Well, That Was Amazing

Somehow we managed to get not only the polycule but some friends and acquaintances all together at Pride In Surrey in Godalming yesterday. What a day!

I made sure to find appropriate flags, a Pride gamers tshirt, and went to town on the beard with coloured hairspray to match the bi-flag. I got a lot of compliments, and I thanked my stars for the experience of creating my Obadiah Stane cosplay and the beard dyeing required for that.

We had to get there early as I was in the Parade, so we split and arranged a meetup point for later. I eventually found the way to the assembly area, chatting with various random people along the way. It wasn’t the most precise staging and organisation in the world but it felt appropriately anarchic for Pride’s origins – and soon enough we were winding our way up along Godalming’s High Street

It was my first Parade, and it felt good to be in good company and an atmosphere mixing joy, protest, and representation. Surrounded by work colleagues, associated organisations, and family groups, we brought colour and noise and cheering to a normally very sleepy small Surrey town.

What was heartwarming was the support along the high street from families and businesses alike. People of all ages and backgrounds wanting to see what was going on, and cheering along. It was all a very strange, as in unfamiliar, experience – and one that I want to be part of again – with extra performance next time.

Even slightly grey and misty weather didn’t dampen anyone’s mood, and in the polycule we spent a good few hours taking turns to venture out in small groups from our blankets and bags base to explore and meet people.

We may have bought more gin.

What was also wonderful was that there was a quiet section set away for young families which included stalls for support services and advice on health. The library was well represented, as were a number of other areas of both the County and Local Government organisations, staffed by volunteers.

I’d love to see more participation by other areas and teams, so I plan to advocate for that for next time – even off duty my brain keeps looking for improvements.

Long day short, a great day, especially coming out the other side of lockdown and pandemic, and especially with so many other Pride events cancelled. As I said to one of our Councillors: its a good start.

Pride Prep

I’ve been banned from putting glitter in my beard for Saturday. I’m in the Parade on Saturday so I was heard to opine at work that I needed to decide on an outfit.

Glitter was mentioned. I teased boy s with that when I got home and saw a look of horror on his face that would have made Munch reach for a new canvas. And so, with a joke about glitter being the herpes of the craft world, that idea was nixed.

I may wander to Partica in my lunchbreak and see what they have in the way of hair spray colours instead.

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.

Taking Pride

I’ve spent most of this week running around in preparation both for IT changes due to take place at work, and for taking a few days off. Somehow in the middle of that, I also got roped into helping to project manage our participation in Surrey Pride in September.

This in turn has led to being drafted to help write a guest blog for the staff intranet about equality – as you do.

But as of this evening, Lady M, myr s, and I are chilling out watching Critical Role while the cub pretends not to be sleepy. They’ll be here until Monday.

All is well.

Representation Matters

As we head into Pride Month, I’ve been musing on conversations about representation – particularly in the context of Equalities and Diversity at work. This has played a prominent role in recent interviews in our restructure and in conversations arising from them.

It is very often the little things that have the most unexpected effects. I was reminded of this when someone remarked this week that they were wearing a bisexual pride pin on their lanyard because they had been inspired by my wearing one.

They had found it a relief to be able to make this statement, and hoped that in turn they would be able to help someone else be able to accept and be their proper selves too.

I was profoundly moved by this. Its one thing to have previously noted the addition of the pin to their daily appearance; another to have someone say in a public forum why, and their hope for further supporting others in a similar way.

I’m proud to work in a diverse community, and be part of ensuring that my workforce reflects that too. Representation matters. Being visible matters. Showing people they’re not alone matters.

Working Pride

Sadly with lockdown still wreaking havoc there’s absolutely no chance of getting to a Pride event this year, but at least through work there is an opportunity to celebrate a little.

I’m working as part of the LGBTQ+ Pride Network where I am, and this week has seen an invitation go up on the staff Jive network to post rainbows either as flags, themes, filters or whatever for Pride.

Cue one virtual Pride picture

Its only a little thing, but seeing everyone putting up posts is heartening. The rainbow Funko has been produced by them in support of Pride and the It Gets Better Project with part of the proceeds going to that charity.

So there’s a positive thing.

Corporate Queerness

Well, that was an interesting meeting. I signed up a few months ago to the fledgling LGBTQ+ Network at my workplace, and have since stepped up and got more involved with helping shape and run it. To that end we had a quick virtual meeting via Teams to start to thrash out the basic Values and Aims of the group.

This is based partly on the corporate aims and values for diversity and equality held in common working here, and looks at promoting wider sharing of information and practice among other things.

Along the way, people started dropping their ages into conversation around how different age ranges seem to prefer making social contacts. This ranges from apps, activities, social spaces, and the more traditional clubs and bars; and really emphasises again just how easy it can be to apply a wide brush to expectations that are then immediately subverted by individual experiences and expectations. It also revealed that I was the oldest person present, so to speak.

To quote Lady W as I recounted this later, this meant I was the oldest queer in the village. This amuses me, as I would in no way hold myself up as any kind of exemplar of queer experience in any community.

But there you have it – if need be I’ll be a voice for those who don’t feel they have the confidence to speak. There are worse roles I could take on.

Soggy Morning

I’m off to a masquerade thing this weekend, and so need to sort out a suitable mask for Lady S. Fortunately there’s a place near me that stocks all sorts of things so I’ve dragged myself out of bed in my day off to pop down to Kingston.

It’s a bit soggy. It’s raining so much the pigeons are hiding under the old barbecue on my balcony. From the sound of the cooing they’re busy making new pigeons. I’m half expecting to see them wearing galoshes the next time they’re perched on the railings.

Being Pride month, and an obstinate bugger, I’ve thrown on my Queer Umbrella t-shirt. It’s buried under my hoodie and thick coat, but it’s there. The last time I wore it was while at Con when popping out for supplies while Lady M was laid up with a migraine and heatstroke.

On that occasion I had a man yell “Queer!” in my face, which I suppose proved he could actually read. I looked at him. Every cosplayer on the street looked at him. He looked up in the silence and realised I was a head and a half taller than him and twice as wide. He dipped his head and went away.

I do not approve of this rain

I’m lucky. I’m a white male who easily fits into the bear stereotype in appearance. I’ve woken this morning to read two stories of homophobic assaults just in the first ten minutes of being awake, and as many incidences of people shouting about straight pride. I’m not dignifying that with capitals.

Pride is protest and visibility in the face of aggression. It’s political, it always has been, it started as a riot in the face of police brutality.

I’m queer. I’m bisexual, polyamorous, sex-positive, kinked and not going anywhere. Sorry, not sorry.

Just, who ordered all this rain?