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Let's get visible... meet Rachael

To mark Lesbian Visibility Week, we’re celebrating the lesbians who make the Civil Service a great place to work for all colleagues.

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By Civil Service LGBT+ Network

Rachael is a Policy Advisor at the Department for Transport and she’s just got engaged.

What does it say about me, who has been a card-carrying member of the lesbian club for the last nine years, that I didn’t even realise there was a lesbian visibility week? I’ve been quite fortunate to be blessed with the confidence to never shut up about being a lesbian, it’s one of the first things I say when I’m introduced to people.

“Hi, I’m Rachael, I work for the Department for Transport and I’m a huge lesbian, let me tell you about my future wife, do you want to see a picture of her? How about that latest episode of Killing Eve eh? Oh, wait let me get you a rainbow lanyard!”

Speaking of the absolute stunner that will eventually become Mrs Gray (unpopular opinion, I can’t abide double barrelling) it has been a tough year for the two of us. After eight years together, I had to move to London to pursue my career in the civil service – three years of applying for the fast stream and they finally decided to let me in.

This was, and remains, incredibly exciting for me personally and our future as a family (perhaps we may one day break the millennial curse and afford our own home) however it hasn’t been without its challenges. I come home on alternate weekends and promptly break down and embrace the light of my life…my cat Onyx. She misses me very much and the feeling is mutual. Ellie misses me also, but now has the opportunity to keep the house as tidy as she likes – I have a habit of tidying things away and immediately forget where I’ve moved them. It’s very annoying. We’ve both been getting used to living alone and it’s hard when you haven’t been apart from someone for almost a decade.

I have never, at any point, doubted that we would spend the rest of our lives together. I knew back in 2011 when we met in a gay bar as members of rival women’s rugby teams, oh and just to throw more clichés in, her ex was also one of my teammates and I wrongly believed I was straight until we met (the Netflix adaptation due out whenever they return my calls…) It’s very easy to fall in love, it’s much harder to stay there. I won’t lie, long distance has been difficult, but it has also made us more appreciative of the time we do get together. It also helped me to put some things into perspective.

There is a stereotype about lesbians that they move in together on the second date and tend to jump headfirst into relationships and marriage. By comparison we have been moving at an almost glacial pace and had been dating for eight and a half years by the time I finally decided to propose. Not for lack of forethought but more pragmatic concerns, both us working in minimum wage retail did not leave a lot of money set aside for frivolous expenses when the bills were due.

One night at work drinks and karaoke (it must be said that my rendition of I Will Survive leaves much to be desired) I decided to announce that I would propose to Ellie. I hadn’t seriously considered it but I was very drunk and very much missed my partner, and I kind of knew she would (probably) say yes. So, I began to plan a proper proposal. After my Uber dropped me off home with cheesy chips of course.

I initially thought New Year’s Eve would be a good shout, getting down on one knee as the fireworks went off at midnight. Very romantic. As It happened, we were snuggled up watching a terrible romantic comedy on Christmas Eve and the timing just felt right (even though I’ve always laughed at the people who get engaged over Christmas, like oh I got you the gift of me, no refunds sorry.) I told her to close her eyes and I would give her an early Christmas present – I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. She had been expecting a set of pyjamas I’d purchased for her, but was almost as happy with the proposal (they are very nice pyjamas) and she said yes.

We are planning to get married on our ten-year anniversary, which is June of next year (so hopefully we will be out of self-isolation by then!) and I couldn’t be more pleased. I am by definition, a clueless lesbian, like I genuinely have no idea that someone is flirting with me – I just assume everybody is as friendly as I am. Having managed to snag a beautiful, funny and intelligent woman who wants to marry me! Astounding.