From being careful "not to give the game away" to being 100% authentic
LGBTQ+ History Month is an opportunity for me to reflect on the progress that has been made in making the LGBTQ+ community more inclusive, to reflect on my own personal journey but also to remind myself and others that whilst great strides have been made, there still exists discrimination towards our community. You sometimes hear the comments Why is Pride still needed? Things are ok now! There isn’t an issue anymore! History Month reminds me that those freedoms that exist and that have been fought for can still be taken away.
Reflecting on my own journey, growing up, being Gay was not spoken of. It was a source of ridicule in the playground. Section 28 prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools and reinforced the view that homosexuality was wrong and something to be feared. Even on TV, someone’s “gayness” was a source of humour. It certainly wasn’t embraced. Gender was straightforward. Your lifestyle was stereotyped. Your career, especially in Banking if you wanted to get on was “don’t tell”, watch your use of pro-nouns, play the straight game. I am thankful that today LGBTQ+ visibility has progressed in all corners. Being Queer is seen as a proud statement as opposed to being a put down. I do wonder sometimes who I would be if I had the same level of visibility growing up. What path would my life have taken? Would I be different?
From a young age I always wanted to work in Banking. I hope it’s easier now for everyone to be their authentic selves. Some do still struggle but it’s incumbent on all of us to create spaces where you can be your true self. I recall now how exhausting it was to “not give the game away”, to tailor your language to fit in. I joined Tesco Bank 2 years ago following 30 years in another financial institution. One of the main reasons for me joining Tesco Bank was their culture and their commitment to LGBTQ+ equality. This allowed me to join the company being 100% authentic and in being authentic I hope it gives others the space to be equally true to themselves.
History has taught me that whilst my own journey has brought me to a positive place it is all thanks to those that have fought for equal rights. Its thanks to them that I can proudly say that I am Gay without fear of judgement, have been in a relationship for 30 years, can get married if I want to, can have children. These things were not possible as a young man. I am also conscious that the situation is not always positive. In this country we still see discrimination, especially in the Trans community and sadly homophobic attacks have increased over the past few years. Therefore, the fight to be treated fairly and equally needs to continue
LGBTQ+ History Month is an opportunity for us all to continue to educate ourselves. As member of the community, I feel a responsibility to continue to educate myself on the challenges that we face. I would encourage you all to be inquisitive. In doing so we can ensure that when we look back in the future it continues to be in a positive light.