It’s OK to take ‘Pride’ in your true self

MiQ commercial director Fiona Roberts reflects on a powerful journey of discovery, as we begin Pride Month.

With the excitement of Pride Month just around the corner, and only two years to go until Sydney hosts the first ever World Pride Celebrations in October 2023, I’ve recently spent some time reflecting on how different our industry and my working experience is to when I started in media at 21.

Twenty years ago, I walked into my first real media gig full of hope, ambition, excitement, and a very large dose of fear. At that stage, I had yet to come to fully accept myself as gay. Sure, on the inside I knew deep down that secretly watching The L Word when my parents weren’t home was probably not leading me directly down the path of heterosexuality, but I was certainly not out, and I was still hopeful I could be what everyone thought I was, what they wanted me to be, and what everyone seemingly around me was: straight.

So, when I walked in on that first day to what was my dream job at 21, from the outset bucketed with all those hopeful emotions, was a terrifying fear that someone would notice I was lying. From that day, and for a number of years following, every day I went to work feeling as though I was an imposter, lying to my colleagues, lying to myself, and as a result, I never felt like I could fully breathe in or out. That imposter feeling seeped its way into how I felt about all of my work. I was frightened to go on annual leave… what if they notice I’m not any good? It was absolutely not an option to have a sick day, that would be unplanned and as result, I wouldn’t have been able to hide all the ways I didn’t think I was doing a good enough job. That thinking resulted in my catching pneumonia twice because I wouldn’t stay home and rest…the fear of being found out was all around me.

Meanwhile, in reality I had been promoted twice in 18 months, singled out repeatedly for salesperson of the month, and had brought in more new business than any seller that year.

I can remember so clearly as though it was yesterday, my heart racing, words stumbling out of my mouth as I gathered enough courage to whisper to a colleague for the first time, “I think I’m a lesbian.” We were sitting in the back corner of a dingy Surry Hills pub, late in the evening after work drinks and the feeling of finally being able to exhale when he turned to me and said: “Well that’s ok” and immediately gave me a hug. It is something I will never forget. That colleague went on to become one of my dearest friends and professional advocates, never breaking my confidence but encouraging me that it was ok to be who I was openly if I chose to be. It was his support and the others that followed that led me to slowly creep my way out of the closet.

Not everyone was supportive though. I remember one instance in my career when I was hauled into the boss’ office on a Friday morning and told that I had brought my employer and myself into disrepute for openly stating at an industry event the evening before that I was gay.

I was asked to explain my actions and I was so shocked at that moment, I couldn’t speak and was dismissed from their office, walking with such shame back to my desk. I waited 10 minutes before I snuck to the disabled toilets so I could cry in private. It was a catalyst moment for me though, because from then on, I decided I would no longer allow myself to be shamed, to allow myself to be told I should hide, and ever since I have lived every day as my own truth, no matter what that honesty may bring.

The value we put on being able to be ourselves in the workplace, cannot be underestimated. When I first saw the job listing for a role at MiQ, I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of them. However, at the bottom of the JD, there was a statement that stood out to me as one that embraced what I was looking for in my next employer. It wasn’t just the usual ‘we are an equal opportunity employer’ tagline, it was: “At MiQ, we don’t just accept differences between our people, it is what builds us as a community.” 

I immediately applied and throughout the interview process, they demonstrated to me that the statement in that job description wasn’t just words to attract candidates, it was core to their purpose as a business. I was lucky enough to secure the position, and every single day they have lived up to that promise. I don’t just feel accepted, I feel encouraged, acknowledged, and embraced for being exactly who I am. Now that I can fully breathe in and out every day, I’ve been able to bring my best self to the workplace, and as a result, the best work of my career.

This Pride Month, I encourage anyone reading this to take a moment to recognise how lucky many of us are to be able to bring our true selves to work, because that may not necessarily be true for the person sitting next to you.

Fiona Roberts is the commercial director of MiQ.


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