Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Industry figures share their stories for National Coming Out Day 2023

This National Coming Out Day, and as part of our ongoing Media Pride* initiative, we decided to ask some of our partners and friends for their coming out stories.

We hope that these accounts can help other LGBTQ+ people within the industry to begin the journey to having their own stories to share.

Chris Dunne, Head of Marketing at Thinkbox and Events Co-Director at Outvertising

My coming out was far from perfect. I can’t even take responsibility for it happening when it did. I was 23, deeply depressed with the weight of the secret on my shoulders, and acting up at home. My dad (bless him) was the instigator in the end. “We know you’re gay!”, he blurted out in rare moment of exasperation. “You need to start dealing with it properly!”

It wasn’t how either of us would’ve wanted it, but the weight started to lift overnight. We talked, he offered to broker the news to some other family members, and slowly but surely, all the fears of rejection that I had held so dear for so long began to dissipate.

For what it’s worth, my advice on National Coming Out Day is to perhaps try and give those closest to you a little credit. Don’t be too surprised if your big news isn’t that much of a surprise.

And no matter what you’ve built up in your head, things rarely turn out as badly as you’ve imagined them. A mantra for coming out, but not a bad one for life in general.

Frances Lazenby, Head of Strategic Solutions at Ozone

As I started my first job in media, I wasn’t fully comfortable with my authentic self. While I became more accepting of my sexuality and came out to my family, I still didn’t feel brave enough to tell the people I was spending 40 hours a week with. Not wanting to seem like I’d ‘changed my mind’ or correct people who would ask if I had a boyfriend meant I ended up being closed off to many of my colleagues for more than five years. It affected my ability to socialise freely and maintain friendships, and is something I regret greatly to this day. That’s why when I eventually changed jobs it was a conscious decision to come out from day one. I felt uncomfortable and anxious, but it’s the best decision I have made in my working life. 

If I could give any advice, it would be to remind everyone that work is where you spend by far the most hours of your waking life, and although it might not feel like it at the time, not being your full authentic self will be impacting you in the short and long term. Coming out may feel uncomfortable for a few brief moments, but it will be the best decision you make and if anyone makes you feel like this isn’t the case, these are not the people to be surrounding yourself with. 

Jamie Barrell, Publicis Groupe UK’s Egalite Co-Lead

I came out just before I turned 18 while I was at a very religious and conservative High School in Pretoria, South Africa. I’m not sure I was actually really ready at the time, but I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I had always known I was different but couldn’t quite put my finger on how. Somehow I found the courage to tell my parents, brother and all my friends and also announced it at my 18th birthday party. Finally, all of the slurs and the name calling that I had experienced didn’t hurt as much because I was being my true self and felt confident enough to shrug it off.

Don’t get me wrong, I know everyone says it gets better, and it does, but not always immediately. It takes patience and also a lot of self-care and I was very fortunate to have many loved ones around me who supported me, but it took them some time too. On this National Coming Out Day I am proud of how strong I was at that age and if I could go back and tell myself something, it would be: “You are enough”.

Sarah Marsh, Head of Marketing at Adimo

The first time I came out was to my parents, I was 16, terrified, and didn’t feel as though I had a choice. But coming out isn’t a one-time thing. Since then, I’ve come out so many times… to school and uni friends at 18, at hotels, estate agents, and nearly every doctor’s appointment! The thing that doesn’t really get talked about though is coming out to colleagues, which you end up doing basically every time you change jobs.

For me, every conversation and coming out ‘micro-moment’ in and out of work gets easier. My confidence has grown and I’ve never been more comfortable with my sexuality and in my own skin. That initial fear has gone, and it’s so worth it to be able to freely be myself.  

As an industry, we’re doing the work to increase LGBTQ+ representation and visibility, but let’s not overlook the small things – like making inclusive language and non-gendered questions the norme.g.‘do you have a/ live with your partner?’.Because it’s these that can give your LGBTQ+ colleagues the confidence to own those coming out micro-moments.

Geraint Lloyd-Taylor, Partner at Lewis Silkin LLP

I came out gradually over the course of a few years. I am lucky to work in a law firm doing advertising and marketing law, and we have a lot of lesbian, gay and bisexual role models whose presence and profile within the firm really made it a lot easier.

It was tricky for me, as I grew up in a rural community in North Wales, and I was a teenager in the mid and late 90s. Moving to London for me was a great way to find work but also (and this is cheesy, I know!) to find myself. I couldn’t imagine back then living as a completely ‘out’ gay person when I grew up.

It took time to come out to friends, family and colleagues, and as I say the process took many years. But I didn’t regret it even once. Now, my life is enhanced on a daily basis by the fact I’m gay. I’ve met so many wonderful people through LGBTQIA+ networks, events and so on – lifelong friends.

I hope everyone can feel free to come out in the way that’s right and comfortable for them, when they are ready. It’s not a fairytale for everyone, of course, but help is out there for those who are struggling, and things really do get better!

Molly Towers Mode, Senior Associate Director – Media Planning at EssenceMediacom UK

Coming out for me has happened in multiple stages in my life. Though my sexuality doesn’t define me, it is a huge part of how I experience and interact with the world. Without coming out, I don’t know who I would be.

The first, and hardest stage was coming out to myself at the age of 15. At a time when everyone at school was talking about boys, I couldn’t help but feel I was living an alternative (and secret) life; one in which I realised I had feelings for girls. Coming out to myself was a process of accepting this big part of who I am, a part of myself that I hated for a long time because it didn’t fit in with everyone else, and that was a journey of self-love (a journey I am still on).

Coming out to my friends and family was the next stage. This was only possible when I met other lesbians and realised I wasn’t alone. This is why my community is so important to me: to reflect back the experiences I go through on a daily basis and connect with people who understand.

My final stage of coming out is a continuous one – one that I do during every interaction with a new person or group. With every new team, client, colleague or friend, I find myself mentioning my ex-partners or dating life, so that they understand this part of me. As I say, it doesn’t define who I am but coming out empowers me to live authentically and be happy. It’s not always easy but I have learnt that I am proud of who I am and know I don’t have to hide myself to make others feel comfortable.

*Media Pride is a content and events initiative that provides a space for discussion and debate around LGBTQIA+ issues in our industry.

Representation and diversity are top of the agenda for both NDA and the industry as a whole and Media Pride is designed to celebrate this.

NDA has partnered with Outvertising for the launch of Media Pride and formed an advisory board to ensure the initiative is held accountable.

The Media Pride advisory board includes Mandy Rayment, Director Of Communications at Publicis Media; Tamara Littleton, CEO, The Social Element; Jerry Daykin, Head of Global Media, Beam Suntory; Bryan Scott, Marketing Communications Director, Ozone; Chris Kenna, Chairman & Founder, Brand Advance Group; Marty Davies, Joint CEO, Outvertising; and Mike Murray, Head of Programmatic, Mindshare.