My role in Hampshire County Council
I work as Public Health Manager where I lead on the development, commissioning and delivery of the council’s sexual health strategy. I also lead on dental public health and I am the council’s public health lead for the New Forest. I am passionate about reducing health inequalities and have a special interest in improving the health of LGBT communities as well as Gypsies and Travellers in Hampshire.
I identify as a gay man but I consider myself to be much more than that! I knew that I was gay from a really young age but I didn’t really come out to myself or others until I went away to university and met other people like me. Since then life has just got better and better and I am fortunate that I have experienced very little discrimination in my career or personal life to date. I really enjoy my sexuality and consider my sexual orientation to be an important part of who I am.
Why it is important to be a role model
I have never really thought of myself as a role model but I am happy to stand up and be counted, if it helps to reduce prejudice and to improve opportunities and the health and wellbeing of others. I grew up in a relatively small village near Liverpool and went to the local catholic primary and secondary schools where there were no visible LGBT role models and certainly no LGBT youth groups or coverage of LGBT issues in the curriculum. This was in the days before the internet and there were very few positive LGBT role models in the media. I felt different, alone, isolated and scared and unable to visualise a positive future for myself.
Fortunately this changed for me when I went away to university. I became a volunteer and met people from all walks of life, including people like me who were happy, funny, creative and compassionate. These were my role models. They helped me to accept and embrace my own identity and to create a positive future. I have always identified with some of the most marginalised people in our society which is why I was attracted to a career in public health.
Since then I have been fortunate to work on a number of LGBT initiatives and projects, including the development and delivery of LGBT awareness training for the police as well as health and social care staff, plus the development of a range of LGBT community health projects and youth support services. I have also been lucky to have worked with some truly inspiring LGBT role models as well as many inspiring straight allies. Role models are important as they bring a different perspective to the workplace and challenge the direct and indirect discrimination that frequently takes place. This improves workplace health and wellbeing as well service delivery and productivity for all. If you look at any successful organisation there are likely to be LGBT employees or allies at all levels that are making a difference, challenging the status quo, transforming services and keeping the organisation real!
Unfortunately LGBT people experience significant inequalities in health. We know from research that LGBT people are more likely to experience bullying than the general population and they have significantly higher rates of mental ill-health, suicide and self-harm. They also have higher rates of smoking, alcohol and drug use and gay men are at particular risk of poor sexual health. We also know that LGBT people experience higher rates of domestic violence and that they can face extreme social isolation and vulnerability in old age. There are a small but increasing number of services and projects that have been developed and trained to support LGBT people in Hampshire (some of which are listed on this website) and I am happy to meet other Hampshire County Council colleagues over coffee if you would like a chat or additional support.