Celebrating International Coming Out Day

Riverside is proud to say it welcomes employees from a wide range of backgrounds. On International Coming Out Day, one BAME colleague share’s his experience.
By Kelvin O’Mard, Care and Support Area Manager

Being born to parents who came to England from the Caribbean, where attitudes toward the LGBT community are politically incorrect to say the least, one would have thought my experience of ‘coming out’ would have been quite difficult.

My mother had passed away quite a few years before and so the only person I felt it important to tell was my father, who as a single parent had been both mother and father to my three siblings and myself. It meant so much to me to be able to share with him the fact that I was gay and more importantly I did not want to live a double life of lies and deceit.

I was in my early twenties and still living at home. I had already come out to my two closest friends who I had known at secondary school, both of whom I later discovered were also gay. I also had a boyfriend who I would invite home, under the guise of being ‘just friends’.

I remember the day well. It was a Sunday afternoon, my other siblings were either out or in another part of the house and my father was dozing in front of the television. I remember my heart beating really quickly and my stomach was twisted with nerves.

As I entered the room and saw my father asleep, I hesitated for a moment and felt like backing out of the room quietly. Then the thought came – if I don’t do it now, when will I ever tell him? By this time my heart beat sounded like a base drum booming within my chest and I was very frightened and apprehensive about what my father’s reaction would be. My father was from the old-school of parenting. He had anger issues and could be quite strict.

“Dad,” I said gently. “I have something I want to tell you.” My father started to wake and he turned to look at me. “Dad,” I repeated, wanting to make sure he was properly awake. “Yes son? What is it?”
“Well,” I hesitated. “You know my friend Don who often comes here to visit me, well he’s my boyfriend.”

There was a moment’s pause which seemed like an ocean of time that I wanted to dive into and drown and then my father spoke. “I know,” he said. “How did you know?” I asked. “I knew you were going to be gay because I spoke to your nanny when you were about 10 years old and she told me that you were going to be ‘different’.”

And that was that. My father simply adjusted his position on the sofa and went back to his nap. I was left opened mouthed and speechless. My only thought were ones of relief tinged with the sense of my coming out being a bit of an anti-climax.

Over the years my father and I disagreed on many things and sometimes had a tense relationship, however he never treated me any different to my other siblings and I was never made me feel that being gay was anything wrong or bad.

My father was in sense my first LGBT ally and his acceptance has held me in good stead throughout my adulthood.

I joined Riverside in 2013 and became an Area Manager in 2015 – a role that has been both exhilarating and challenging. I love the fact that Riverside supports the LGBT community through its LGBT staff network Spectrum which promotes activities and other diary events to raise awareness and gives the LGBT staff and customers a platform and a voice within the business.

I am quite popular amongst my colleagues and feel confident to speak to them about being gay and other issues related to my personal life.