Out and proud at Tesco
24 February 2016
I’m gay, and seeing as it’s LGBT history month I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my experiences and hopes for the future, and to celebrate just how much the LGBT community has achieved here at Tesco.
Hi, my name’s Ben, I’m a Team Leader in our Express store in Dudley and I joined Team Tesco during the summer of 2013. I’m gay, and seeing as it’s LGBT history month I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my experiences and hopes for the future, and to celebrate just how much the LGBT community has achieved here at Tesco.
As my story goes, I first came out to my closest friends at school when I was 14. I was terrified, but I knew it was who I was and that I couldn’t pretend to be someone else, just to avoid causing discomfort for the people around me.
Unfortunately, my secret didn’t stay that way for long and soon most of the other kids in school knew. I received a small amount of support, but mostly I was bullied and treated with fear. This continued during my time at college, but I took comfort and strength from staying true to myself and didn’t let anyone make me feel ashamed of being gay.
It took me another year after first coming out to tell my mum, as I found it harder to tell family members than friends. She was shocked by the news and we didn’t really discuss it for a few weeks – whenever I brought it up the conversation was shut down. I felt alone during that time, but it wasn’t long before the silence was broken.
Once she’d processed the news mum told me she wasn’t disappointed with me, but that she was proud – proud and scared about the future, because she knew I’d experience discrimination and prejudice. Over time my mum became my biggest advocate, giving me the confidence to follow my heart and become the person I am today.
So far my life has been filled with amazing people who I’ll keep close to me forever, but I’ve also experienced homophobia with verbal and physical attacks.
Colleagues in Tesco have mostly been supportive towards me…it’s okay to be gay here, no big deal. Sometimes it feels like we’re a family, especially in an Express store where our team is quite small. I’ve had colleagues who’d never met someone gay until they worked with me and I’m always happy to answer questions about what it’s like to live my life; in return I get to ask them about their background too.
There’s plenty of common ground when you take the time to learn more about people – my passions are paintballing and computer games. Everyone’s unique and I like that, but everyone deserves respect and to feel safe. The experiences I’ve had in life have led me to always support the underdog, and I often take the time to help someone who might need a little confidence boost – whether it’s a colleague or a customer.
Reading Tesco’s LGBT Timeline reminds me how far our community has come and how easy it is to take these achievements for granted. When I think about what I want for the future, I’d like the LGBT community to be more accepting of each other than we are today.
On 4 February I attended Tesco’s event to mark the start of LGBT History Month in London, where I had the opportunity to share my passion for the need to upskill colleagues with Therese Procter, our People Director. She assured me that continuing to make everyone feel welcome at Tesco is one of our key priorities this year.
Hear from more members of Tesco’s LGBT network below, or find out more about Out at Tesco.