Published on 9 October 2020
Sunday, 11 October, is Coming Out Day – a day when people in the LGBTQ+ community share their stories of ‘coming out’, and offer support to others who are still not able to reveal their sexuality or gender identity to friends, family or colleagues.
At East Kent Hospitals we have a strong LGBTQ+ network, set up to promote a truly inclusive culture across the Trust and to provide a safe space and support group for people under the LGBTQ+ banner. It also provides information and advice for allies so they can better support their staff.
Sam Alexander, who works in the communications team, has recently become the chair of the network and is passionate about making sure the Trust is somewhere people feel safe to be themselves.
She said: “Starting a new job can be scary, it might take a while to build up enough trust with your colleagues to come out to them.
“Personally, I like to come out early to see how people react. When I was interviewed to work here, I mentioned my wife because I was talking about some charity work we had done together.
“It didn’t phase my managers, and they continued to be as lovely and positive as they had been before I mentioned it so I knew I was in the right place.”
Sam has always known she likes women but it wasn’t until she went to university in Canterbury that she started exploring those feelings.
She said: “It didn’t feel like a big ‘coming out’. My friends all knew before I was certain.
“At school there was no one else who was under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, but at university I met a lot of friends who were so I quickly developed a close group of supportive friends.
“When I told my family it wasn’t really a big event – my brother asked who I was texting so I said ‘my girlfriend’ and that was that.
“It took my grandparents a long time not to seem uncomfortable when my wife and I are together but once they realised I was still the same person, but in fact happier, they started to be more accepting.”
Sam and a friend revived the university’s LGBTQ+ network and grew it from a handful of people to a large, well established network, and she is hoping for similar success at EKHUFT.
She said: “I hope to make it more representative of all the staff under the umbrella so everyone has a say and feels their voice is heard.
“Coming out is different for everyone and people should only do it when they are ready. The network can be a safe place to talk about that and to get support.
“I’d always advise someone to start small and tell someone they trust – it may not actually be as scary as you think.”