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Geffrye (Geff) Parsons (He/Him), British Managing Director at Macquarie Group

Geff, who identifies as gay, is a Managing Director at Macquarie Group, based in London, where he has also chaired the LGBTQ+ network, Pride, for seven years.

Under his stewardship, Macquarie has become an established member of Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers, and won the inaugural PinkNews Business Equality Award in 2018. Geff himself won the Inspirational Leader Award at the British LGBT Awards in 2019, was shortlisted for the Corporate Role Model Award at the PinkNews Awards in 2018, and was ranked in the top 25 of OUTstanding’s list of the leading LGBTQ+ executives globally in each of 2018 and 2019.

Outside Macquarie, Geff is a Trustee of two UK LGBTQ+ charities, GiveOut and Diversity Role Models, and – for leisure – is an active competitor in tournaments organised by the global Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA), usually playing doubles with his husband, Kevin.

But it is incumbent on me, I feel, to use my experience and influence, such as they are, to try to help others, not only by pushing for improved rights and greater awareness, but simply by being a role model to others, who should never again have to wrestle with the conundrum that “you can’t be what you can’t see”.

When did you have that “a-ha” moment and realise you were different?

I think I always felt ‘different’, I just could not identify what that meant for a long time – I was perhaps living the life of everyone else’s hopes and expectations, rather than my own. Feelings were justified as phases or incidental parts of who I was. It was not until I was 28 – and apparently happily (conventionally) married and superficially successful – that I was forced to confront reality when I met a guy who would change my life entirely for the better (although sadly of course that meant breaking the heart of my ex-wife).

How would you describe your experience of coming out?

Coming out was far from easy, not least because I was living in Hong Kong at the time and my family were several thousand miles away – which required me to do it by phone, which is never ideal! My family were initially shocked but then very supportive, even if much of that support was born of a fear that I may be having a nervous breakdown (which I was not). I had even fleetingly had suicidal thoughts for fear of confronting this, but ultimately the toughest person to come out to was myself, even more so than to my ex-wife.

Living in Hong Kong in the 1990s, I chose not to come out at work and it was not until a few years later that I felt able to do so, by which time I was moving back to Europe – and my new boss was openly gay. I soon came to realise that the lack of visible role models at work until then was a key inhibitor, and so made the conscious decision to be out at work and try to be that role model for others to see.

How did your childhood and family background impact both the timing and the way you came out?

I am the youngest of three brothers, and my parents made little secret of the fact that – as I always excelled academically – most of their ‘hopes’ were pinned on me! That certainly upped the pressure to achieve and conform to their ideal, and candidly I was not strong enough at the time to recognise the flaw in trying to be true to others’ image of you rather than to yourself; in the end, albeit very belatedly, I had to be authentic.

What would your advice be to anyone trying to come out?

Everyone’s situation, psyche and journey are unique, so there are no rules. In the end, each person must reach that point in their own time and via their own path. Obviously, for one’s own mental well-being (and to limit the damage to others which one’s lack of authenticity can cause, as mine did), recognising one’s true self and addressing it in all the environments which matter – home, family, work, friends – is ultimately the most positive course of action, but the journey can be bumpy.

My best advice would be to seek out help, from friends, family, colleagues, professionals, whoever – no-one is alone on this road, even if it can sometimes feel very isolating.

What was the most difficult experience you faced in your life because of your sexual orientation / gender identity? How did you handle it?

Without a doubt the realisation that my own initial inability to identify my authentic self had severely affected the life of my ex-wife, who was wholly blameless. It is immensely saddening to cause hurt to people whom you love. I handled it as best I could but there was no sugar-coating the awful reality that, for her, her dream life was changing and her marriage was over.

Who is the most important role model in your life and why?

Anyone who visibly represents a characteristic to which you relate can be a role model, and when that characteristic is something as fundamental as sexual orientation the impact is amplified significantly. I have mentioned my former boss, whose openness was instructive for me going forward. But there are plenty of other examples, key among which are people who have come out as LGBTQ+ in very challenging circumstances. Being a sporty type, and in particular a tennis addict, I can perhaps cite tennis legend Martina Navratilova. Although never my favourite player, I am in awe of the personal strength of character she showed not only to come out as lesbian 40 years ago, but even before that in defecting from her native Czechoslovakia – at the cost of potentially never being able to see her family again – at the tender age of 18, to embrace the social freedoms which she knew were crucial to her long-term well-being.

Now broadening our horizon, describe your experience being a member of the LGBTQ community at work? In your industry?

Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community can mean many things. For me, it is a singularly positive experience, which has brought me many joys, many friends, many wonderful experiences, and above all the love of my life: my husband Kevin.

However, I know some LGBTQ+ people who still try to wish it all away, and others who refuse to embrace those parts of the acronym with which they do not themselves identify. I find that sad, but understand as I said that everyone faces a different set of circumstances, has different experiences and has therefore formulated different attitudes. It is not for me to espouse what is or is not ‘right’.

But it is incumbent on me, I feel, to use my experience and influence, such as they are, to try to help others, not only by pushing for improved rights and greater awareness, but simply by being a role model to others, who should never again have to wrestle with the conundrum that “you can’t be what you can’t see”.

And, what could make the biggest positive impact for the LGBTQ community?

Two things.

Firstly, openness – both by members of the community, to be seen as visible role models, and by everyone else, to be real allies to the cause of full LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality.

And secondly, unity – the community is disparate but shares many of the same challenges and issues, so if we all pull together, as allies for each other, we will be stronger and achieve much, much more.

Finally and on a less serious note, what stereotype do you love the most about the LGBTQ community?

Most gay guys have an inner camp queen or diva ready to burst out at any time, and I love the way that can be embraced for fun and camaraderie! Who doesn’t love watching that writ large in shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, for example?!

Social Media

Facebook: Geff Parsons

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