News Article

GCHQ - coming out and proud

Last Updated: 11 Oct 2016
Embracing our differences on National Coming Out Day: a personal reflection.

News article - 11 Oct 2016

The 11th of October marks National Coming Out Day, when we celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBT+) or as an ally. This year marks the 28th year, celebrating the act of coming out to family, friends and colleagues, and living life as an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person. Everyone ‘comes out’ in a different way, and whether you tell someone special in person, write a letter or someone else does it on your behalf, coming out is often preceded by an initial fear of the unknown; not knowing what someone will say of how they will react.

It often marks a significant step in coming to terms with who you are, and feeling comfortable in your own skin. Many remember when they took the brave step to tell the first person about their feelings, identity and preferences, and that is often a day that should be celebrated.

The LGBT+ community is bursting with emotional coming out stories, and more recently YouTube videos too; thankfully many of these are tales of parents and friends embracing an individual’s uniqueness and diversity. Reflecting back on my own coming out I’m grateful that I had the support of friends and colleagues at GCHQ, as I was one of the few that sadly didn’t have a smooth ride when telling my parents. Through the support of other LGBT+ colleagues, over many years I was able to rebuild the relationship with my parents and they now welcome me and my partner into their lives. National Coming Out Day for me is a reminder that sometimes conversations are difficult, but ultimately being true to yourself is important. I feel very lucky to have an employer that welcomes everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and over the years I’ve been able to share my own coming out story and help others in similar situations.

Coming out doesn’t just happen on the 11th October, for many LGBT+ people everywhere it is happening every day. Once the first big reveal has been planned and precisely delivered, you soon realise that you have to do it time and time again as you enter into conversations with colleagues and friends and talk about partners, family and preferences. One piece of advice I’d give anyone thinking about coming out is: do it when it feels right for you, don’t feel pressured into doing it. For many years as a junior engineer I was able to get support from our own GCHQ Pride network, knowing that they welcomed, respected and supported people who don’t wish to be out at work.

In many ways GCHQ has come out as an organisation, and more than once. Not only from under a veil of secrecy back in 1983 when our function and existence was avowed in Parliament, but also more recently.  I’m immensely proud of the work that we do, and I realise that it has sometimes been difficult for us to talk about that. With the threats that we face, it is important that GCHQ has a voice, people understand more about our work, and we can talk to others about the important work we do to keep Britain safe. 

Diversity is brilliant. By recognising the value of individual differences and embracing them so that everyone can be themselves at work, GCHQ enables everyone to give their best. This allows us to tackle the difficult problems that we face every day, by thinking in new ways, working better together, and staying one step ahead of our adversaries. I’m lucky enough to get involved in the recruitment and development of the latest generations of analysts, engineers and cyber professionals - I’m proud to wear my Pride lanyard (a quiet way of ‘coming out’) so that LGBT+ people recognise that they can be themselves within GCHQ and have a successful career.

Happy National Coming Out Day everyone!

Stewart, from GCHQ Bude.


GCHQ Bude's aerials lit up in rainbow colours to celebrate IDAHOBiT Day 2016
©CBphoto 2016