This week has been simply amazing and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by it still. However I want to start collecting together some of my reflections so that I don’t lose them.
I was privileged to attend the Stonewall Leadership Programme from Wednesday to Friday evening. Thirty six leaders (that’s us in the photo, below with the Stonewall staff) from all walks of life spent this time exploring how to be more authentic and use this to promote more inclusion where we work. In the two and half days we covered so much and most of us found it extremely powerful. I left feeling more confident and energised, with a sense of renewed challenge.
One of my first reflections, however, is about how different it felt working in this group of LGBT leaders to any other group I have worked in. I am fortunate to work in a great team, but even so this felt better. I realised that despite not knowing any of these people before Wednesday I felt more relaxed and had more energy than I usually do. This helped me to work in the various groups with more clarity and increased energy. It helped me to engage more fully in some really challenging discussions, to support others better and enjoy myself more.
When I left the programme on Friday evening I had to quickly change into my dinner suit and drive 100 miles to attend the Norfolk & Suffolk Gay Police Association Winter Ball. This was a fabulous evening, where over 160 people from various police constabularies and other organisations met for dinner, entertainment and dancing. The atmosphere was incredibly relaxed and lots of fun. And despite a long and intense day I did not feel tired, even when leaving in the early hours of Saturday.
In both these environments being gay felt more than ok, it wasn’t just tolerated, it was celebrated. There was no risk of being judged for being gay. On the Stonewall Programme there were lots of intense conversations about other things but it was completely safe to reveal that the love of my life was another man. At the Winter Ball I could dance with husband without worrying whether it would offend anyone. I felt more than just safe, I felt accepted. And I have been amazed at what a difference this made to. When I was walking the dog yesterday I wondered if this is was other people feel most of the time. If so I wondered if they realised how lucky they are not to constantly worry about what people’s reaction to an innocent revelation that indicates I live with and love another man. I wonder if women in the work place could relate to this at all. I wonder if this anxiety, and the constant monitoring that attends it, are justified or just in my head. I know my colleagues would try to reassure me that my concerns should not apply in our workplace. Maybe some of this relates to my past experiences of judgement and exclusion for being gay. Sadly even today I don’t think many environments are truly inclusive and accepting of the diversity of individuals in them. I still don’t think we have really worked out how to create synergy from diversity.
But I do think that this week I have had a glimpse of the personal impact of how much more I can achieve and how much better I feel them I am in one of those environments. I want to capture that and work out how to use it to explain to others the potential that this represents. Have I managed to give a sense of that here?