I have lived in Reading, in the southeast of England, my whole life. I’m thirty-six now so that’s a long time to be situated in one place. So much so that this year I made a huge decision to uproot, say goodbye to family and friends, and make a new life for myself elsewhere. After much consideration and travel around the UK I decided to take the plunge and move to the Welsh coastal city of Swansea, around 145 miles away. That’s where I am now, writing these words, having only moved just last month.
Moving to Swansea was a big decision for me, a massive change in my life – and my family’s, who are still based in Reading. Moving to Swansea was a big risk. I don't know anyone in Swansea after all, and what if I've gone through this huge upheaval only for me to regret it and wish I’d never moved? Plus, I was doing it all alone – no partner, no best friend, just me.
As a gay man, one thing I've always been able to rely on is the support of the gay community. We look after one another, and we have each other’s backs.
As a gay man, one thing I've always been able to rely on is the support of the gay community. We look after one another, and we have each other’s backs. That’s not to say the local non-gay community in Swansea isn't kind and welcoming, because it is. It's just that it's probably going to take a little more time to connect and build relationships outside the gay community. Being new in town and not knowing anyone, I know I'll be able to find gay bars, social clubs and groups, or events where others in the gay community are happy to include me. Right off the bat, we already have something in common. When we are feeling a bit lonely and vulnerable, that’s all we really want, isn’t it – to feel included?
I’ve already met some lovely people who have led me around, taken me for coffee, and offered to show me the best places to visit, eat, and socialize. Swansea even held its own gay pride recently. There were food stalls galore, entertainment, music, people in fantastic colorful outfits, and even the local police had rainbows painted on their faces. Although I attended the event alone, and felt a little sheepish in doing so, there were plenty of people offering to include me in the celebrations. Doing anything alone can be scary and be a big risk. But knowing there’s a real community of people out there like you who are willing to support and spur you on is so comforting.
When we are feeling a bit lonely and vulnerable, that’s all we really want, isn’t it – to feel included?
It provokes the thought that not everyone is always that lucky – to be welcomed and supported and made to feel at ease with who they are. Some people don’t get to move away from their home town out of choice like I did. Some are forced out, simply because they are different. They have no alternative. Staying where they are is not an option, so they leave to seek refuge and community someplace new. Some might move to a neighboring city or town, and others might move to an entirely different country. Some people may stay where they live but feel like they have to move to a new neighborhood or get a new job just to feel accepted by their community or their coworkers.
Knowing that this kind of exclusion and marginalization happens all the time, each one of us needs to be accountable for embracing all people at the workplace, people who perhaps don't mirror our own image or beliefs or way of life. We have the responsibility to make people feel that we see them as equal and that they are accepted. In doing so we create a much safer space for everyone to share their ideas and vision, to be passionate, and to give their best every day.
How we interact and engage with people really does matter.
This resonates equally outside the workplace too. How we interact and engage with people really does matter – whether it's the clerk at the local store, a call you take on the phone, or just someone you may speak with in passing, such as a neighbor or member of the local community. Everyone has the right to be treated fairly and equally, and, as the saying goes, you get what you give.
I realize that I am lucky, and I appreciate it. And, it makes me very aware to ensure I do the same for others – that I give something back in return. As I start to familiarize myself in this new city, and try to embrace its unique charm, I’m thankful to those I’ve met who have started to help me acclimatize to these new surroundings. In doing so, I am meeting many other people – of all genders and sexual preferences – and slowly but surely, I feel I’m finding my feet.
The Culture Spotlight series illuminates what culture means to us as individuals so we can collectively create the culture that supports us all.
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