Alan Edwards (they/he) Election Statement
Alan's pitch for election as Chair of the Civil Service LGBT+ Network
By Civil Service LGBT+ Network
I joined the Civil Service in 2014 and have worked at HMRC, the Serious Fraud Office and am currently on secondment to NHS Test and Trace, where I work as a Counter Fraud Manager.
I am bisexual, non-binary and neurodiverse. I first realised I was bi when I was 19. Unsure of how to communicate that to people or worried about how it might be viewed, I did not tell anyone beyond a group of close friends for several years. Eventually it got to a point where keeping such a big part of who I am a secret and constantly having my sexuality assumed by the gender of my partner became more of a burden than the fear of how people might react if I told them I was bi. Because there was no network and very little LGBT+ visibility at the department where I was working at that time, I decided to write a blog post about being bisexual and invisible. This received positive feedback from across the organisation and led to more people talking about LGBT+ issues and the formation of a network.
Civil Service LGBT+ Network involvement
I first became involved in the CSLGBT+ Network in December 2019, when I joined the Network’s Bi+ Inclusion Team. In that role I have helped organise countless events, covering topics such as being out at work, intersectionality and allyship. I felt that it was particularly important to keep the bi+ community connected during the pandemic, when many of us were cut off from our usual support networks.
I also helped to set up AceSpace, a series of structured and informal social events for civil servants on the asexual and aromantic spectrums. This is a group who are often forgotten and underrepresented in the LGBT+ community and benefited from having a dedicated space, often giving them the opportunity to meet other ace people for the first time.
I have represented the Network at the Cabinet Office’s Vetting Transformation Programme, which is reviewing the way that the security clearance process is handled. This has historically discriminated against LGBT+ people (until 1991 it was official government policy not to employ LGBT+ people at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and in other security related roles). I know from speaking to many of you that it’s still a big cause of anxiety, sometimes even to the extent that LGBT+ people will not apply for certain jobs. I have worked with the Cabinet Office for the last year to ensure that our community’s views are taken into account, so that the vetting process can be updated to be fit for the times we live in.
Following the publication of my coming out blog post I co-founded and co-chaired the Serious Fraud Office LGBT+ Network.
While I was at the SFO I was additionally the Deputy Lead of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Group. I organised the first event talking about the intersection between mental health, sexual orientation and gender identity, which was well attended.
Having been closeted for several years before coming out quite publicly, I understand the challenges that can come with being an LGBT+ civil servant.
I have been involved with the CSLGBT+ Network for some time and have good relationships with the volunteers that help to run it, the other cross government diversity networks, and some of the Network’s key stakeholders in the government. I would be well placed to ensure continuity of the vital work that the Network does, while also looking at new things we can do to ensure that we support every LGBT+ civil servant.
One of the things that eventually gave me the courage to come out was reading an Employment Tribunal case about a bisexual prison officer who was bullied, harassed and eventually unlawfully dismissed for his sexual orientation in 2016. Knowing that this had happened to a fellow civil servant, at a time when I worked in the Civil Service, made me feel that I had an obligation to make myself visible in the hope that it might help prevent something similar happening to anyone else. I will carry the same conviction with me if elected Chair of the Network.
My priorities for the CSLGBT+ Network would be:
· Advocacy – I will ensure that the Network consistently advocates in the interests of LGBT+ civil servants, whether through initiatives such as the Vetting Transformation Programme or raising employment policies that affect us.
· Cooperation with other networks – I want to continue and build on the good relationships the Network enjoys with other cross government diversity networks, as well as departmental LGBT+ networks. I would like to see more joint events and will encourage us to work together on intersectional equality issues affecting our members.
· Building our community – I have seen how much difference having a dedicated team for one part of the LGBT+ community can make through the work I have done on the Network’s Bi+ Inclusion Team. I will ensure that each part of the LGBT+ community has a dedicated Vice Chair in the Network to act as an advocate and organise events for their sub-community. I will expect these strands to be in regular contact with each other and work closely together, to ensure that intersectionality remains at the heart of what we do.
· Intersectionality – I see this as more than just a popular catchphrase but as something that’s essential to a diversity network like ours. My sexuality, gender and neurodivergence do not exist in isolation but together shape who I am and the experiences I have had, both positive and negative. While our Network is focused on sexuality and gender diversity, I want us to keep in mind how characteristics like people’s ethnicity, faith, cultural and socioeconomic background, mental and physical health, and disability affect and intersect with their experiences as LGBT+ people.
I look forward to e-meeting as many of you as possible over the coming weeks and answering any questions you have.