When I started my legal career with a local firm, the firm hired a legal secretary. The partner at the time told the secretary “You do know she’s [meaning me] a lesbian?” prior to the secretary ever meeting me. I still do not know why the partner brought it up. I consider this a small anecdote, which is relatively harmless, but it definitely shows that someone thought my sexuality could be a problem, even in the last 10 years or so.
Lucky there was no issue between the secretary and I, indeed we are firm friends to this day.
Working with the public, I was mostly honest about my wife (at the time girlfriend) when clients inevitably asked about weekend plans. I do remember using gender neutral terms with certain clients who, for lack of better description, I did not feel safe to come out to.
This might sound like an over-reaction, but I assure you, hate crimes still happen and the workspace is not immune. Luckily, I work for an amazing and compassionate firm now and am out to just about everyone (and especially their dog because dogs are adorable) with not even a blink of an eye.
LGBT rights have come a long way even from when I started my career journey. Civil Partnership and Same-sex marriage to name the big ones but with many much smaller steps as well.
A lot of people feel that there’s no longer any homophobia or inequality between straight and non-straight people. Indeed, I have had close people tell me this to my face. I wish that it were true.
The UK government’s decision to block Scotland’s Gender Recognition Certificates bill in January this year puts pay to the idea that there is no inequality. That’s not even taking into consideration the rather sobering facts and figures on the UK Stonewall website.
Almost synonymous with LGBT is protest, starting with the Gay Liberation Front’s very first pride march (which was a protest) in 1972 and still has elements of protest in Pride marches across the UK today.
The government’s proposed bill about protest for me is deeply worrying, personally I feel Pride is still both a parade and a protest they go together hand in hand. Without protest would the landscape of gay, trans, and other rights look anywhere near as progressive as it is today? How else can people make their voices heard if they believe there is a national issue that needs to be addressed? If protesters (even peaceful ones) can lose their jobs or have their freedom restricted by preventing them from attending future protests, rights that were built from protest and a demand for governments to sit up and take notice, then our right to freedom of expression has taken a very heavy hit.
We have come a long way from section 28 that prevent even the mention of LGBT in a positive way (which may surprise you to learn was only repealed in 2003 but does explain a lot of the school education I can remember.)
Protest is such a valuable tool for the public and yes, it is an inconvenience. It is supposed to be! If things are inconvenient then how or even why do, we make changes? Protest has been the cause of monumental changes during our lifetimes. When we tend to think of societal change it often feels sepia-toned drained, pages in a textbook, but it isn’t, it’s now and it is still as important today as it was then.
So, for pride month I’d like us to think back on the struggles that the LGBT+ community have overcome, not to grow complacent for the future, and to fiercely support those who are still protesting.