#Pridematters: Stephen shares his heart-breaking story of loss and acceptance
After years of hiding his true self, Bupa UK’s Stephen Pinkney is attending every Pride event in the country this year in memory of his late partner John Cook.
For years, Stephen had kept his relationship with John confidential as he felt he couldn’t come out. But after John received the devastating news he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness the couple decided to get married.
Before he passed away in August 2017, John told Stephen his last wish was for him to live his life with authenticity and integrity, so Stephen promised to be more open about himself.
Stephen felt that if him being more open could help just one person be confident enough to bring their full self to work, and embrace their own diversity, then his own personal journey would be completely worthwhile.
On sharing his grief with his colleagues and friends, Stephen was blown away by the support he received.
“I never really knew what vulnerability was until I lost John,” said Stephen, who works in Bupa’s customer services team in Staines in the UK. “When my close friends, colleagues and senior managers found out what had happened they all surrounded me with support. It was just an amazing thing that really gave me strength, and without that strength I probably wouldn’t be here today, so I’m really grateful. They have helped me be who I am and I’m far more comfortable now with just being me.”
Stephen explained that Bupa employee network DiverCity, which was started to raise awareness and understanding about a range of topics from LGBT+ to disability, was also a big support and helped him embrace Pride.
Earlier this month, Stephen attended London Pride with his friends and colleagues who all wore tributes to his late husband, with many more set to join him in Brighton this weekend and Manchester at the end of August.
“DiverCity really helped me to embrace Pride so I was really pleased to be there with friends and I hope many more will join me in Brighton and Manchester in celebration of John’s life,” he said.