04/05/2021

Letters To My Invisible Self: A series of open letters from P&G employees written to themselves for Lesbian Visibility Week

At P&G, Equality & Inclusion is in our DNA and at the heart of our Purpose, Values and Principles. We’re committed to creating a workplace where everyone feels empowered to be their 100% authentic self. Where every talent is nurtured, and every voice is valued

This week sees the second annual celebration of Lesbian Visibility Week of which P&G is a lead sponsor. P&G has a legacy of fostering workplace equality and employee pride, and we’re proud to show our support for the LGBTQ+ community year-round, especially during DIVA’s Lesbian Visibility Week, which has a key role to play to bring LGBTQI women together and to address the key challenges they face in an increasingly diverse society.

To mark the week, we wanted to amplify the voices of our employees; to allow them to share their authentic stories to further drive awareness and action – continuing our commitment to ensure that everyone feels comfortable bringing their full selves to work.

We have collated a series of open letters, written by our employees and addresses to their ‘invisible’ selves – looking back to their younger selves and sharing their own personal journeys to be the incredible people they are today.

Tara Suri, Senior National Account Manager, P&G

Tara Suri, Senior National Account Manager, P&G

Dear Little T,

I’m writing to you from the year 2021 with, would you believe it, curly hair. Turns out that despite a decade of straightening, you have great natural curls… embrace them! It’ll save you a lot of time in the mornings. Besides, Jess loves them, and that brings me to the more important point.

Throughout your teenage years, you’re going to realise that you’re a little different from some of your friends. A guy called Zac Efron is going to become famous soon and all your female friends are going to be obsessed with him. You’re going to wonder why you don’t feel the same, and why you’d rather have a poster of Sophia Bush on your bedroom wall. It’s totally natural to feel that way, and I promise it’s nothing to feel ashamed of. You are free to trust your feelings, whoever they manifest towards – be it a boy, a girl, or nobody at all. Your attraction to girls will ultimately guide who you fall in love with later in life, and that’s where Jess comes in. Despite what you think and feel right now, I promise, you’ll meet her one day and it’ll feel like all the elements in your life have fallen into place.

Before that though, there are few tricky years where you to come to terms with the idea that you’re attracted to girls. And then you’ll have to tell your friends, family, mum and dad. You’re going to struggle with your self-identity for a while and try to hide by telling people you like boys too. Honestly, labels aren’t important, but society wants you to pick one. The one you end up feeling most comfortable with is ‘gay’.

On the topic of ‘coming out’, some people think it’s a phase at first, but they soon understand you’re serious. In fact, mum, dad and Harsha are all incredibly supportive of your relationships from day one. Unfortunately, ‘coming out’ doesn’t stop at mum, dad and your friends at school. Every time you meet somebody new; whether that be friends, teammates or colleagues, they’ll assume you’re heterosexual until told otherwise. Luckily, so far nobody has really been that bothered about it. Especially the rugby girls, they embrace diversity from all walks of life, and you’ll feel right at home with them! The fear of ‘coming out’ never goes away, but just remember that being gay is something to be proud of. As you get older, you’ll start to notice that being a woman, being gay, and being half Indian, are all parts of who you are. You can’t change that. Eventually you’ll learn to embrace these things, even though your tolerance to spicy food never really improves. The sooner you learn that having straight hair, wearing clothes from Tammy Girl, and painting your bedroom pink are not really the things that make you happy, the better. Your love for David Beckham isn’t a phase though, that one sticks for life!

The world is changing in so many ways, and women’s voices are stronger than ever. But sometimes, even in 2021, it’ll feel like you’re the only gay woman in the world. That most certainly isn’t the case, but every now and again you’ll look around and feel a little bit out of place. I don’t really have the answer for you on that one, we’re still working on it.

Read more here!

Elaine Mcculloch, F&A Senior Manager, P&G

Elaine Mcculloch, F&A Senior Manager, P&G

To my 22 year old self,

You have left the comfort of your University bubble, have just moved to Newcastle with your girlfriend and started a temp job at P&G. You’re going to have a tough few years but stick it out. This job will become your career, you will be recognised internally and externally for your achievements, you will be promoted to senior manager and you will support others in their careers.

You will make amazing friends at work, who will know that M isn’t just your flatmate, but they will wait patiently for you to tell them in your own time. They will love you no matter what, they will come to your civil partnership ceremony, they will travel to Glasgow for your children’s Christenings. Surprise! Did I mention the kids?

I want to give you some advice. Be honest with yourself.

You have convinced yourself that you don’t need to tell people about your relationship because it doesn’t define you, and that it will have no bearing on how you can do your job. But that’s only true to an extent. It may not fully define you, but it is the most important part of your life that you’re going to keep to yourself for too long. While it won’t directly impact your ability to do your job, if the only way to make sure you’re not telling lies is to put up a wall and just not say anything at all – this will go on to play a huge part in how you form relationships with others which will surely have an impact on your job performance. In a few years’ time you’ll finally admit to yourself that the actual reason you didn’t want to tell people about your relationship was simply that you didn’t want to be seen as ‘different’. Get over it.

You’ll discover you work for a company who values diversity and actively works to be inclusive. Not only that, the people who you’re going to work with over the next 18 years are pretty awesome and will not judge you or treat you any differently. In fact, they are going to respect you even more when you are open and honest about your life.

That said, you may find that people, maybe even senior business leaders, ask you unusual, personal questions. You don’t have to answer! In fact, please challenge them and enquire politely if they would have asked the same question to a straight person. My advice to business leaders - know your boundaries. It’s great that you are interested in your employees, but don’t trip yourself up by not knowing what is and isn’t appropriate to ask.

It’s not going to be easy. You will tell your manager about your planned civil partnership, because you’re not sure if you are entitled to those 5 extra days holiday (you will be, HR confirmed). From that point onwards, you’re going to have to ‘come out’ time and time again. It gets easier when the children come along, because you’ll realise that as a parent you will feel a greater responsibility to be your true self.

In about 14 years’ time when you move to your current role, you’ll actually do a proper introduction in your department meeting with pictures of your wife, kids and everything! Believe me, it might sound impossible now – but it’s much more efficient this way, and it feels pretty good.

Finally, 18 years from now, you will realise the difference between being ‘out’ and being ‘visible’.

It’s important you do this, and the sooner the better. You might be able to make a difference to other peoples’ lives.

Be honest. Be visible. Take Care.

Shelly McNamara, Chief Equality & Inclusion Officer, Procter & Gamble

Shelly McNamara, Chief Equality & Inclusion Officer, Procter & Gamble

Author of “No Blanks, No Pauses – A Path to Loving Self and Others”

Barbara Streisand’s song “Somewhere” plays loudly on your car radio and you sing along (“Somewhere a place for us. Somewhere there’s a place for us…peace and quiet and open air. Wait for us. Somewhere…”). You yearn deeply for a place you can be yourself, and be loved not in spite of who you are, but because of who you are. You fear that when others learn that you are gay – their love and connection to you will disappear. Hateful language is all around you. People “like you” are regular targets of that hate. You capture your hopes and fears in words, in journals, in stories. One day these words will have purpose and meaning. They will help you heal. They will help others. Keep writing. You will find your place - your home.
I promise.

Where Is Home?
I am a stranger in this land
I’m not sure why, but it’s true for me

I can’t seem to find a place that feels like home
A home that feels like family
A family that feels like home

Maybe it’s not meant to be for me
At least not here
-By Shelly McNamara

You have built a life that gives you external validation and praise in abundance. Your pursuit of academic and professional excellence puts the focus on “what you do”, not “who you are”. This distracts you from the work you need to do to become fully you. You have been validated and valued “from the outside in” for so long that you don’t know what it feels like to be confident and be loved “from the inside out”. To be loved and feel loved exactly as you are, with no asterisks, no conditions, and no accomplishments. Simply loved. Give yourself the space and grace to learn to love yourself – that is what will bring you inner peace. You deserve that, and you will have it.

Space
Sometimes
What we need most
Is space

Space to grow
To feel
To fail

To learn
To unlearn

Space
To learn
To love ourselves
-By Shelly McNamara

You are unsure of the path to take. You want things in life that some say you can’t have – a wife, children to call your own, a career that nurtures you. You want a life path that looks different from any that you see around you. It’s challenging to believe in something you can’t see. I promise you that the world will progress. Our humanity will expand, and our definition of what humanity looks like will evolve. You only need to focus on your path, and the shoes in which you find yourself. True peace only comes when we walk in our own shoes, on our own path. This is where each of us finds both purpose and peace. Walk your own path. By doing this, you will forge a way for others to do the same. They will gain strength from your courage, and hope from your visibility. Walk in your own shoes. They will guide you well.

In My Own Shoes
Things look so different
In the rearview mirror

We have walked the path
Lived the life
Learned the lessons

It all looks different
Feels different

I can now define me
From the inside out

I have learned what it means
To walk the path

In my own shoes
-By Shelly McNamara

Anonymous – a letter to my still invisible self

Dear younger self,

When you were growing up, you started off being homophobic, only towards women who liked other women. You recall this time when you were 13 and someone asked you if you were a lesbian and you thought that it was blasphemy, although you secretly wondered yourself. You also recall having to tell your mum about being asked this and seeing the disgust on her face, saying ‘how dare they think that?’ Perhaps secretly a test to see her reaction?

Sometimes I wonder how much time would have been saved if you just felt safe to understand and explore yourself without the pressure of society. Growing up in a small country, a small society, you probably only knew 1 or 2 lesbians and you could not see yourself in any of them. There were no role models, anywhere, that you could empathise with. There was no one who looked feminine, wanted to stay close to their family and wanted to remain the creative kid who everyone looked up to for being themselves (ironically). You didn’t want to label yourself and become an outcast. You didn’t want to be labelled at all. You still don’t..

Growing older, you recall googling famous gay actors and TV presenters and looking at their Wikipedia pages. Many were known for being gay more than their actual talent/occupation. You wondered whether coming out would mean the same for you.

When you were 18, you finally realised that you were attracted to a woman and you didn’t know what it meant. You still couldn’t see yourself as someone who liked women because you didn’t look the part. But guess what? You liked women! Then you decided to tell your friends, and they laughed and said nothing’s changed for them.

Three years later, you decided to tell your sister and it didn’t go so well. The first reaction was “your life will be so hard”. That phrase chased you for a long time and you actually believed that it would be; even though so far you never felt it. You always wondered whether you never experienced it because you were never out to anyone who would have found it surprising or challenging or whether it was because being queer was completely ok with society.

Two years later, you told your dad. You had to put on a brave face and say that you know that you will find happiness no matter what, you will lead a proud and happy life and you won’t allow anyone to tell you otherwise. You didn’t believe any of it, but you did it for him. He was ok.

Today, slowly-slowly, step-by-step, you start to tell people who you really are. You don’t try and change your language, you don’t try and hide your weekend plans. You are still lacking role models. You still barely know of any lesbian women who have a partner and family. You hope that one day, you won’t have to label anything, there will be no assumptions made. The default will not be straight. The default will be “assume nothing until you know something”.

You still dream that one day, you may go back home and be that role model for a younger kid growing up. If you go back, you will be vocal, you will be visible, and you will live with pride.