Celebrating Pride Month with Adrian Rosten-Smart: A Journey of Self-Acceptance and Embracing Authenticity

As we celebrate Pride Month, we wanted to highlight the stories and experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals at Ecorys. We had the privilege to interview our remarkable colleague Adrian Rosten-Smart from our grant management team in Ecorys UK. Adrian shared his journey with us, talking about how his experiences have influenced his work and personal life, and the power of inclusion in fostering a thriving and vibrant workplace. 

Adrian’s story 

“Looking back on my working life spanning over four decades, I can’t help but reflect on the tremendous changes and progress that the LGBTQ+ community has experienced. Our perception of ourselves and our workplaces is shaped by the messages we receive from childhood onward. I am aware that the reality of my experiences as a gay man is a combination of my own creation and the influence of colleagues and society at large. 

During my formative years, growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, understanding what it meant to be gay was a challenge. At school, the term ‘poof’ was used as an insult, instilling a sense of shame and a need to conceal my true self. I carried this burden of guilt and fear as I entered university, determined not to face exclusion, humiliation, or assault. 

The AIDS epidemic, often wrongly labelled the ‘gay disease,’ and the controversial Section 28 further added to my insecurities and inner turmoil. However, I took the pivotal step of opening up about my sexuality to my friends, and although I lost a couple along the way, the bonds with those who remained grew stronger. It was a profound realisation that vulnerability and authenticity bring people closer, even for someone who struggled to accept themselves. 

When I first joined the workplace at my first job, I discovered that there were indeed other LGBTQ+ individuals among the thousand-strong staff. However, it didn’t always feel like a space where one could truly be themselves. I vividly remember confiding in colleagues about a man I had met, only to have them play a hurtful prank on Valentine’s Day, leaving me devastated and humiliated. 

In my twenties, I endured the heartbreak of a long-term relationship ending, which pushed me to the brink of contemplating suicide. It was during this dark period that I decided to come out to my family. The process was challenging, with my mum initially expressing scepticism, but her response ultimately brought a touch of humour to the situation. When you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. From that point forward, I embarked on a journey of self-acceptance and began embracing who I truly am. I made a conscious choice to be open about my sexuality at work. 

Throughout my career spanning various companies, I can’t claim that there has always been a welcoming attitude toward the LGBTQ+ community. It wasn’t discrimination per se, but rather a lack of wholehearted acceptance and genuine support. However, my experience at Ecorys stands in stark contrast. The presence of the LGBTQ+ staff network has exemplified the company’s commitment to inclusivity and its alignment with my own values. Ecorys has become my home, a place where I feel truly comfortable and where I want to remain.” 

The Significance of Pride and Its Influence on Adrian’s Life 

For Adrian, Pride holds a special place in his heart, evoking memories of a vibrant and empowering experience: 

“Pride will always mean a hired double decker bus trip to London, from Bournemouth, with a bunch of other gay men. I suppose in my 20’s, I wanted to be part of a movement that inspires change and to make myself feel better about who I am.” 

Although Pride celebrations have not played a prominent role in Adrian’s life since then, his perspective on Pride has evolved thanks to his involvement in the Ecorys LGBTQ+ staff network. The network and its members have reminded him of the ongoing need for education and advocacy. Engaging with the network has become an integral part of Adrian’s professional life, fostering a sense of camaraderie, and empowering him to contribute to positive change. 

Building an Inclusive and Supportive Workplace 

When it comes to creating an inclusive and supportive workplace for LGBTQ+ employees, Adrian emphasises the importance of organisations demonstrating a genuine desire to be more inclusive. “The first thing is that there needs to be a desire to do something, to change, to be more inclusive. That massive first step has been made by Ecorys. Other organisations need to do the same.” Establishing an LGBTQ+ staff network provides a safe space for employees to connect and support one another. 

Words of Encouragement and Guidance 

Adrian empathises with LGBTQ+ individuals who may hesitate to be open about their identity or face challenges in the workplace: 

“My life lesson is that keeping yourself hidden is exhausting. Being who you are and showing people is an incredible release and utterly empowering. There are people around you who can help, all you need to do is reach out. I wish there had been a network like that when I first started to work. It would have given me the strength to be myself.” 

Adrian’s personal story and reflections shed light on the experiences, challenges, and triumphs faced by LGBTQ+ individuals. As we celebrate Pride Month, we’re inspired by Adrian’s story and continue to stand together as allies, ensuring that every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, feels valued, respected, and embraced. 

27 June 2023

5 minute read