Emma joined St Mungo’s in the Strategic Asset Team and has also been an active member of our LGBTQIA+ Network ever since. In this blog, she tells us what the network means to her, reflects on the importance of, and shares a powerful poem on, LGBT History Month.
When I came to work for St Mungo’s, I was astounded on my first day at the obvious dedication to diversity and inclusion. I have never worked anywhere before where they were so inclusive, and it blew me away.
I felt like a weight had been lifted off me; here, finally, was a place where I didn’t need to hide parts of myself to fit in, somewhere I wouldn’t be asked stupid and intrusive questions, and I wouldn’t face judgement. I was so excited, I even took a picture of the notice up on the toilets about using whichever bathroom made you more comfortable and text it to a loads of friends, gushing over it (I’ll be honest, they didn’t quite understand my excitement).
I was excited to work for a company that had been consistently recognised by Stonewall, and that showed such acceptance of all different types of people, and celebrated these differences. I wanted to be a part of this, which is why I volunteer to help for as many events as I can, even if my contribution is just a poem.
When I then learned about how many different diversity networks there were, I immediately contacted the ones that fit me, that meant the most, and one of these was the LGBT+ Network.
I can’t put into words how it feels to know there are other people in the office that, like me, are proud of their sexuality and want to encourage others to be the same. It’s an amazing feeling to not feel so alone.
Despite growing up in Greater London, I didn’t know that many openly LGBT+ people in my area in my younger, formative years. I knew experimenters, a few gay guys (from whom I have experienced some of the worst bi-erasure in my life), and I was bullied for being unapologetically bi in an all girls’ school.
To get into my early adult years and be able to work somewhere so accepting, with a network of people like me – words don’t do the feelings justice.
So when it comes to LGBT+ History Month… The reason it’s so important to me, like everything else meaningful in life, is multi-layered. For a start, I have a degree in history, have always loved it, and always believed that we have to know the past in order to be best prepared for the future. We do, as a species, tend to repeat patterns of behaviour, and being able to recognise these patterns can stop us from repeatedly making the same mistakes. There’s the corny reason out of the way.
Another reason – probably the most significant – it’s so important to me is because it is humbling and uniting to look back at who fought and sacrificed so that I could enjoy the freedoms I have. And yes, the fight is not over, we still haven’t achieved the aim of complete acceptance, but we are in a much better position than we were even five years ago.
I look back at what others achieved, despite the mountainous obstacles they had to overcome, and it makes me feel better about the biphobia and bigotry I have to face, and I know that things will get better. Knowing what all these amazing people did for us inspires me to be better, do better, do more for my community. It makes me want to fight, raise awareness, be a safe space, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
LGBT History Month gives us the opportunity to highlight these people, what they gave in our past for a future they didn’t know of, and I hope they inspire others like they inspired me; to be unapologetically yourself.
You marvel at the beauty
Of a rainbow that paints the sky
Wondering how such brightness
Can be birthed from a storm
And yet question our colours
And our tempestuous struggles
When you, ancient perpetrator
Are the rains and winds
The lightning and the thunder
Trying in vain to dim us
And then claim it does not exist
But we weep not for we are protected
By each other under the umbrella
A shelter which has expanded over years
Shielding many from the hail storm
Of insults and phobia, words and actions
Seeking to break our blossoming community
But we are family, connected by shared experience
Ready to fight and defend all
Who don’t stick to monochrome
Across the fields of years gone by, I see
An army of multi-coloured flags
Sauntering forward with self-determined righteousness
Hearts and souls covered in blood and tears
But hands free from the stain
Never looking back, but never forsaking the rear view
And I march with them
We remember and honour all
Who could not be here today
But whose courageous actions
Paved the path we have walked thus far
And now we, blessed by their inception
Must continue through the dense jungle
Until all the world is painted
In the brightest colours of joy
And the Old World
Bigoted, prejudiced and cruel
Is trampled underfoot
A festival or light and colour
Acceptance of every shade
Waiting to greet us
In the dawning of the New Age
Find out more about Diversity and Inclusion at St Mungo’s.