An open letter to adland on National Coming Out Day

Mark Runacus, planning partner and co founder of Wax/On and president of PrideAM, on why you cannot be what you cannot see

Dear Colleague

Today is the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day.  All over the world people will move closer to being their true authentic selves. And because the UK’s advertising community is still sorely lacking in visible and active LGBT+ role models, I sincerely hope today is the day more LGBT+ people will take that brave step.

Too often I hear stories about senior people client-side and agency-side who nearly everyone around them knows is LGBT+, but for some reason they have chosen to hide to all but a close group of colleagues.

That makes me sad. But I do understand.

Because earlier in my career that was me.

I told myself that I didn’t want to be defined by my sexuality and that it wasn’t anyone else’s business. And that it had nothing to do with my job.

I was wrong on all counts. Today I am much more effective because I’m no longer hiding a very big part of me.

If you’re straight and close to an LGBT+ colleague, do please show your support every day, but today in particular. I’ve seen some new research that shows we’re feeling more confident about coming out to our work colleagues, but many of us still don’t like being out to clients.  

So, straight ally friend, you can help me here. Maybe out me (with my consent!) in the nicest possible way, in our next client meeting. Help me avoid that cringeworthy conversation where my new client keeps using the wrong pronoun to describe my partner. Then when I correct them, I get an awkward: "Oh, I’m sorry."  

If you’re a closeted leader, please think about the words of activist Marian Wright Edelman: "You can’t be what you can’t see." And remember: we’re all role models.

It gets easier, and yet every day I still worry if I’m being authentic. Am I banging on about gay stuff too much? Am I making a positive difference? And then I hear another disappointing story with some form of prejudice at its heart, and a mixture of anger and fear spurs me on.

I wish you a wonderful day. It’s great out here.

Mark

Mark Runacus is planning partner and co founder of Wax/On and president of PrideAM

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