Carl Edwards says he felt "isolated and alone" both in his personal life and at work.
Carl Edwards says he felt 'isolated and alone'
Stonewall has named its top 100 employers for LGBT inclusion, highlighting workplaces which help people feel accepted.
But even now, not everyone feels able to be themselves in the workplace, with a third of LGBT people looking for work worried about being discriminated against or harassed.
Carl Edwards, 41, from Coventry, told Sky News he felt isolated at his Severn Trent job, before he made the decision to set up an LGBT network.
Now, he has been named Stonewall's Gay Role Model of the Year and wants to encourage other employers to follow suit.
December 2015 was a bad year for me, which saw the end of a 15-year relationship that had become abusive and toxic.
I won't bore you with the details - let's just say it was complicated and it took me a long while to find myself again.
During this difficult time, I sought help at work through employee support services and occupational health.
Sadly though, back then, the response wasn't very good.
I specifically asked if there was support for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer [LGBTQ+] people, and the reply I got was "Let me just google that!".
Not exactly the comforting words you want to hear when you're asking for help.
As you can probably imagine, I was already feeling quite isolated and alone in my personal life, and now it looked like this was also the case at work.
I didn't know there were any other LGBTQ+ people in my office. I felt a bit like I was 'the only gay in the village', so to speak.
Being LGBTQ+, if you don't feel comfortable being yourself, you have to spend a massive amount of energy and time hiding crucial parts of who you are.
Everyday office questions like 'What did you do on the weekend?' can become huge sources of anxiety, if you can't answer honestly that you spent it with your same-sex partner.
Because of this experience, I made a promise to myself that I would do whatever I could to make sure no other person in my community would have to go through the same thing.
So, I hatched a plan to increase the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community in my workplace.
I wanted to show people in my organisation not just that LGBTQ+ people were here, but that we needed to seriously improve diversity and inclusion throughout the business.
The first thing I did was to create an LGBTQ+ network.
While this might seem like a small or obvious thing, it meant a great deal to me and to many of my colleagues.
We finally had a space to come together, talk about our experiences and see that we weren't alone.
For those of us who felt like we didn't have a voice or were the only ones, there was an immense amount of power in that moment of coming together - and there still is every time we meet.
I didn't just stop there with the network.
In my work to increase visibility for LGBTQ+ people in the office, I helped create a trans toolbox for trans colleagues.
As well as this, the network was able to work with our employee support and occupational health programmes to ensure that they were inclusive of LGBTQ+ people and our needs.
Our network has grown to a place where our HR know to come to us for advice and suggestions, whether that's about changing policies to be more LGBT-inclusive or to get involved in Prides across the country.
Together with my co-chairs, we're seeing the network constantly grow, people are understanding who we are and what we're doing and we're a helping create an environment to be proud of.
I'm lucky to work for somewhere like Severn Trent.
They are an organisation that immediately responded to my calls for greater inclusion, but I know this isn't the case for every workplace and I think that's a real shame.
Outside of work, this journey has led me to create an inclusive rugby team, the Coventry Corsairs RFC.
It was about making an inclusive space in sport for individuals who have not felt welcomed or comfortable in mainstream arenas.
Now, more than ever, we need our role models to be seen.
For me, being a role model is about being visible, so that others who felt like I did back in 2015 know they are not alone.
If we have more employers who nurture LGBTQ+ staff and role models, we can create better workplaces where people feel free to be themselves.