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‘Being Straight Was My Phase’: How Sam Finds Purpose and Pride in His Role at ellenor

At the age of 26, Sam Fry attended his first Pride.

Immersed in the event’s noise, energy, music and (quite literally) every colour in the rainbow, Sam revelled and romped. On his t-shirt, splashed liberally with the characteristically kaleidoscopic hues of Pride, was a humorous – yet heartfelt – slogan.

‘Being straight was my phase’.

“Attending my first Pride felt so amazing. Just to be among people who are like me, and to celebrate that – it was eye-opening. It showed me that there’s nothing wrong with the way you are; with who you are. I felt so comfortable.

“From that day on, I said to myself that I’m not going to stop being me. I’m proud of who I am, and nothing – or no one – is going to take that from me”.

His pride is, after all, something people have been trying to take from Sam his whole life. Like many openly gay men, Sam has faced alienation and abuse throughout much of his teenage and adult life – simply for being himself.

“Throughout school – and even up until my mid- to late-20s – I suffered prejudice. I think it comes from people’s lack of comprehension. To this day, you come across those who still don’t get what makes someone gay – like it’s something you choose. Many can’t understand what it’s truly like to be gay or bi, because all they can see is their straight life – and that’s ‘the normal’. But what’s normal?

“You’re not different for being gay. But you’re made to feel different because you’re gay. You’re made to feel like it’s wrong and that shouldn’t be the case.”

Sam works for ellenor as part of its Clinical Admin Team (CAT). 

Swapping the glittery garb of Pride for the (admittedly, equally vibrant) neon orange of ellenor, Sam – as bubbly and outgoing professionally as he is personally – is a Clinical Admin Assistant. That means he helps process the referrals that come through, and – alongside colleagues Nicole, Dawn and Megan handles phone calls from patients and relatives.

Asked his thoughts at being the only man in a largely female team, Sam’s eyes light up.

“I’m far more comfortable around women,” he responds, “– always have been. Not that I’m a player, of course! Being a gay man around women, I just find I can be myself a lot more.”

But the team’s gender majority isn’t the only reason Sam feels so ‘at home’ at work. It’s the inclusive, accepting atmosphere ellenor cultivates – and that Sam himself feeds into.

“There’s no judgement here. Since I started, I’ve been so comfortable that I can just be myself – without having to hide anything away. We spend more of our lives at work than we do almost anywhere else. You’re here for eight hours a day, five days a week. If you can’t feel comfortable at work, well…where can you?

“Everyone here is kind and friendly. You can be yourself, without having to worry what someone’s saying behind your back. The way people are here – the way you’re treated and greeted – you just kind of open up and feel accepted, not judged. There’s no need to even tell people you’re gay, because you’re comfortable enough, and they know.

“It’s a great place to be – and to be a part of.”

Feeling valued and respected in your day-to-day role is, as Sam acknowledges, vital. But it’s also important that it’s not only your team cultivating this environment of acceptance and inclusivity – but the wider organisation, too. And it’s something that ellenor – through an increasing focus on Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) is bringing further into the spotlight.

ellenor is working with an EDI Consultant to strategically engage with organisations that support people from a range of diverse and marginalised backgrounds. One of the key beneficiaries of this work is the LGBTQ+ community, and ellenor are being guided by organisations like Stonewall, a charity that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community.

“It shows your organisation acknowledges you and accepts you,” says Sam, “and is willing to do whatever it can to help you. Having that connection with an organisation makes things – the prejudice, the bullying, the judgement – easier to deal with.

“Not everyone feels comfortable with their sexuality, or with their life choice. So for an organisation to have a policy of acceptance for everybody – an ear to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, someone you can rant and shout to – it’s incredibly valuable.”

It’s been a few years since Sam – originally from a small village called Hoo but as of August 2021 a Gravesend local – attended his first Pride. Now, though, they’re a regular fixture in the calendar – and this year’s event is particularly close to home.

On 13th August 2022, Gravesend’s Fort Gardens will play host to a vivid, vibrant, vivacious (and, in Sam’s words, “extravagant!”) celebration of diversity – Gravesham Pride 2022. The day will feature a march from Community Square to Fort Gardens, a dedicated zone for kids, and a number of food and market stalls – of which ellenor will be one of.

You won’t see ellenor’s orange-clad staff and volunteers just tending that stall, though. Look closer, and you’ll see those neon shirts bobbing up and doing in the crowd: marching along with the throng, and showing their support not only for their colleague, but for their community.

“I’m overjoyed that ellenor is taking part,” says Sam. “It just shows how much we care for and accept people from all walks of life. For ellenor to have a stall, and be part of the parade – to stand up and be counted with us – it’s incredible. Pride isn’t just for the LGBT+ community – it’s for everyone. To celebrate being gay; being different; our individuality and uniqueness.”

So, this August, Sam’s digging out that t-shirt he wore at his very first Pride – but hasn’t worn since – for a day filled with glitz, glam, and good times. And, for anyone else thinking of wandering down to Fort Gardens on the 13th, he has a message.

“Do it!”, he urges. “It’s something you’ll remember – and definitely won’t regret. No matter what your orientation is – gay, straight, bi, trans – it doesn’t matter who (or what!) you are. It’s simply about being yourself.”

And if you do find yourself down at the Gravesham Pride this year, be sure to say hi to one of ellenor’s team. Why not seek Sam out too? After all…you know exactly what he’ll be wearing!

For Sam, being straight was, indeed, merely a phase. Being proud, though? Of who he is, how he lives, where he works, and his fine, friendly, and fabulous self?

That’s here to stay.


Sam's round up on the first ever Gravesham Pride