“Coming out as bisexual was not just a declaration of my identity to others; it was a powerful act of self-acceptance”
BY MYGWORK, IMAGE BY EGLE JUZENAITE
Egle Juzenaite, Product Developer at Pearson, spoke to myGwork for Bi Visibility Month, delving into the invisibility and misunderstanding she has faced surrounding her identity, the Bi Safe Space Group at Pearson and what she hopes to see more of from allies.
Hi Egle, thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Egle: I’m Egle, originally from Lithuania. My journey has been one of resilience and self-discovery. Growing up, I lived ‘in the closet,’ unable to come out to my family due to safety concerns. After completing my schooling, I made a life-changing decision to move to the UK. Here, I pursued higher education, and I’ve been actively employed for over a decade now.
My career path has been diverse and enriching. I began my professional journey working in a local Primary school, where I gained valuable experience in education. Later, I transitioned my career into the dynamic world of Publishing. I’ve had the privilege of working at three prestigious publishing houses: Cambridge University Press & Assessment, Oxford University Press, and my current role at Pearson, where I serve as an International Qualifications Product Developer.
This journey has not only shaped my career but has also deepened my commitment to issues of diversity and inclusion, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a cause close to my heart, given my personal experiences, and I’m proud to bring my unique perspective to my current role.
This month marks Bisexual Visibility Month – what does this mean to you and why is it important to you?
Bisexual Visibility Month holds immense personal significance for me. It’s not just a month on the calendar; it’s a lifeline for countless individuals struggling to be heard and seen. It’s a beacon of hope for those who, like me, have faced invisibility and misunderstanding. It’s a reminder that our stories, our struggles, and our triumphs matter, and we deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged.
Can you share a bit about your coming out journey?
My coming-out journey was a tumultuous ride, marked not only by external challenges but by the internalised biphobia I had to confront. Initially, fear and uncertainty held me back, as I grappled with societal misconceptions and stereotypes about bisexuality that had taken root within me.
The battle to overcome this internalised biphobia was profoundly personal. It was a journey of questioning my own validity and worth, often fuelled by the misinformation and biases I had encountered throughout my life. However, it was also a journey of self-discovery and resilience.
Coming out as bisexual was not just a declaration of my identity to others; it was a powerful act of self-acceptance. As I embraced my authentic self, I began to feel lighter, freer, and more genuine than I had ever felt before.
Sharing my experience is a way to raise awareness about the pervasive impact of internalised biphobia and the importance of self-acceptance within the bisexual community. It’s a reminder that our coming-out journeys are not just about external acceptance but also about dispelling the harmful beliefs we may have internalised along the way.
Have you always been out in the workplace? What’s your journey with this been like?
No, I haven’t always been out at work. It was a journey marked by hesitation and anxiety. But as I saw the changing tides in the workplace culture, I felt empowered to be open about my identity. It’s been a path of resilience and growth, and it has allowed me to contribute to a more inclusive work environment.
How does Pearson allow you to show up authentically?
Pearson has fostered a culture where I can bring my whole self to work, where my identity as a bisexual person is not just tolerated but celebrated. It’s a place where every employee is valued, regardless of their sexual orientation, and that’s a rare and beautiful thing.
And what is the Bi Safe Space Group?
I have the privilege of working alongside Aden Lisman to co-facilitate the regular Bi Safe Space group. This group is an inclusive and welcoming space, open to everyone who wants to participate, and our primary goal is to raise awareness for bi-visibility.
One of our recent highlights includes organising a Fireside Chat with the inspiring Lewis Oakley, whose insights and experiences have resonated deeply with our community. Lewis Oakley is known for his impactful work in advocating for bisexual visibility, and our event with him provides a platform for open and meaningful discussions about bisexuality.
Being part of the Bi Safe Space group has given me a profound sense of purpose, as we work together to challenge stereotypes, promote understanding, and create a supportive environment for all bisexual individuals.
What do you want to see more of in allyship to the bisexual community?
In the workplace, I believe that allyship to the bisexual community should extend beyond passive support and manifest as an active commitment to our cause. To foster a more inclusive work environment, I would like to see allies who are willing to engage in these three specific actions:
Listening Actively: Allies should make a concerted effort to actively listen to the stories and experiences of bisexual colleagues. This means creating spaces for open dialogue and showing genuine interest in understanding our unique challenges.
Challenging Stereotypes: Allyship in the workplace should involve allies actively challenging and dispelling stereotypes about bisexuality. This can be done by correcting misconceptions and promoting accurate information about our community.
Education and Awareness: Allies can further support the cause by educating themselves and their colleagues about bisexuality. This involves understanding the unique challenges bisexual individuals may face and promoting a culture of respect and understanding.
In essence, workplace allyship should be a proactive and ongoing effort that actively supports bisexual colleagues, challenges biases, and works towards creating an inclusive and accepting work environment for all.
What are some of the common myths and misconceptions around bisexuality?
Myth 1: Bisexuality is Just a Phase
One common misconception is that bisexuality is merely a phase that people go through before settling into a heterosexual or homosexual identity. This myth negates the validity of bisexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation.
Myth 2: Bisexuality is About Equal Attraction
Some people wrongly assume that bisexuality means being equally attracted to all genders. In reality, bisexuality is about the potential for attraction to more than one gender, but the level of attraction can vary greatly from person to person.
Myth 3: Bisexuality Doesn’t Exist
Sadly, some individuals deny the existence of bisexuality altogether, dismissing it as confusion or attention-seeking behaviour. This invalidation can be incredibly hurtful to bisexual individuals.
Addressing these myths and misconceptions is crucial to creating a more inclusive and understanding society. Educating ourselves and others about the nuances of bisexuality, as well as respecting and valuing the experiences of bisexual individuals, is essential in promoting acceptance and reducing prejudice.
What does authentic bisexual representation look like for you?
Authentic bisexual representation is vital to me. It means showing bisexual individuals as complex, multifaceted characters with their own journeys and struggles. It’s important because it gives hope to young bisexual people, showing them that they are not alone and that their identities are valid and worth celebrating.
What would you like to see from workplaces when it comes to bi-inclusion?
I want workplaces to be proactive in their support for bi-inclusion. This means implementing policies and practices that actively protect against discrimination, providing comprehensive education about bisexuality, and creating a workplace culture where every bisexual employee feels safe, heard, and valued.
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