Although the visibility and representation of bisexuals are slowly improving, misunderstanding and misconceptions still cloud the identity. This month marks Bisexual Visibility Month, a time to emphasize the education still needed to challenge these outdated presumptions. We spoke to Katy Willis, Project Manager at Kellogg about their story of coming out as bisexual and the common myths the bisexual community face.
Hi Katy, thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m currently working as a Project Manager for the Innovation & Strategy team at Kellogg’s. It’s an exciting role as I get to deliver new products from concept to launch or lead projects focusing on improving the recyclability of our snacks.
Can you tell us a bit about your coming out journey?
I came out while I was at university. One drunken kiss with a girl was the start. I feel lucky as there were lots of people on the rugby team who had similar experiences, so I never felt like the odd one out, and we all got to go with the flow without too many questions. I remember being worried about telling my friends back home as we went to catholic school, and I wondered if their parents would let me in the house!
Growing up in a very heteronormative environment means it probably took me a little longer to realise I was queer, given I was attracted to boys, I just thought I was really picky. When in fact, I’m bi but with a preference for long-term relationships with women.
Have you always been comfortable being out in the workplace?
After leaving uni, I started my first job in recruitment and my manager at the time made an inappropriate comment about being careful about playing rugby because of the lesbians. After that, there was no way I was coming out at work, which was difficult when talking about my plans for the weekend as I wanted people to think I was single rather than have a girlfriend. I’d react very differently now if a similar situation happened but being bi still left very new to me then, and I wasn’t sure how accepting people would be outside of a progressive education environment.
Looking back, uni was a bubble, and in the working world, there were no queer role models in my life, so it took some time to come out of the closest in a professional environment.
What do you think workplaces can do to make coming out easier?
Having an LGBTQ+ network is a great way workplaces can make it easier for queer people to come out. Kellogg’s has been a great place to be yourself at work, although DE&I wasn’t a topic when I first joined, and I was still closed off about my sexuality because of my experience in my previous job. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to be involved with our LGBTQ+ network, K Pride & Allies, I want to be the role model I never had. It’s true what they say about ‘you can’t be what you don’t see,’ and having diverse leaders is one way to showcase an inclusive culture, reassuring the community that you can still achieve your career aspirations. For me being out and co-chairing the network has been amazing for my career and given me additional exposure and opportunities I wouldn’t have had through the day job.
Why is bisexual awareness month important to you?
I think it's important to recognise that no bisexual experience is the same and to not make assumptions or rules based on what other bi people are doing. People are bi regardless of what gendered relationship they are in. Imagine if you are new to a workplace and dating someone of the opposite sex; it’s too easy for people to assume you are straight or that you are gay if it’s the reverse.
Bisexuality isn’t an identity the hetero community are as familiar with, and we don’t get the same representation in popular culture, with lots of historic stereotypes still in place. It can be harder to come out as you can’t slip into conversation the pronouns of your partner as an explanation of your sexuality, and it can lead to feeling that your identity is invisible unless you are constantly coming out. I’m pretty sure most people at work assume I am a lesbian because I am a prominent queer female voice and have had female partners more recently.
My friend recently got married, and I made sure to get a (tasteful) wedding card with a rainbow on it because she is bi marrying a man, and I wanted a little nod to her identity to let her know is still very much part of the queer community. I really do think small gestures of acknowledgement and understanding can go a long way.