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Dr Edward He's reflections on Chinese New Year and LGBT+ History Month 2021

Read CSLGBT+ Vice Chair Dr Edward He's reflections on Chinese New Year and LGBT+ History Month 2021.

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By Civil Service LGBT+ Network

CSLGBT+ Vice Chair Dr Edward He shares his reflections on Chinese New Year and LGBT+ History Month 2021.

Edward joined the Civil Service in 2019 as a Chartered Engineer, having previously worked in higher education, R&D and in the heavy industry, including the steelworks, oil & gas and aviation sectors.

Grew up in a traditional Chinese family, he has had first hand experiences on some of the challenges and barriers facing LGBT+ individuals from different cultural and ethnical background.

Over the years, Edward has worked with various LGBT+ staff networks and organisations. He currently serves as a Vice Chair for the Civil Service LGBT+ Network, a STEM Ambassador, Council Member for the IET, as well as a Trustee for a cancer support charity in South Wales.

Can you tell us how you got started in LGBT+ networks?

I became actively involved with staff LGBT+ network when I worked at GE in Leicester from 2013 to 2018. I was co-chairing our local GE GLBTA Alliance. Shortly after I joined the Civil Service in 2019, I applied for and successfully became one of the Vice Chairs for the Civil Service LGBT+ Network. It’s a great honour!

We are a volunteer-led network based all over the UK and work very closely with cross-government and departmental D&I and LGBT+ networks.

Why do you think it’s important to have staff D&I networks?

I was brought up in a traditional Chinese family. From my own experience, it is still very challenging for many of us to be who we really are, especially those of us from BAME, other cultural or religious backgrounds. Many of us would never want to disclose our real identity to our family or friends, with the fear to be rejected. Some actually feel safer and more accepted at work than at home.

We want to help create a culture in our workplace (Civil Service) where we can truly be ourselves, value our similarities and appreciate our differences.

Happy Chinese New Year! How has this Chinese New Years compared to last years?

2020 was a very tough year for everyone. We all had to adjust to the new working arrangements and living conditions, not being able to see our family, colleagues or friends for a long time. However, I think we can all feel the optimism and hope for 2021! This New Year will definitely be better than 2020!

Here I would like to wish everyone:

新年快乐!万事如意!/ Blwyddyn Newydd Tsieineaidd Dda! / A very Happy Chinese New Year!

We also understand this Chinese New Year is quite a lucky year to some, with 2021 being the Year of the Ox! Can you tell us what this year means to you personally?

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, follows the Lunar Calendar. It is the most important festival in Chinese culture and is celebrated by billions of people all over the world.

Each year has a zodiac sign, represented by an animal. There are 12 zodiac (animal) signs in total, which repeat every 12 years. 12 February 2021 marks the start of the Year of the Ox. If you were/are born in 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and of course in 2021, then this year is your zodiac year.

I was born in the Year of the Ox (I guess you can work out my age). The Ox is said to be hardworking, loyal but also stubborn. It is believed that wearing something red will bring extra luck and fortune during your zodiac year. However, according to Chinese custom, whatever red item you choose to wear, you cannot buy it yourself. It has to be given to you by a friend or family member as a gift.

Following the pandemic, we have heard since lockdown began that our South East Asian and Chinese colleagues are facing a new facet of xenophobia, what advise would you give to colleagues who have experienced this?

Since the start of pandemic, there has been an increase of racially motivated incidents targeting Chinese and South East Asian people. Sadly, my mum and I had also experienced it in our local shop.

If you ever experience or witness it, take photos or videos as evidence if it is safe to do so, and report the incident. You can report it either as a victim or as a witness. The easiest way to report is via the Government website: https://www.gov.uk/report-hate-crime

If you have been a victim, do not suffer it silently. Speak up and talk to your friends, colleagues or family members. They will do everything they can to support you. I mentioned our incident to my colleagues and was overwhelmed by the kind messages and support we’ve received. The Police will also be able to provide you professional advice and support.

What have you done during lockdown to help your own wellbeing?

I have been living on my own since summer last year. Fortunately, I have now formed a support buddle with my boyfriend, Phil. That has made a huge difference for our wellbeing.

I learnt Tai Chi, which I practise once or twice a day. I have also been doing some small DIY projects, gardening (when weather is nice) and enjoying cooking to keep myself busy. Of course, Netflix and Amazon Prime have also become our great friends in lockdown!

February is also LGBT+ History Month, what are your reflections on this month and have you been able to mark it?

This year, we celebrate both the Chinese New Year and LGBT+ History Month in February. Have you ever noticed that the Gay Village and the Chinatown in many big cities are always next to each other? I can think of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Amsterdam, San Francisco, New York, Sydney and more.

I went to university in Birmingham. Every year (except during the pandemic), you will see our Chinese New Year being celebrated in the Gay Village, and our Pride events being celebrated in the Chinatown there. It is the same in London, Manchester and many other cities. Our two communities (Chinese and LGBT+) have coexisted and been supporting one another for decades. We are closer and more connected than many people think.

Historically, both communities have also experienced rejection, discrimination and many similar challenges. Whatever our differences may be, we have and will continue to overcome these challenges when we stand side by side and support each other. We are stronger together!

Can you share a quote or phrase that has meant a lot to you?

I always say that life is too serious to be taken too seriously! Be nice, be kind and enjoy everyday! :)