Tag: LGBT

Look for the sunshine in the rain

Guest post from Bleddyn Harris, Organisational Development and Training Officer  – National Assembly for Wales. Diversity and Inclusion Week.

Rainbow

Noun

An arch of colours visible in the sky, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun’s light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere.

When Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag, I wonder if he ever truly understood how – alongside becoming an unapologetically fabulous and auspicious protest against the undue discrimination of love and identity – it perfectly encapsulated the experience of the many LGBTQ individuals who have used it as a shield in a world that doesn’t appear to want them: sunshine and rain, all at once.

When I think about being gay, I often come to the conclusion that it has been the single most painful and healing experience I have endured. Not that being gay is a painful experience, more that it has been the excuse so many have used when they have left me raw and exposed, often, and paradoxically, in the name of ‘love’. It has been a catalyst for people who do not know me, who will never meet me, who will never accept me, who will never love me, to call for me to be made illegal, to erase my history, to want me in jail, to think to beat me up, to stop me from getting married, to want me dead. See, it’s not all unicorns and drag queens, is it?

I don’t quite like to say that being my authentic self is in spite of the kinds of people I have named above because I feel it attributes all of the battles I have had to win with my self-esteem and self-acceptance to a bunch of people who will never care… but, yes, being myself is totally in spite of those people because I want them to know that I won’t let their bigotry get in the way of me living my life full of colour and with a love they seek to deny me.

I know, I know, I’m harping on about the negative aspects of this experience, but it’s only because I think the struggle is often overlooked by the idea that the community, specifically gay men, are a collective group of audacious and colourful people who are happy to be bold and bright and beautiful in their own way, no matter what. There’s never really a discussion about the internal monologues, the struggles, the fear we have when we walk down the street because ‘do I look too gay? Am I walking funny? People are looking: I should stop holding my partner’s hand’.

I feel this struggle, as well as everyone’s entirely personal and different experience of being a part of the LGBTQ community, was summed up in a conversation I had with a friend over dinner: we were talking about an LGBT talk we saw at the Hay Festival that centred on the Stonewall Uprising and the struggles we’ve endured and the successes the community has been given – please note that we have to be given the same right as our heterosexual and cis-gendered counterparts which means they can just as easily be given away. The conversation led to a question of whether we would take a pill to make us straight. I immediately said no without much thought. My friend said yes. He asked me why I would choose to live a life of living on the outskirts of being ‘normal’, a life of constantly looking over your shoulder because you walk/talk a certain way, a life of feeling like you’re only ever tolerated and not truly accepted. I gently reminded him that sometimes you need to look for the sunshine in the rain and know that we are able to live the life so many people before our time died dreaming of: their prayers, strength, and rebellion still protect us.

If you’ve managed to stay with me, I’d like to pay homage to those who came before me that I’ll never be able to meet, that I’ll never be able to thank. Too many of their names and stories have been forgotten. Why? I don’t know. Is it society trying to erase our history? Maybe. Is it society attempting to avoid their guilt by not bringing it up? Possibly. Is this absence of heroes still affecting the lives of millions of LGBTQ individuals who still feel like they don’t belong? Absolutely. Whatever it is, I mourn it. I mourn the history, the pride, the art, and the wisdom that has died with the gay men, the lesbians, the trans and non-binary individuals, people who are bi, the activists, the lovers, the thinkers, the queers, the ones who loved too much, the ones who trusted too much, the ones who made a silly mistake on a night out because they were trying to escape the cruel reality of their world filled with an unfiltered and unneeded hatred. I’m angry at how the lives, loves, and loss of these people are constantly being undermined in countries around the world. I’m angry that I’m still illegal in over 70 countries. I’m angry that there are protests against teaching children about different family dynamics. I’m angry that people are ignoring the fact that LGBTQ individuals are more likely to be affected by mental health issues. I’m angry that people think that our struggle is over because some laws have been changed to protect us.

But would I take a pill to make me straight? Absolutely not.

If I had to do it all over again, I would. I’d go through all the bullying, the rejection, the being told I have a demon inside of me that must be prayed away, being told I should die, being told I’m not worthy, being told that God doesn’t love me, being told I shouldn’t have been born, being told I’ll burn in hell, being asked to leave the church, being spat on nights out, being told I’m not a real man, being told I’d never be happy, because accepting myself and learning, each and every day, to love myself in the face of adversity has been worth it.

I don’t know where I’d be today if I didn’t have the courage to accept myself and allow myself the love to find out who I am: a proud gay man.

It’s for these reasons that I work at the Assembly and pursue an active role within the OutNAW network: with such an openly inclusive and diverse staff, it was important to me to work in a place central to the development of Wales who exhibits the culture we need to make sure no bi voice goes unheard, no trans individual is told they can’t be who they are, that no lesbian teenager is bullied for being herself, that no gay has to think about whether they would take a pill to be straight.

rainbow flag

LGBT History Month – The Importance of Role Models

Having visible LGBT role models can have a transformative impact on creating a truly inclusive workplace and society.

Stonewall’s guide, Role Models: Being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender in Wales, features inspirational stories from a diverse range of people from different backgrounds working in different areas. You will recognise a couple of them!

Stonewall have also published LGBT voices, a collection of personal stories from LGBT people who have lived through inequalities and experiences rarely reflected on television, in books, in films or in schools.

It is of course important to note that different LGBT groups will have different role models. The Pride Power List 2016 contains a diverse selection of LGBT role models: male, female, non-binary, trans, disabled, Black, Asian, people of faith, older people, and people from a range of backgrounds and careers.

Here, some members of our LGBT workplace network explain why role models are important to them:

“The people I have a lot of respect for are the people who are prepared to go that one step further and put their head above the parapet and challenge the status quo. You shouldn’t underestimate the impact that visibility makes to people. It makes a difference to people when it’s not abstract anymore. There are still a lot of stereotypical ideas so a diverse range of role models is important. I want to be part of creating a modern Wales, a Wales that’s representative.” Hannah Blythyn, AM

“It’s important to have diverse role models; one person is not the totality of gay experience.” Rhys Morgan, Translation and Reporting Service

“It’s very important that there are visible LGBT people within the organisation, that people see that being from a minority group hasn’t hindered peoples’ ability to reach senior levels. We have young people who say it took three years to come out in their previous organisation and three weeks here. If you’ve reached a position of success, if you can inspire someone else, if you can lead by example, you should.” Craig Stephenson, Director of Commission Services and Co-Chair of OUT-NAW

“I think role models help show that it is ok to be you.  They show you that there should be no limits on who you can be and what you can achieve.  The more role models there are and the more diversity they represent, the more we can break down barriers and challenge misconceptions.” Lisa Bowkett, Head of Finance and Co-Chair of OUT-NAW.

Pride Cymru 2016

Blog by co-chairs of OUT-NAW, the National Assembly for Wales’ LGBT workplace network.

Wow, didn’t Wales put on an excellent display of LGBT diversity and inclusion for this year’s Pride Cymru weekend? With charity cycle rides, a rugby 7s tournament, venues hosting LGBT choirs, rainbow flags all over the city, a huge parade through Cardiff city centre and, once again, this was followed by the main event at Cooper’s Field.  Year on year, Pride Cymru gets bigger and better and we’re extremely proud to be part of the celebration which has clearly developed into one of Cardiff’s annual signature events.

As most people in Wales would expect, the National Assembly played its part once again. In addition to taking our outreach bus to Cooper’s field and flying the rainbow flags across our estate, this year we were delighted to be able to illuminate the Senedd with rainbow colours throughout the weekend.

We also took part in the parade for the first time. Joined by network members, Allies, role models, Management Board members, partners and family members, we couldn’t have expected more support. One of the first to volunteer was a huge advocate for equality and diversity, our Chief Executive, Claire Clancy.  We were all proud to stand shoulder to shoulder on the parade to show our commitment to the creation of a safe, fair and inclusive Wales.

NAfW at Pride
OUT-NAW members at the Pride Cymru march
Pride Banner etc
OUT-NAW members and the public enjoying the Pride Cymru march

Of course, our contribution on Cooper’s Field had to link back to democracy but this year we made it much more fun. Lots of people posed for photographs in our Senedd selfie frame which we tweeted throughout the day.  We were delighted to see new network member, Hannah Blythyn AM, before she spoke on the main stage.  In addition to our #KnowYourAM campaign and the consultation for our new diversity plan, many young people enthusiastically took part in the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s consultation on youth work.  Their views will feed into the Committee’s consideration and is exactly what our youth engagement strategy is designed to do – place young people’s views at the heart of the Assembly’s considerations.

Iestyn on bus
Young people taking part in the Youth Work inquiry

As Stonewall’s best public sector LGBT-inclusive workplace in Wales and third best organisation in the UK, we have assisted organisations in Wales and beyond with advice, resources, coaching and mentoring once again. That is what we should do to help create more and more inclusive workplaces where LGBT staff can be themselves and it’s important to us that we continue to do that. Of note this year is that a number of approaches have been made from beyond Wales’ border. We think it’s pretty exciting that others are taking notice of what Wales is doing and we’re always happy to help those who are trying to enter or improve their performance in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.

What has been different this year is the development of our networks beyond the expected. Members of OUT-NAW, our LGBT workplace network, are now using their skills and experience to help others. Whether that’s with the Scouts who now have a presence at Pride Cymru through the efforts of one of our network members, one of our Allies joining the board of trustees for Chwarae Teg, LGBT committees at the Law Society or national unions, through to making links to the South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus’ (SWGMC) charity work. Three members of OUT-NAW volunteer with Out and Proud, a project for LGBT+ young people in South Wales.  Hearing about the work of Out and Proud, realising that they operate on a shoe-string and couldn’t survive without willing volunteers, we decided to take action by using our own social connections and they are now the beneficiaries as the SWGMC’s nominated charity.

Making that link between our various networks has seen a wider benefit to the LGBT community and that is something to be very proud of. The young people themselves feel they’re supported not only by our volunteers but by the wider LGBT community too.  It was wonderful and moving to see them empowered to speak about their gender and sexuality issues at a recent South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus concert where hundreds of pounds were raised.  Equally inspiring was seeing them at the Assembly’s outreach bus during Pride Cymru and taking part in democratic processes through our consultation on youth services.  We need young people to feed their views into the heart of Welsh democracy and doing so from a minority viewpoint is so important.  After all, the Assembly represents all the communities of Wales so a diversity of views helps create a full and rounded picture of the issues under consideration.

So this brings us to the end of a busy year for OUT-NAW. While we are delighted to have introduced gender-neutral toilets for staff and visitors across our estate in Cardiff Bay this year, there is always more to do to help shape an inclusive democracy.  We take that responsibility seriously and we’re looking forward to the year ahead.

For another fantastic year, we would like to take this opportunity to thank OUT-NAW members, our Allies, the Assembly’s political leadership, our Management Board and the Diversity and Inclusion team, particularly Ross Davies for his drive, determination, skills and experience of LGBT diversity. He is a constant source of advice and guidance, ensuring that we take the right steps towards a more inclusive workplace.

Jayelle Robinson-Larkin and Craig Stephenson

Cyd-Gadeiryddion / Co-Chairs

OUT NAW logo
Out-Naw logo

View this post in Welsh

Proud to be marching with the Assembly at Pride Cymru

by Claire Clancy, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Assembly

Photograph of Claire Clancy wearing a rainbow garland to prepare for Pride Cymru
Claire Clancy preparing for Pride Cymru

This Saturday I will be joining members and fellow allies of OUT-NAW, our LGBT workplace network, in marching in the Pride Cymru parade through Cardiff. Although we have been attending Pride for many years, this is the first time that the Assembly has been part of the parade and I am delighted to be joining colleagues in promoting and encouraging LGBT equality.

I think it is important that the Assembly is represented at events such as this to show that we are committed to being an inclusive organisation. We are very proud of our success in the Stonewall Workplace Index, where we have been ranked as the third best LGBT-inclusive organisation in the UK.

I will be joined in the parade by other members of the Management Board as well as staff from across the organisation.

If you are in the city centre, please wave and support us. Also, if you are attending Pride don’t forget to visit the Assembly Outreach bus.

I would also like to wish the Assembly’s rugby team good luck in the Enfys 7’s LGBT-inclusive tournament this weekend. I’m sure they would be grateful of your support this weekend too.

The Llywydd’s press release provides more information on our Pride Cymru celebrations.

Diversity and Inclusion Week – Workplace Equality Networks By Abi Lasebikan, Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Network Coordinator

By Abi Lasebikan, Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Network Coordinator

What are Workplace Equality Networks (WENs)?

As Network Coordinator I see the WENs as a place for people who identify with a protected characteristic group and/or have an interest in matters relating to a particular diversity strand (i.e. gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race, religion/belief, age, pregnancy/maternity, sex, marriage/civil partnership and disability), to come together to:

  • give and receive pastoral care;
  • share information relating to equality; promote equality issues related to their group;
  • access learning opportunities to build skills that will help individuals develop personally as well as in their career, and
  • act as critical agents for change within the organisation.

Who are the WENs open to?

The networks are open to all Assembly Members, AMSS, Commission staff and employees of our on-site contractors to join as either members or as allies, as they recognise that anyone, not only those directly affected, can have an interest in a particular equality issue. This interest can exist for many reasons, including because of a connection to someone who is affected e.g. a child, spouse or relative or because of the belief it’s ‘the right thing’. Allies are welcome because to achieve real Diversity and Inclusion requires a collective effort involving everyone.

What are the benefits of the WENs for the individual?

For an individual the networks can:

  • Provide informal peer support and advice.
  • Offer a platform for discussing issues affecting members of the networks.
  • Enhance career development and progression for staff, through various programmes, including mentoring opportunities.
  • Present networking opportunities.
  • Give members the chance to identify and advise the Assembly Commission on the issues which affect staff, through impact assessment of policies.

What are the benefits of the WENs for the organisation?

Because of their access and insight these networks can help us to:

  • Understand the value in managing and harnessing the potential of an increasingly diverse workforce.
  • Recruit and retain the most talented people.
  • Provide the best service to stakeholders.
  • Make a positive difference to the working culture of the Assembly.

They do this because the collective intelligence of the WENs:

  • Make it possible for us to understand what it is like to work in that environment from the perspective of the members.
  • Enable us to understand our diverse service users.
  • Serve as effective consultative and advisory bodies on diversity related matters.

The networks input leads to better policies and procedures which means happier employees who can be themselves, resulting in an organisation that performs better and is therefore better able to attract and retain top talent.

The Assembly recognises that the networks are instrumental to the organisation in its aim to achieve a safe, inclusive and diverse working environment for all. It supports the networks and would encourage all Assembly Members, Assembly Member Support Staff (AMSS), Commission staff and employees of our on-site contractors to support and enable their staff to participate in and engage with network activities.

Our current networks are:

EMBRACE LOGOEMBRACE – our disability network. It is open to disabled people, those who support disabled people and people with an interest in disability equality. Within EMBRACE are subsidiary dyslexia and chronic pain groups. Chaired by Abi Phillips

 

INSPIRE logoINSPIRE – our women’s network. It’s open to both men and women. Co-chaired by Sarah Crosbie and Janette Iliffe

 

 

OUT NAW logo OUT-NAW – our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and    Transgender (LGBT) network. It is a closed group for LGBT people, it is open to LGBT people as members and people with an interest in LGBT equality as allies. Co-chaired by Craig Stephenson  and  Jayelle Robinson-Larkin

TEULU logo

TEULU – our Working Parent and Carer network, is currently a virtual network that operates mainly online.  New network members and network allies are always welcome. Co-chaired by Holly Pembridge and Joel Steed

REACH logo

REACH – The Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage network is our Black Minority Ethnic (BME) network. It is open to BME people as members and people who support race equality as allies. Co-chaired by Abi Lasebikan and Raz Roap

 

The Networks have contributed to and raised the profile of the organisation in a variety of ways. They have:

  • Input into many impact assessment of policies and projects, such as the Accessible Car Parking policy, Human Resources Priority Postings policy, EFM refurbishments projects, etc.
  • Attended events, like: Pride and Sparkle, Stonewall Cymru’s Workplace Equality Index Awards, All Wales Annual Race Equality Conference, Mela, etc.
  • Participated in community incentives, like collecting for the Cardiff Foodbank.
  • Produced a range of blogs, factsheets and guidance on a variety of topics, such as: Ramadan, Cultural Diversity, Invisible Disabilities, Bisexual Awareness, Mental Health, etc.
  • Worked closely with other public sector organisations, such as Gwent and South Wales Police, Welsh Government, Cardiff University, to promote diversity and inclusion.

That is just a flavour of the impressive achievements of the networks. Further information on the networks can be found at: http://members/networks.

Championing the WENs

A senior champion is someone who openly supports the WENs at the highest level of the organisation. They are vocal about the achievements of the network and how it benefits the organisation as well as willing to lend the weight of their leadership to the network. I am pleased to say that both Dave Tosh and Craig Stephenson are not only champions for BME and LGBT issues respectively but have agreed to champion equality issues as a whole on the Management Board.

“As the BME Champion I can act as a voice, at Director level, and work with the network to help support our BME staff to address some of the issues affecting them”. Dave Tosh, Director of Resources and BME Champion

The Champions can also be a beacon to others that the organisation is truly an inclusive organisation that recognises talent, irrespective of whether the person belongs to a protected characteristic group.

“It’s very important that there are visible LGBT people at all levels within the organisation, and also that people see that being from a minority group hasn’t hindered peoples’ ability to reach more senior levels. Personally, I think that if you have reached a position which gives you visibility, and if you can inspire someone else, if you can lead by example, you should.” Craig Stephenson

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia – a celebration of sexual and gender diversity

rainbow flag

Ross Davies, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the National Assembly for Wales

Each year on 17 May, people across the world mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) to celebrate the diversity of gender identities and sexual orientations. The day is used by campaigners to highlight important issues to policy makers, leaders, the public and the media to help combat hatred, bigotry and discrimination.

The campaign provides a voice to people facing marginalisation because they do not conform to a heteronormative narrative (the assumption that heterosexuality is normal and that anything other than heterosexuality is abnormal) or a cisgender narrative (people whose gender identity matches the sex that society assigned to them when they were born).

Many of the issues that are addressed on IDAHOBIT come from the ‘othering’ of a group because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, often based on prejudice and stereotypes.

While there is the tendency to talk about the LGBT+ community as a singular entity, we must of course remember and celebrate the diversity of LGBT+ people within the community.

People with minority sexual orientations, including people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, ambisexual, are clearly not a homogenous group – age, gender identity, race, disability, religion and many other characteristics underpin their identity.

The same is true for trans people, whose personhood goes beyond their gender identity. Many people may have a narrow understanding of what it means to be trans, and that is someone who undergoes gender reassignment surgery. But the very concept of a trans identity is filled with variances and differing experiences – there are trans men, trans women, people who identify as gender fluid, people who identify as neither male nor female, people who are androgynous.

In the same way that a disabled person is more than their disability and a black person is more than just the colour of their skin, LGBT+ people cannot be limited to one single identity category. To do so would be reductive and would risk producing narrow versions of what it means to be LGBT+.

Having multiple identities can result in different issues of discrimination occurring at the same time. For example, an older lesbian may face discrimination on multiple grounds – as a woman, as an older person and as someone of a minority sexual orientation. However, as a combination of all of these characteristics, an older lesbian might encounter a unique, compounded discrimination.

We must remember to that it is important for people to be recognised as diverse while not denying a commonality, for it is this commonality that unites people when celebrating Pride, or fighting for LGBT+ equality, especially during occasions like IDAHOBIT.

Recognising diversity within the LGBT+ community, it is also important to note that different LGBT+ groups will have different role models. Below are links to some of the role models identified for some of these groups by the University of Warwick Student Union LGBTUA+ Society.

Black and minority ethnic LGBT+ role models

Disabled LGBT+ role models

Women LGBT+ role models

Stonewall have also produced LGBT Voices, a collection of 25 stories from LGBT people who have lived through inequalities.

By acknowledging and valuing the diversity within the LGBT+ community, we can begin to appreciate and truly value the rich tapestry of humanity, and that the concept of an ‘other’ can be damaging to our society and to the individuals involved.

Logo for Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers

An Inclusive Assembly

As an inclusive organisation, the National Assembly for Wales is committed to challenging violence and discrimination and to promoting a culture of fairness, dignity and respect. We are proud to have been listed in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index each year since 2009, rising to third place in 2016 Index. We have been named the Top Public Sector Employer in Wales for the last three years.

OUT-NAW, our award winning LGBT Workplace Equality Network, provide support for LGBT people across the organisation through peer support and mentoring and coaching. They also help us to promote LGBT equality and to consider LGBT equality in our work.

To find out more about working for the Assembly or to review our current vacancies please visit www.Assembly.Wales/jobs

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History Month 2016

The theme of this year’s LGBT History Month is Religion, Belief & Philosophy.

Logo for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month 2016

Much of the conversation around sexual orientation, gender identity and religion presents as mutually exclusive the rights of religious believers on the one hand, and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people on the other hand. Yet, every day millions of LGBT people around the world combine their faith with their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In November 2013, the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights hosted a discussion on the topic of sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. The event featured a 5-minute video with personal testimonies of religious lesbian and gay people from around the world. Also at the event, a report was presented by Human Rights Without Frontiers entitled LGBT People, the Religions & Human Rights in Europe. In spite of what a polarised debate might suggests, it was argued that the values of freedom, equality and human dignity are the common ground of both religious believers and the defenders of LGBT people’s human rights.

Throughout February, Stonewall, a UK charity promoting LGBT equality, will profile inspirational LGBT people with different faiths / beliefs. The profiles include people who are Sikh, Muslim, Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Humanist.

You can read more about LGBT History Month and the theme of religion, belief and philosophy in the LGBT History Month Magazine or visit the official LGBT History Month website for details of all activities, events and news.

Logo for Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers      Logo for OUT-NAW, the Assembly’s LGBT Workplace Equality Network

Photograph of Assembly LGBT staff and Allies holding the rainbow flag for LGBT History Month
Photograph of Assembly LGBT staff and Allies holding the rainbow flag for LGBT History Month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the National Assembly we are committed to promoting LGBT equality. As such we are delighted to be ranked third in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index 2016 of the top LGBT-friendly organisations in the UK. We are also very proud to be named as the Top Public Sector Employer in Wales for LGBT people for the third year running.

You can find out more about our work promoting LGBT equality elsewhere on our blog, where we have a number of relevant articles, including LGBT History Month 2015, members of our staff who are Stonewall Cymru Role Models, a Stonewall Cymru student work placement, celebrating Bi Visibility Day, and promoting transgender equality.

For more information on how we value our people and for information on current work opportunities, visit: www.assembly.wales/jobs.

You could also visit the Senedd, the home of the National Assembly for Wales to see a display of some of Stonewall Cymru’s Welsh LGBT role models.