Monday, 5 August 2013

Proud to be part of PRIDE

Earlier this year I posted a blog about gay rights. With the debate about same-sex marriage high on the national and media agenda, it seemed like a good opportunity to put down some thoughts and ideas about gay and lesbian issues.

With same-sex marriage now finally working its way on to the statute book, it got me thinking a little more about the cloak of invisibility which still seems to surround LGBT issues in the public sector – and I suppose in society at large. Even here at Wolverhampton Homes, where I like to think we have a culture of openness and acceptance, I still get the impression that there’s a reluctance from some colleagues to be open and comfortable at work about who they are.

I’m very much of the opinion that people who are free to be themselves at work will perform better – it seems like a no brainer to me.  Of course, some colleagues will say ‘my work is my work and my private life is my private life – never the two shall meet! I get that – and I totally understand that. What worries me is that there could be colleagues who feel they can’t be themselves because they don’t know how others will react. I’ve no evidence to suggest this is the case – but if it were, that really saddens me.

Wolverhampton Homes staff taking part in the PRIDE parade
Last weekend I was really proud to see a dozen or so of my colleagues parading through Wolverhampton City Centre, taking part in the city’s second annual Pride festival. Some of our contingent were gay – but what I found heart-warming was seeing other colleagues who aren’t gay turning up to support the cause. What a wonderful show of unity and support.

It was interesting to speak with one straight colleague who took part in Pride who’d been a bit wary as to how the crowd and passers-by may react. But he said the shoppers in Wolverhampton were great. It was also really heartening to see our local newspaper, The Express & Star, covering the Pride parade in such a positive light.

Being gay isn’t a scandal anymore for people in public life. There are openly gay senior police officers and openly gay politicians. Even in sport, the barriers are coming down slowly. Rugby star Gareth Thomas has helped and perhaps some time in the not-too-distant future, perhaps football will follow-suit? The Justin Fashanu fallout lives long in the memory but I hope in time one high profile footballer comes out and they’re shown the support and respect that their courage deserves.

Our people perform better when they can be themselves
I’m proud that we’ve been able to team up with Stonewall, the gay-rights charity, as we bid to become an accredited gay-friendly place of work. I’m proud to be supporting the LGBT community in Wolverhampton and I’m proud to be supporting gay members of staff here at Wolverhampton Homes. Attitudes seem to be changing – and although there’s a long way to go, I want Wolverhampton Homes to be leading the way and want our colleagues to be proud of who they are.


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