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.

New Windows

No, not the operating system, I really do mean the things that let light into rooms and heat inside (mostly). Day one of a two-day installation by Anglia has gone really well, and I’ve got a lot done working from home while the team got on with it.

It’s only now that I have the new units in that I can look at the old ones and see how tatty they were getting, with blown seals and condensation everywhere. Lady M negotiated a good price on a like-for-like replacement.

The plan is to swap ends so she works from home tomorrow and does final sign off on the work. I shall head in to a library and look pretty. I’m reasonably sure my staff would add the word “gormless” on the end of that last sentence.

Changes A-Coming

For a variety of reasons, including providing stability and better job hunting potential, myr s and the cub will be moving in with myself and Lady M in a little over a week or so.

Exciting times, a little bit stressy, and that’s not even counting the window replacements this week or the challenges of work at the moment.

Well, what’s the worst that could happen?

So, myr s is currently downsizing and rationalising their possessions, looking at new school places, and sorting all the rest of the paperwork required. They also had a long-overdue conversation with their father about a number of things, and we’re so proud of them.

Well That Was A Day

From the beginning of the day, where a flatbed lorry full of scaffolding pulled up outside, to the discussion of health issues with someone who blacked out at work last week, to dataset organisation, job advertising, and myr s coming out to their father it’s all been a bit non stop.

I may have given a gentle cheer when I got the text from myr s that they’d done that at the same time as announcing they were moving out. I then had to explain that cheer and its context to a co-worker who was looking very confused.

Myr s and the cub will be moving in with us temporarily while they sort out work and accommodation of their own up in our neck of the woods. This is simultaneously exciting and terrifying and means we need to move getting a bigger bed far further up the agenda than previously planned.

First though, this week sees our windows being replaced, so let’s get that mayhem out the way over the next two days

Explorations

We went to Bletchley Park today, despite the best efforts of the Bank Holiday traffic. We picked it partly our of interest in its history, and partly so we could return our niece to her aunt as it was a little over halfway there.

I’m not entirely sure where the afternoon went as five hours sped by and there was still a lot we didn’t see. What we did find was fascinating and heartbreaking in turn, especially when it came to the areas devoted to Alan Turing. Going from a case containing his Teddy bear Porgy to a recreation of his office was surprisingly affecting as it brought forward the human behind the stories.

We had conversations with the kids around LGBTQIA+ history and in particular around Alan Turing’s treatment – which in turn led to conversations over lunch about our relationships and the polycule. And now Lady H is friends on Facebook with myr s, and the kids want to meet the cub.

Not really what I foresaw for the day, but a positive turn amid the strangeness all the same.

Late Night Musings

My sleep patterns, between stress and Lady M’s snoring are a bit all over the place at the moment. Usually the act of telling someone that then leads to sleep arriving shortly after, but we’ll see.

I’ve finally got round to playing Watchdogs Legion and I’ve no idea about anyone else but I’m enjoying it. With an overarching near future dystopia setting it seems to be moving more freely in its storytelling and the shared universe with Assassins Creed has led to some fun Easter eggs in the return to London. I may even have to reinstall AC Syndicate.

Legion’s tongue is stuck firmly in cheek even in its drama, and I think that’s the appeal for me, even if some of the voice acting is a bit jarring in places.

Still, there are worse ways to distract from stress than have your character fly over modern London, sat on a cargo drone and creating havoc on the streets below.

Don’t Keep Straight

I burned out a bit this week with a second week of recruitment interviews that frankly left me staggering around like a well-past-best-by-date zombie. Hence no updates for a few days, because I could barely function, let alone get creative, by the end of each day.

I’ve had a bit of sleep now.

Something amazing that did happen at the beginning of the week was that I ended up being the unexpected guest blogger on the work intranet. This put my face on the front page, talking about Surrey Pride. This will take place in September 25th in Godalming, and I’ll both be in the parade, and attending with the rest of the polycule.

The other half of the article was about what I ended up calling my Equalities Journey (mostly because that was the draft file name as we scrambled to meet the deadline). While most will have read it and passed on, there have also been a scattered few lovely remarks – and a request from the Surrey History Centre to add it to their LGBTQIA archive.

Not only did they ask that, but they said if I had anything else I’d like to write for it, then they’d be happy to take that too – so I said I’d have a look at things I’ve written here and would repackage some of the appropriate content for them, as well as add whimsy and thoughts along the way.

All of which leads me to this blog, where I’ve spent a morning driving my niece and Lady M to Chislehurst Caves for a visit. With a rainbow headscarf holding her fringe back while she talked about a girl in her class and their girlfriend, she was relaxed and happy.

Meanwhile, the satnav kept telling me to ‘keep straight’ on the road – and although the urge to call out ‘I can’t do that’ never passed, it kept happening and it felt more and more tiring and frustrating to keep saying it in my head. Although not the aim of it, it did start to feel a metaphor for bi-erasure: “Keep straight, keep straight. For another five miles, keep straight.”

It was exhausting, and I felt I couldn’t say anything. While it might have been funny the first time, by the third, fifth, eleventh, seventeenth time it was a mindless litany of call and mental response. Keep straight; can’t. Keep straight; not in your dreams. Keep straight; oh give over, I’m switching you off. Beep.

If only there was that option in real life – and yet, I get that I’m in a minority and that the default societal mores and expectations have nothing to do with a satnav device. And yes, it’s picky, but representation matters. Language matters, being able to say no matters.

Well, that all got a bit serious, didn’t it?

Round The Table

One of the highlights of the weekend was a chance to get us all round the same table for a D&D session in person. I’d forgotten how much fun that is.

Because we had most of Sunday available, we ended up completing the group’s mission and formally ending year one of their adventures.

A polycule at play

Highlights of the session included a lightning-breathing clockwork chimera, cpr on baby odif, a flying incubus charming Valenia, and a coven of green hags using invisibility and their water breathing to use hit and run tactics.

Oh, and there was a brief tussle involving a dispel magic spell, two counterspells, two members of the DDC being turned into frogs, a flying carpet, and fireballs.

I had some very worried people round the table, and then the relief when they won made it all worth while. Next session: what comes next?

Polycule Weekend

We’re all together this weekend, filling the flat with laughter, food, quiet companionship, and snoring – sometimes in that order.

It’s been lovely. I picked myr s and Lady J up on Thursday evening after another day of interviewing and dragged them back up to sunny Sunbury for a few days.

Today we wandered in to Staines, visited the Talking Tree cafe, and pottered around bookshops and charities and its been good to have a break.

One of the real joys, if I’m being selfish, is to not have to do all the cooking – we’re taking turns at that, and of all the other household chores as they need doing. Many hands are indeed making light work amid the silliness and quiet.

Interviewing Day

I’ve had a day of interviewing people, the first of two days this week, and the first set I’ve done since getting the new job. It’s been productive, and partnered with a colleague, we’ve kept on top of the associated paperwork with relative ease.

Tomorrow there will be more, and then the hard debate to separate the top scorers in a meaningful way so that we can give useful feedback.

One of the most exciting parts for me has been the knowledge that I’m closer now to filling out the last vacant position in my team of managers. Its been a while since I’ve been able to say that.