An Achievement

It’s finally official: I have just been voted to be co-chair of my work LGBTQ+ Staff Network which is a great honour, and one I aim to lift and use to help promote and celebrate EDI improvements. There’s a lot to do, but it dovetails with other similar roles and groups I’m working with so I’m expecting this all to be very fulfilling.

It’s not something I ever thought I’d do, or be considered for but I guess all my standing up to be counted and advocating for people in recent years has set my feet wandering this direction.

Interesting times. I hope I can live up to it.

What Does Pride Mean To Me?

I got asked to contribute to a thread on the work forum about what significance Pride has for me – either as an event or a way of living and working. It didn’t take me long to put together the following, so I thought I’d share it here too:

Pride for me – is having the support and acceptance to be my true self, not the facade I constructed for so many years to fit in with family and societal expectations. Its only since coming out and living life authentically that I realise just how exhausting carrying that mask at all times was. Pride is representing each other – supporting those who are actively suppressed, or who may not be free to speak up, or who may be overwhelmed – raising common voices so that no one has to feel that they are alone. Pride is acknowledging our history that is often unseen, and working together to move forward so that no one is left behind. Pride is curiosity, recognising that we evolve and grow over time. Pride is a challenge – facing those who would divide us or oppose us and speaking our truths. Pride is found family, the people we come to know and cherish along the way especially in the face of adversity.

And Pride is fun. Its a celebration of positivity despite everything thrown at us (sometimes literally). It is holding our heads high and being as loud or as quiet as we are comfortable with because sometimes just the act of being visible is rebellion and inspiration enough for people we’ll never know.

Half Term, oh and that Pride thing too

Being utterly awful people we all forgot it was half term this week until the cub reminded us. Fortunately Lady M and I had already booked some time off to take advantage of the bank holidays so we’ve taken him in while boy s continues to work.

Being myself I immediately booked tickets for myself and the cub to visit boy s at his work place and caused all kinds of merry havoc while we were there. The rest of the week has seen us take the cub to Go Ape, and a variety of other activities away from his usual computer screen.

We’re having a quiet day today – I can hear YouTube videos from the other room, I’ve gone shopping for groceries, and I may even have a nap to make up for a broken night for a while.

Meanwhile, its June. Happy Pride Month alongside all the other things taking place. Its as important as ever, because its impossible to understate how much of a difference it makes for people to be able to live as themselves.

I’ve been asked to put my name forward at work for a position with the LGBTQ+ Staff Network which will be hard work alongside the day job but well worth it if I can help facilitate positive changes. The AGM isn’t for a few weeks so I’ll talk more about that when the dust settles.

And yes, the autism referral stuff continues in the background. I’m not expecting to hear anything on that front for quite some time as it doesn’t seem to be something that BUPA covers and the NHS is overwhelmed. Patience, and all that.

Another Anniversary?

Wednesday was the fourth anniversary of collaring boy s – in kink terms a form of commitment not unlike marriage – it was just a shame that both of us were too unwell to celebrate much of anything. I was staying over anyway so it was largely a day of napping in between doing the school run and doing some more work on the Amazon store.

We’ve decided instead to try and have a date night in the next week or so once payday has arrived and we’re in better health.

What we do all have to anticipate however is that we’ve got tickets for the Thorpe Park preview day on Saturday thanks to his working there. We’ve not been on any rollercoaster since before the first lockdown. Lady M has had her eye surgery since then too, so this will be the first time on them without glasses or contact lenses.

So, highs and lows and literal rollercoasters to come. Can’t wait.

More Visibility Musings

I was talking with a colleague today to – as they put it – be a common sense and reality check. The situation they wanted to check in about was one that any one of my various hats was applicable to but as part of the context for their decision making process they made a confidential disclosure about their personal life that they didn’t want to share with their staff.

As they said, it’s their private life, and even if they were minded to disclose it, this wasn’t a context in which they would want to disclose the information.

Being trusted with this disclosure was humbling. It immediately also reminded me of why I both respect these personal boundaries and am also glad that I live the way I do. Admittedly, it has meant that I’m now a very visible EDI advocate, but that has in its own way opened more doors than it has inhibited.

I am a very visible and talkative person in my workplace, and the confidence to be that person has in part coming from recognising, acknowledging, and embracing the evolution of who I am. It’s taken a huge weight off my shoulders. It also allows me to be visible on behalf of others who do not feel safe or comfortable to do the same.

There’s a responsibility there that I feel keenly.

Reminiscence

We got lost a couple of times over the last few days in talking about the bad old days of Section 28 and the wasteland of the AIDS crisis and the effect that had on us as queer youngsters.

We had little to no representation that wasn’t couched in terms of scandal, death, and abandonment, and so the plethora of support and acceptance that so many people now receive can feel bewildering.

I think in part it’s been prompted by taking part in the event with the Surrey History Centre. It’s made me reevaluate elements of my earlier life and got us all comparing experiences. And that’s where the mix of jealousy and annoyance comes in when younger people don’t recognise their relative privilege compared to the landscape we came through.

We’re proud of how far things have come, but we’re also very aware of how fragile that progress is. Vitriol and attacks on people and rights bubble just under the surface still in far too many places.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, other than I suppose it highlights the need for LGBT+ History Month so we can celebrate how far we’ve come but remember just how far behind we have been

Doing My Bit

I took part today in a joint event organised between Surrey Libraries and the Surrey History Centre. It was called LGBT+ Stories and was a combination of readings from the archives, and the stories brought by those of us in attendance.

I hadn’t prepared anything, but as an awkward silence settled in when the call for a first story went out, I stepped up. If there’s one thing I can do, it’s weave a story out of nothing. And so I summarised my journey. I twined it with the theme of my own imposter syndrome and brought it back to talking about the importance of visibility.

And then I stopped before I rambled on and took over the whole show – but it did the trick, and broke the ice – and slowly more stories emerged between the excerpts.

So, there’s a thing I’m proud I did, and the transcripts and audio will go in to the archive to bemused future researchers.

Back To It

I know my place of work wouldn’t begrudge me taking more recovery time but I don’t feel its needed and I’d rather not tap that good will unless or until I need it. With that in mind I dove back to it and soon caught up on what was going on. I then only needed to suggest a couple of course directions and affirmations to the team. That was when the consultations started.

I’ve got a reasonably high profile at the moment. I run the biggest group of libraries, and have fostered and encouraged engagements with local groups to build up our offers and develop innovative ways of working in addition to the core library services. I’m also vocal and proactive on equality and diversity issues and initiatives.

As a result I’ve started to be the ‘go to’ person for opinions and signposting on related queries, and have just been asked if I mind deputising in as EDI service representative for the libraries. If it helps people and opens doors and opportunities for fairer services then I’m there. If nothing else it’s something that’s close to my heart.

Angry and Sad

My employer announced very recently in a very public forum that they were going to be disconnecting from Stonewall as they developed their own in-house EDI leadership. This immediately set off a storm of homophobic and transphobic abuse and crowing on social media, which was made all the worse because this was the first that the various staff support networks had heard of it. Needless to say there are a lot of hurt and upset people, and a large number of very vocal and passionate meetings are being held. Others are better placed to have those arguments about how to proceed, so a colleague and I who are part of one of those networks have been reaching out to people in our service who were at the meeting to offer support and to offer confidential support to those who are not comfortable speaking publicly.

As with most things like this, the decision lies in the complicated crux of politics and business logic, but damningly it seems to have been done with a naivete about the message being sent to the wider world, and to the staff who had in recent years been beginning to trust their employer. I have at times been fighting back tears of incoherent rage both for my sake, and on behalf of the people I manage and work alongside faced with the enormity of the hate that this move has enabled, and I and my colleague are carefully monitoring and offering support to each other – and thankfully are being in turn supported by both our management and the people we work with. That has been the saving grace I think in the last couple of days – that the overwhelming majority of people in the service are supportive of the whole LGBTQ+ community and are equally shocked by this move – especially so soon after Pride.

There’s a lot of processing and pointed awkward questions now going on; and there has at least been a recognition of the hurt caused and an understanding of just how badly this has gone. That doesn’t erase it, but it does give us somewhere to start in working out where we move on from this point.

I am saddened, and the black dog has been barking loudly in response to all this, but tomorrow is nearly here, and there’s work to be done. As ever I am minded of the question: If you don’t move to work on this, when who else will? Representation isn’t just for the nice things in life, and I’ve got my sleeves rolled up.

No Rest For the Wicked

I’ve just spent the last couple of days compiling my first article for the Surrey History Centre, and it is centred around our experiences as a polycule, banding together in the face of the first lockdown. It seemed appropriate with the news of the emergent omicron variant to reflect on how we got through the early days, and supported each other. It’s a couple of thousand words – about four sheets of A4 if you’re trying to picture it – and is a whistle-stop tour of how Discord and social media became a way of making our own virtual bubble even while apart.

Of all the things I might have expected to come of it all though, I don’t think I really expected to be as forthright when talking to strangers about things as I am now. I’ve always been more of a people watcher when in new surroundings. I tend to open up and gather my storytelling largesse once I know who I’m talking to instead – or at least to waffle as a smokescreen. I’m under no illusions that part of that is a trauma response gathering and redirecting attention where I want it to be, but I digress. A large part of living with, loving, and knowing the people I do has been accepting that I need to speak up and educate where needed – and sometimes that’s in the strangest places.

This weekend, that turned out to be in the back of an Uber with a very talkative driver from Sri Lanka as I made my way to catch up with the folks at the Excel. Over the course of our meandering journey, we exchanged elements of our life stories and then I started to talk about my extended found family. I challenged his expectations about sexuality, trans people, and relationships based on my own experiences and the tales I’ve had shared with me – and delightfully he was curious rather than hostile, listened and learned. While he didn’t totally understand, he was able to ask questions that weren’t insulting.

Even maybe six months ago I wouldn’t have credited myself to have the courage or wits to engage in this way with someone, let alone a cab driver, and especially not about matters of sexuality or my own personal life. This may come as a surprise to some, given my penchant for speaking up or about things without any apparent concern – but that’s something I’ve been practicing hard at over recent years – overcoming my natural reticence. What was different this time was that, other than a brief pause to mentally shuffle the cards in the right order to provide context, I didn’t feel any concern. If anything I mentally rolled my eyes at having to explain my situation to round out the statement and challenge I was about to make.

Thankfully years of counselling and the various counselling-adjacent training I’ve had have helped me marshal points succinctly and retain some distance mentally while engaging in these conversations. Far more important in getting to this point though has been the hours and hours of no holds barred conversations we’ve had among ourselves in the DDC and among our friends circles. I wasn’t so much regurgitating points previously discussed as being able to be mindful of nuance that might not necessarily be obvious.

We ended our journey amicably, even though I’m sure there are a few new grey hairs in my beard after some of the more erratic driving manoeuvres we did in Central London – and he learned a new phrase: “having an inquisitive mind”

Coming at the end of a fourteen hour day though, I was glad to stumble out of the car and into the arms of my loved ones. I was wondering if I would actually get any reset this weekend.