As an ‘out’ lesbian, I often get asked “when did you first realise you were…?”. That question invariably sets in motion a recollection of first crushes and childhood role models (thank you Belinda Carlisle and Calamity Jane).
As a community, I think we do a lot of reflecting, both in terms of key moments in our personal history - like when we come out - and in terms of those people who influenced us and shaped our community.
I feel indebted to those who pushed themselves to the forefront and put themselves on the line to champion equality, and expose bigotry and hatred.
People like Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials who symbolised the freedom to live life with authenticity to millions of LGBT women and men around the world.
Or Edie Windsor, who at the age of 81 made history after challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned the federal recognition of same-sex marriages and the benefits they were entitled to – benefits she was denied when her partner of almost 50 years passed away and she was left with a huge inheritance tax bill because federal law did not recognise the validity of their marriage.
Or people like Peter Tatchell, the human rights and LGBT activist, whose determination to claim justice for the oppressed and the powerless, regardless of personal safety and without ever compromising his principles.
The strength and tenacity of those people - and countless others - has inspired me to be a better leader in championing LGBT issues in the workplace. I’ve realised that even though every day it becomes a little bit easier for people to be open and authentic at work, there are still those who feel isolated and afraid to be their true self. Whilst that is still the case, I will continue to put myself at the forefront to speak on their behalf; to challenge where it is needed; to champion equality; and to celebrate difference.
I’ve worked in both the private and public sector. When it comes to being LGBT, the Civil Service is definitely the most welcoming and forward-thinking place to be out at work I’ve been in. This is not saying I was never out before - given that I’m prone to bravado being ‘in’ was never really an option - but I feel like the Civil Service is the first place where my difference has been actively championed and encouraged in terms of sharing my knowledge and telling my story.
This is why I take such an enthusiastic and active role in chairing our own LGBT network in the Ministry of Justice - SPIRIT - and why I got involved with CSRA as women’s officer. As well as the sense of solidarity it gives me and the great friendships I’ve made, I want to part of creating a Civil Service culture where all people feel comfortable in seeking support, making new connections and sharing their own stories.
And in answer to the question at the start? I always knew. It was never a question of realising I was gay. It’s just who I am.