My Equalities Journey

I mentioned a few days ago about a blog entry I did at work ahead of Surrey Pride, and thought I would reproduce it here as its a piece of writing I’m proud of – both for its message and for the impact it has had at work:

The summer has been and seemingly gone in a flash, but despite the disruptions to all our lives under the pandemic the spirit of celebration so intrinsic to our wellbeing is alive and well. Pride Month saw colour and life splashed everywhere this year – and yet we were still constrained by the need to look out for each other, so marches and celebrations were delayed until a little later.

Well, that later is now here, and Surrey Pride is being celebrated on Saturday 25 September in glorious Godalming. Representatives of SCC will join charities and local groups in an explosion of positivity and joy, demonstrating the vibrant lives and history in Surrey of the LGBTQIA+ community. Struggles past, present, and future are acknowledged through the day in offers of support, representation, and a celebration of our ability to live freely as our genuine selves. For some it’s a path they’ve trod for years, for others it’s an exploration that is only just beginning.

My journey through various local authorities has always had a focus in some way, shape, or form on equality and diversity. It has been part of the pleasure of working in our environment. It has evolved with different roles and the language of different decades from being a customer-focused approach in libraries; to undertaking impact assessments on projects and policies as a project manager and senior officer, and then back again to different levels of operating back with the library service as I re-joined it nearly nine years ago.

The two streams of my journey, especially in recent years, have been the intertwined demands of the personal and the professional aspects of my life and how EDI has both informed and shone light on the changes and challenges in both areas.

On the personal side has been my own changing self-awareness and the ups and downs of coming out as a bisexual and polyamorous man to friends, family, and co-workers. My life continues to grow and evolve as I meet and talk to an amazing array of people in my widening and changing personal and professional networks in ways that I couldn’t imagine even a handful of years ago. I am in a relationship with an amazing trans man, whose humour, bravery, and frustrations have cast new light on things that I took for granted. He has made me look again at my assumptions and privileges, and that in turn has given me the strength to stand up for and represent the people around me with renewed passion and love.

On the professional side has been the shift from embedding a passion for equality and diversity in delivering customer services – to provide the best possible outcomes for anyone entering the library or using its services – to then providing leadership and promotion within branches as a manager. From there it grew and now I am an exemplar and champion of EDI within my group of libraries both in my own right and as part of the LGBTQ+ Staff Network. As a newly appointed Group Manager, it is even more important to me to uplift and inspire the managers who work for me to lead and promote equalities, diversity, and inclusion in the services that we provide and the staff and public with whom we work.

Some of my greatest joys have come from the recognition that my being out and visible has given other people inspiration and reassurance in their own lives. From staff to customers, partners and friends, there have been quiet affirmations and moments of challenge and reflection – all of which are brought back into conversation and debate and the direction of efforts to be better in how I work to uplift, educate, inform, and celebrate the richness of the lives upon which I have an impact.

Times are tough, but things can always improve. Things will get better. Nobody has all the answers, but if we keep talking and listening – and challenging – we can keep moving towards making things better – not just for ourselves but with and for everyone.

Pride is about support and visibility, and here at Surrey County Council we are as much part of that as anyone else. Our diverse staff is drawn from all the communities who live and work here. The SCC LGBTQ+ Staff Network will be attending the march, representing our staff and families, and will have stalls in the event itself.

If you have any questions around the event – or indeed anything else – then please get in touch. Whether it’s a personal issue, or advice for yourself or your staff, we’ll listen and answer. Together we are all stronger.

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