, queer bashing and being kicked out of families as a necessary cost of being ourselves. It took guts to come out and sometimes it took sacrifices too. My friends looked on in awe when my mum marched with us in Brighton Pride in 1994.
The workplace is changing. I was a bit naive in my first job as a marketing assistant for a museum and I came out straight away, luckily I worked in a small team and everyone was pretty open. They were curious but kind and I felt very at home there. After a couple of years there, I moved to consultancy group EY, which was ahead of the curve even back then with an LGBTQ+ staff group and a few senior role models.
I was hit with a somewhat large barrier when I entered the property industry in 2004. It’s an amazing industry to work in and from the get-go I loved the work and the people but back then the culture was very traditional and very male dominated. There were few female role models, let alone LGBTQ+ ones and I didn’t want to be the subject of gossip. I wanted to be known for my work, not my sexuality, so for the first time in my career I went back into the closet.
At the time I was in an opposite-sex relationship, so I hoped that it would be easier to keep my sexuality a secret. In some ways, it was easier than for people in same-sex relationships but having been out in nearly every other part of my life for more than a decade, the possibility of being “found out” was high.
Having been in the closet for 10 years, I did eventually come out. I read an article in our in-house newsletter about some colleagues who had met at a Freehold event and realised they weren’t the only LGBTQ+ people at our company. I asked to meet them all and worked with them to set up our staff LGBTQ+ network. Despite the fear I had, my colleagues were all great about it, many of them sharing stories of LGBTQ+ friends or relatives. The world had moved on a long way in that decade.
While, there is no denying that we have come a long way since I first came out, it doesn’t mean that it’s not still a hugely daunting experience for many. And it is something we all have to do over and over again.
Days like National Coming Out Day are incredibly valuable. The more people hear what it is like to come out and understand what they can do to support, the easier it is for us all whether it’s the first time we’re coming out or the 100th!
So, whether you’re an employer, a colleague, a family member, a friend or all of the above, I ask you this Coming Out day to Come Out in support too. You could choose to tell colleagues about an LGBTQ+ friend or family member, you could participate in a campaign or simply like a post on social media, it all matters and it all helps.