Interim Head of Service and Operations
At Chance UK we have been celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month; the month is intended to combat prejudice, raise awareness, and celebrate the achievement and diversity of the community. This month is about “claiming our past, celebrating our present and creating our future”. Through our mentoring programmes, we work with children and families to do exactly this in their lives through 1:1 mentoring sessions and workshops that support and celebrate a person’s difference.
I am proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ community, and I am proud to work for an organisation who are so supportive in promoting this while ensuring that I feel safe at work. I have lost count with how many times a person has shouted at me “it’s Adam and Eve” not “Adam and Steve,” or how a negative throwaway comment in previous workplaces has become normalised. This month I am reflecting on our history and the progress we have made as a society including what it feels like to be a part of an organisation who cares. The team at Chance UK have created a culture of inclusion where all of our staff are celebrated and valued. In previous workplaces, the topic of my relationship was disregarded by colleagues; whereas at Chance, my partner is acknowledged and my relationship celebrated as much as any other. Although I do not need the acceptance of others to feel proud of my relationship, the culture of inclusion at Chance has made me I feel like I can be truly be myself at work.
Despite the progression has been made with LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance over the last century, statistics on recorded hate crimes in the United Kingdom targeted towards the community are still shocking. A study by Stonewall, Britain’s leading charity for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality, has revealed that workplace discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals continues to be a fundamental problem. More than a third of LGBTQ+ staff have hidden that their orientation at work for fear of discrimination and 1 in 5 of those surveyed reported they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. 1 in 8 trans people have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers at work.
Everyone in the LGBTQ+ community has unique experiences, shaped by their environment. Although I cannot speak on the behalf of others, I can share my journey and reassure you that safe places do exist, and for me it’s been Chance UK. I spent years trying to understand my sexuality, but if I had had Chance UK as a young person supporting me then I might not have felt so alone with so many aspects of growing up.
Every young person should have a role model to look up to, and for me that was Bette Midler. For so many of us in the LGBTQ+ community, we must look to the entertainment industry for roles models, when visible LGBTQ+ role models in our local community can be scarce. The entertainment industry has always been a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community as that is where we find (often indirect) representation. Not only is Bette a globally recognised gay icon, but she has inspired me my whole life through her positive attitude, amazing talent and advocacy work for LGBTQ+ rights.
If you are interested in learning more about LGBTQ+ History Month, click here for a lot of great resources.