Name: Daniel J Magson
Role: Vice Chair and Interim Chair
Organisation: Anorexia and Bulimia Care
Sector: Third Sector
How does your identity relate to your work?
When most people think of board members they think of older, retired business men and women in suits, holding a briefcase. What they don’t often expect is me – a younger gay man with tattoos, cropped trousers and wild hair, who spends most of his time talking about eating disorder recovery and mental health. That’s who I am. I don’t shy away from it as a board member. I believe that being comfortable in my sexuality gives me this confidence to be unapologetically myself in life and in my profession.
Why are workplace role models important?
We all need people in our lives to inspire us and even just show us on our darkest days that everything will be okay. Role models’ experiences help us all learn and deal with our own.
I grew up in a small town in Yorkshire where there wasn’t anyone like me. I didn’t have any role models or anyone to even share my feelings with. Being on the outer edges meant I grew up very uncomfortable with my sexuality and therefore myself. This developed into bulimia, which I battled with for five years. After two I sought help, only to be turned away because I was told 'boys your age don't get eating disorders, it’s just stress'. This led to a further three-year battle. My sexuality and my eating disorder have always been intertwined. It was only when I started to seek professional help that this came to light.
Coming to love my sexuality was a huge factor in recovering from my eating disorder. That recovery gave me the strength and drive to fight to be in the position I am today. Now, being the vice chair of a charity that supports people affected by eating disorders gives me a certain responsibility to live proudly being myself.
Since I’ve started to speak out about my eating disorder I’ve been approached by so many LGBT people who’ve faced the same battles as me. I’ve been able to use my voice to help others in the eating disorder community and now I’m on a mission to do the same in the LGBT community. For me it starts with accepting who you are and accepting all those around you.
Have you faced any barriers or opportunities in your career due to your identity?
I’ve always felt that, as a gay man, others have defined what I can be and what I can achieve. Recovering from an eating disorder gave me a new sense of value – a value that no one else could define or set. This has always pushed me to show the world that I’m just as capable of doing what others can do and my sexuality has no part in that.
As gay people we spend our lives fighting against others telling us what we can and cannot do. Most often we fight against our own voices, our own demons, echoing these words. Having reached a place of peace with who I am, I do exactly what I want to do.
What advice would you give to an LGBT person at the start of their career?
Start by accepting yourself and loving every part of you – with that you learn to set your own value. Next, find your allies and the people you feel most comfortable with. After that, go to your place of work every day being unapologetically yourself.
For anyone who is struggling themselves with their identity or an eating disorder, I want to tell you that it does get better and it starts by asking for help. There are so many organisations out there who have dedicated and confidential support. You may read my profile and see someone who’s struggled with an eating disorder, struggled with their sexuality and then turned it into a positive and powerful career, but that doesn't mean that I still don't struggle. I still have dark days and still need help now and again – we all do. By starting these conversations between sexuality, mental health and careers we can start normalising it. With that normalisation we can start shift the stereotypes, the taboo and the stigma and create a better future for us all. It will be a long journey and you will be challenged, but never give up fighting for yourself.