LGBT+ history month is an annual celebration that provides education and insight into the issues that the LGBT+ community faces. Throughout the event we will be celebrating by hearing from some of our LGBT+ staff.
Lauren Summers, marketing and communication manager / vice chair of Staff Side
“This Sunday is Valentine’s Day. It’s also a memorable date for me as that’s when I changed my identity at work and got a new work email address. Appropriate then that I share a little love and gratitude for some people who deserve it – my wonderful colleagues.
“Some of the people I work currently with knew me as a man for two years before I suddenly came in to work presenting as a woman. You know what was fantastic? They didn’t bat an eyelid! They had no problem using my new name and female pronouns and didn’t treat me any differently. Paul, Stacey, Gavin, Sarah, Stephen, Jane, Anne, Aboo and Zahida an extra big “thank you” for being awesome!
“I mustn’t forget to mention Dawn, Dannie, Sinead and Alexis who are newer to our service but have been equally amazing. And thank you to colleagues in our extended directorate and around the Trust, in particular my UNISON and Staff Side colleagues. You have been magnificent too!
“I wanted to use this opportunity to talk about what I think being a good ally means. You often see companies promoting rainbow products or social media influencers posting special pride-themed photoshoots; but a lot of this is empty posturing. Actions speak louder than words. Being a good ally isn’t just about making a public display of allegiance to the LGBT+ cause (although this can be useful); it’s about being kind, compassionate, genuinely believing in equality and standing up for others every single day without compromise. In my life, the best trans allies I have are often the quietist ones. They don’t need to make a show of being an ally, it’s just what they do because of who they are.
“Now as I said, my team never make an issue about my gender; but I wanted to share a few lovely stories about the odd occasions where it has come up.
“I knew I was on the right path when, not long after I came out, Stacey (who I manage) said to me: “This, [gesturing to me presenting as female] seems right. You look more comfortable and like your true self as a female and to look back at you as male now feels strange, like it was a completely different person that was never really you (if that makes sense).” That was just the best thing anyone could have said to a trans person finding their feet. What Stacey said made me so happy and gave me confidence that I was becoming my authentic self.
“There’s another nice little story about Dannie. Last year the Government floated the idea of banning pre-op trans women from female spaces. When Dannie found about this she said “Right, let’s start a campaign.” Luckily for ministers, the general public also disagreed with the idea and Dannie has been able to stand down.
“They’re all just so wonderful and supportive. When I told my boss Paul that I was looking to start hormones he said “Great, I think that will be a really good thing for you”. It’s so valuable having a supportive manager who I can trust to confide in and know that he has my back.
“It’s the little things the team do too. Like they include me in girl stuff. When I came out Jane had given a colleague some jewellery, and to make sure I wasn’t left out she gave me some too. And when Sarah was given some lipstick she didn’t like she gave one to me and one to Dannie. I get female presents in secret Santa at Christmas. They have never made me feel different or left out.
“The team are supportive on the big things too – particularly Dawn who is doing so much great work on equalities and engagement.
“Because of how things happened for me I’ve been transitioning in public, right from the start. I am very fortunate in being able to say that becoming me has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. A lot of this is down to my lovely team for being good allies.
“Thank you, I know you may not think you’ve done anything out of the ordinary but you deserve credit for who you are, the values and behaviours you role model.”
If you want to read more about being an ally, then this Stonewall blog is a good place to start.