Being yourself should be the easiest thing in the world to do, right? I mean; it’s you! You know who you are. You know how you feel. You know how to be. You are you!
Not everyone is that lucky. There are still people out there that don’t feel like they can be themselves because they are constantly questioning what that actually is. Gender identity and sexual orientation are two of many factors that can cause us to question who we are; but they can also be considered taboo topics which leads to internalised anxiety and distress.
Civil servants in particular need to be able to be themselves at work. Civil servants are public servants. We work for the public and - as a workforce - we should be representative of the wider public too. As an LGBT civil servant, if you feel uncomfortable with yourself at such a core level, that will inevitably have a negative impact on your work, let alone your wellbeing.
I’ve been working at Natural Resources Wales for over a year now. In that time, I’ve come into contact with hundreds of different members of staff and thousands of people throughout Wales and the rest of the UK. Initially, I was so scared.
What if my colleagues judge me because I mention I have a boyfriend in conversation? What if a customer gives me abuse because of the way in which I speak over the phone? What if my manager doesn’t listen to what I’m saying because they disapprove of my ‘lifestyle choice’?
Luckily, I’ve never come across any of these actual situations in my role but the fear was still there and definitely real. That’s where my local LGBT network came in. Knowing that there was a well-founded group of proud colleagues throughout the organisation and even more straight allies was a massive comfort.
As a civil servant, my ability to deal with my work has a direct effect on the people of this country. If I can’t be myself and if others in my organisation and other organisations couldn’t be themselves either, we wouldn’t have the confidence to answer the phone, speak to colleagues or even turn up to work at all. The reality is everyone works better when they can be themselves.
I have been here for a year now and it is with thanks to the culture of Natural Resources Wales that I plan on staying here for many more years to come, helping the people of Wales confidently in every way my role entails.