My role in Hampshire County Council
I work as a Registered Manager of an older person’s unit in Bishops Waltham. I am responsible for the care and well fare of the residents who live there as well as for the staff who work alongside me. I work very much as part of a team who try to deliver a quality person centered service to the people who live at the home. Part of my role is trying to break down the old negative image of what living in residential care is actually like. I have worked for the County Council for over 32 years. I was initially employed as a care assistant and the council has supported and trained me to hold the position I hold now. I have always been and am extremely passionate about equality and inclusion for every one and in my youth was very politically active in this area.
I identify as a gay man. I knew that I was gay from a really young age but I didn’t really come out to myself or others until I was about 18. Coming out to myself, accepting and being happy with my sexuality was far more difficult then actually telling my family and friends. I did not want to be gay, I thought “I can’t be gay” as I did not recognize myself in any of the stereo types projected in the media. I was so unhappy and disliked myself that I would seek approval from those around me. I would strive and use all my energy hiding who I was, trying to be what others wanted me to be so they would get their approval and be liked. Once I was able to eventually accept and be happy with who I was it gave me the confidence to then face others and tell them I was gay. I now really enjoy my sexuality and consider my sexual orientation to be an important part of who I am. I would even go as far to say that being gay has enabled me to experience so many different things, travel to so many places, meet some amazing and interesting people that I don’t think I would possibly have done had I not been gay.
Why it is important to be a role model
I grew up in the 1980s in a small rural village in Hampshire. It was a very tight community where everyone knew each other and it was hard to identify with any roles models. This all changed when I joined a drama course and was able to explore who I was safely surrounded by people who would allow me to do this and not judge me. My confidence grew and I now believe somewhat arrogantly that if a person takes a dislike of me then it’s their problem not mine. This positivity to accept who I was enabled me to then move onto tell my friends and family.
I think I’ve been extremely lucky in my experiences all in all, with friends, colleagues and a very supportive family. But I’m keenly aware that things can be horrifically different for other LGBT+ people, both here in the UK and in other parts of the world. I’m lucky enough to be part of an organisation that values and supports equality and diversity, and to be working with many evolved, open-minded and supportive colleagues. I suppose the only challenges I face these days exist in wider society. It can be difficult to hear homophobic comments or sentiments when you’re out and about — even when they aren’t directed at you. The feeling that someone could potentially disapprove of your existence, or even want to harm you, because of something that is a natural part of who you are, is as baffling as it is hurtful. But as challenging as this may be, I try to see those occasions as valuable and privileged experiences. They equip us with a fierce empathy for, and an intrinsic solidarity with, all who are disadvantaged, misunderstood, or denied in some way by society. Not everyone has access to that perspective, and the world desperately needs leaders who do.
I think it is important to be an LGBT role model because it breaks down the stereotypes people may have in their heads regarding LGBT people, and that it is important to be out around work colleagues and in a work environment to normalise the fact that there are gay people out there (and not merely in the abstract and ‘experienced’ through the media). It can also help those who may be LGBT but not yet out to their work colleagues. It is a personal journey and a massive step to take, the decision to do so has to be when an individual is ready in their journey to do so, no one can tell you to do this. If by being a role model, I can in some way enable others to feel confident to do so then all the better.