COUNT ME IN!
in the second of an ongoing series we talk to people who are committed to working every day for an inclusive and diverse society for lgbtq+ peopleand their allies
SABA AI IS A TRUSTEE OF GALOP
What is Galop and what does it do?
Galop is the UK’s LGBTQ+ anti-abuse charity. They work with and for LGBTQ+ victims and survivors of interpersonal abuse and violence. Galop works directly with thousands of LGBTQ+ people who have experienced abuse and violence every year. They specialise in supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence, hate crime, and other forms of abuse including honour-based abuse, forced marriage, and so-called conversion therapies. They are a service run by LGBTQ+ people, for LGBTQ+ people, and the needs of the community are at the centre of what they do. They have a national LGBTQ+ domestic abuse helpline and a hate crime helpline – both are a safe space to talk and in confidence knowing that you will be listened to. On 29 October Galop launched their conversion therapy helpline to help victims and those at risk of this barbaric method.
You are a trustee of Galop. What does your role involve?
As a trustee my role is to support the CEO and charity to help ensure that Galop’s services continue to grow, and work with them together to serve the LGBTQ+ community. As well as helping with the direction Galop is moving in and reviewing their strategic aims and plans, it’s also great to be able to add and ensure a safe space is provided for LGBTQ+ victims of abuse so they get the best support, advice, and practical help they need.
For me it isn’t just about attending Board meetings but to also contributing to them and providing debate. I’m someone who isn’t afraid to speak up, even if this means challenging what is being presented if I disagree or need clarification. As an ally to the community it also means that I can bring a different perspective.
I am also able to utilise my own resources and contacts to support Galop and my areas of expertise to help further raise Galop’s profile, as well as fundraising and endorsements. For example I was able to support the communications team with launching the conversion therapy helpline by sharing the news with my contacts and asking them to help raise awareness, as well as using my own platform to promote it.
What specific challenges do LGBTQ+ people face on account of their sexuality?
The main challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community are domestic abuse, sexual violence, hate crime, conversion therapy, honour-based abuse, forced marriage, child abuse, and stalking, housing, employment.
We see every day on social media, mainstream media and offline that members of the community have or are experiencing lesbophobia, biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, interphobia, sexual violence or domestic abuse. I think at the moment there is an exhaustive amount of transphobia and complete misinformation provided which leads to scaremongering and exacerbates transphobic behaviour. When do you ever see a trans person being approached to ask their opinion or what they think and feel? It’s always someone else that is ready to speak without their lived experience.
What advice and help can you and Galop offer them?
As well as the helplines mentioned above, you can also refer yourself to Galop for advocacy and casework support whether it is emotional support, help with the criminal justice system and housing as some examples. There is also an online community – an LGBTQ+ domestic abuse survivors forum. Galop also supports children and young people under the age of 25 years and have a dedicated team.They also support family, friends and professionals who are supporting LGBTQ+ victims of abuse.
I would always refer any LGBTQ+ person that has been a victim of any form of abuse to speak to Galop. I know a lot of people that have used the service and felt they have been listened to and understood. Many mainstream services don’t have LGBTQ+ lived experience or understand the intersectionality that comes with it. They are a UK-wide service so available to people across all regions.
You’re also on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) LISP for Hate Crime. What does that role involve?
We meet quarterly to look at cases that have been prosecuted as a hate crime to see whether the right decision was made, is there anything more that could have been done, and if something was missed. Unfortunately, reported LGBTQ+ hate crime is very low despite good conversion rates, and it’s worse for transphobic crime – victims are not coming forward and reporting crime. When I joined the panel I noticed there was no trans representation so helped recruit this role. Together we’ve had several meetings to discuss how we can improve relationships between the community and the judicial system, so individuals come forward. It isn’t right that a victim should suffer in silence and not get support. We’re looking to hold a round table style event where members of the community can come forward and have an open conversation and look at ways to start healing that relationship.
I know a lot of the issues lay with reporting crime to the police and it’s important to remember the CPS are a separate institution. The police report crime and the CPS prosecute the crime, our events will include both. There is a lot of work to do and we’ve identified several areas that need more support, awareness or educating but the CPS are engaging with community members.
What words of encouragement would you give to a young LGBTQ+ person?
I think, as I mentioned, before the most important thing is for young LGTBQ+ people is to know they are not alone; support is out there and charities such as Galop are able to offer advice and guidance. It can be scary, and I’d say to only do what they feel comfortable with and not feel peer pressure. Join spaces with like-minded people and find your community, don’t feel you have to speak it’s OK to listen and learn too.
I often use this saying that all young people deserve an opportunity to be loved, cared for, treated with dignity and given equal opportunities in the diverse world we live in.
What do you consider to have been your proudest achievement?
I’ve never really thought about what makes me proud as I love all the work I do especially with Galop and the CPS. I’m appreciative of the respect I have with members of the community whom I look up to,I get asked my opinion, offer advice and work with them on various projects or campaigns. I did recently help a friend who is evacuating vulnerable people and LGBTQ+ people from Afghanistan. I was helping with data cleansing and able to identify eighteen LGBTQ+ people, some at very high risk, that have all been given clearance and will be rescued and flown out in the next few days. To know you’ve played a small part in rescuing someone’s life makes all the work worthwhile.
CO-FOUNDER OF RACING PRIDE
RICHARD MORRIS IS THE CO-FOUNDER OF RACING PRIDE AND A CHAMPION OF LGBTQ+ INCLUSIVITY IN MOTORSPORT
You describe yourself as being committed to championing the LGBTQ+ community both on and off the track and you co-founded Racing Pride. What does Racing Pride do?
Racing Pride is about promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion through motorsport. We provide a mix of visible representation, education, and community. Motorsport, like many sports, has had very little by way of LGBTQ+ role models who are out and happy to talk about it while being active within the sport. So an important part of Racing Pride is having ambassadors – current racing drivers (of which I am one), but also engineers, mechanics, marshals, officials, volunteers, and people in motorsport media too. These ambassadors show that you can be LGBTQ+ in the sport and be successful. By telling their stories they break down stereotypes, highlight issues, create empathy, and, hopefully, inspire others.
We provide education in the form of resources on allyship that anyone can access via our website, as well as things we put out on social media, and by working in depth with teams, companies and organisations across motorsport, the automotive industry, and more broadly. We deliver talks and workshops, review policies, and suggest best practices for creating inclusion. Ultimately, too, we are very conscious of creating a community of LGBTQ+ people and allies. We run regular “Spotlight” pieces on our website interviewing LGBTQ+ people from around the world at all different levels of motorsport and in different roles, sometimes published in multiple languages. d whether as participants or fans.
I personally love representing and championing the LGBTQ+ community on and off track. When I race I have the Racing Pride logo proudly on my car and overalls, and I have been known to literally fly the Progress Pride flag on the podium for example. I also give lots of talks, workshops, and attend events representing Racing Pride. For me it gives a great sense of meaning and purpose to my racing career that goes beyond just winning races (although I certainly do love winning!).
How important do you think it is to be out – both in the sporting world and in the workplace?
When it comes to particular individuals I would always say it’s up to them and not to feel pressured to come out. Different people have different circumstances which make it easier or harder to come out in different areas of their life. It’s not about being brave or being a coward, and I wouldn’t pressure anyone to do it when it doesn’t feel right for them. What I would love to see, and to be part of creating within my own sport and industry especially, is a world where everyone feels able to be out – knowing that they would be safe and respected if they came out.
Having said that, if you do feel able to be out – in the workplace, sport, or just life in general –that can really help others around you.You can become a role model, help to start conversations, which I think is important because often when people start to discuss and think about these issues they become better allies, and create understanding and empathy. Often intolerance and stereotypes come from ignorance but once people know somebody who is LGBTQ+ that understanding can start to develop.
In the sporting world I do genuinely believe it’s powerful when athletes and other figures in competitive sport come out. Sport has a phenomenal reach globally and socially, and people connect with it in a very emotional way; they follow their heroes, their teams, and so on. So if sportspeople start to talk about their experiences of being LGBTQ+ or their support as allies for LGBTQ+ people that will help create a positive image of the LGBTQ+ community among their fans, educate people, and help to get rid of negative stereotypes. Sportspeople have an incredible platform so I think it’s essential for us to use it in the best way possible.
How easy is it to be LGBTQ+ in the world of motorsport? Did you encounter any problems?
Honestly, initially I didn’t find it easy. I started out karting for the first time at 12 years old, and I was taking it seriously by 14. That time I was getting into the sport was also when I was becoming aware of being LGBTQ+ and figuring that out.
One issue for me was that there weren’t any other LGBTQ+ people I knew in the sport and there weren’t any role models I could look up to. F1 hasn’t had an out driver in decades, and even then they weren’t publicly open about it. It’s similar across other world championship level racing disciplines. All the images I’d been fed around motorsport showed racing drivers as very different people to who I was, so I worried if I could fit in, even though I was certain that I loved the sport. I also heard things around racing paddocks – just casual, unthinking use of homophobic terms – which reinforced that, and one time there was an incident where homophobic words were written on my kart before a race. So for a long time I kept it pretty quiet other than to a few people close to me – I wasn’t out publicly in the sport or even to everyone in my own teams.
However, I also always thought I knew, and I haven’t been disappointed in this since coming out more openly, that the vast majority of people in the sport want to make it an inclusive one – they all love racing and want to share that with everyone. The issue has been that people don’t necessarily know how to show that support for LGBTQ+ people when it normally isn’t really talked about. That, combined with a desire to finally be able to be fully myself while doing the thing which dominates my life, is why I came out and then started Racing Pride: to give people visible role models, spread some knowledge and awareness, and, importantly, provide people with a way of showing support. The positivity of that approach, I think, is why it has taken off the way it has. It wasn’t at all easy to come out publicly to my motorsport following – my hands were literally shaking when I posted about it on social media the first time – but I’m so glad that I did.
It’s been amazing to have people approach me at tracks, or message me, to say that Racing Pride has helped them to feel able to come out, to feel represented, or to feel more welcome coming into the sport. Being able to make a difference to people around me and people I’ve never met in countries I sometimes haven’t ever been to personally is the most incredible motivation and makes all of the time spent on Racing Pride worth it.
In the past few years we have seen great advances in LGBTQ+ rights both in the workplace and in the wider community. What else remains to be done?
There certainly have been, broadly speaking, some big advances for LGBTQ+ rights, especially if you’re comparing with decades ago. I remember celebrating when same-sex marriage became legal in the UK, for instance. There is also a much more mainstream discussion of LGBTQ+ rights and a greater willingness to engage with issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community here in the UK now.
However, we’ve also seen that those rights and gains are hard-fought and need to be defended as well as advanced. We can’t just assume that progress will be linear, or will continue unless we keep pushing for it together with allies. There are still really troubling incidents of hate crime, which is arguably increasing here and in other places, we’ve seen repressive legislation introduced by the government in Hungary just this year, and trans rights both in sport and in the broader community are under threat in a lot of places around the world. We also need to make it clear that pink-washing from organisations isn’t good enough and that it’s real actions which matter.There are still too many people who don’t feel that they can be out in the workplace or in their day-to-day lives, or who find that coming out process difficult and stressful. There are still very few people out in elite sport, particularly if you look at male athletes. Women’s sport does have more openly LGBTQ+ participants, but also has issues around trans inclusion. In motorsport there are still extremely few openly gay drivers and we don’t have role models racing at the very top of the sport – of course, I hope, with the right support behind me, I might be able to get there myself!
Above all what we need to do is turn the willingness that there is to show support and to engage with issues into education and understanding, and then to build on that foundation to create everyday cultures, legal frameworks, and social norms built on equality, inclusion, and respect.
What has been your proudest achievement?
In terms of my sporting achievements on track it’s really tricky to pick out any one particular moment as the proudest – probably because I’m always looking forward to what I want to achieve next.
What does stand out, though, is when Racing Pride secured our partnership with Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team. That was the moment when I knew we had done something really special; something which would have an impact across the world, which would mean so much to so many fans as well as participants, and which would leave a permanent, and very positive, mark on Formula One and motorsport – the first team to have a meaningful public partnership centred on promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion. Since then we have seen some scenes which we had never seen in Formula One before, such as Pride flags on the Aston Martin cars, and statements of solidarity with, and protest on behalf of, the LGBTQ+ community from Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel when Formula One raced in Hungary in the summer. There’s a lot more still to be done, even just within our sport, but we really are making change and progress happen.
ARON LE Fèvre
Deputy Director of the global equality caucus
ARON LE Fèvre IS THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE GLOBAL EQUALITY CAUCUS AND WAS RECENTLY DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RIGHTS AT COPENHAGEN WORLDPRIDE AND EUROGAMES
You are the Deputy Director of the Global Equality Caucus. What is the Global Equality Caucus and what does that role involve?
The Global Equality Caucus is an international network of parliamentarians and elected representatives aiming to tackle discrimination against LGBT+ people. The Caucus links elected officials across the world regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, and works in partnership with international institutions, non-governmental organisations and businesses to effect real change in LGBT+ people’s lives.
As Deputy Director, I am leading our work in the Americas and overseeing our expansion into Latin America and the Caribbean. I will also work on our campaign “Ban Conversion Therapy Now” and on different events taking place in Mexico, Argentina and the Equal Rights Coalition in June 2022 in London.
You were Director of Human Rights at Copenhagen WorldPride and EuroGames in 2021. What did that role involve?
Pride is a protest, and WorldPride should never omit visualising this. As Director of Human Rights, I was responsible for all our Human Rights work both during the event, but also before and after (until I changed jobs in November). With 11 Human Rights staff members, 21 executive partners and a multitude of other connections, we put together a program that brought the situation of the LGBTI+ Community to the forefront in Copenhagen, Malmö and in countries all over the world through our embassy engagement program with the Danish and Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many of the events have been recorded and can be accessed on the legacy website of Copenhagen 2021.
It can be argued that LGBTI+ people today have gained more acceptance than ever before. So why is there a need for a Pride event? What more needs to be done in the world?
It can also be argued that only a handful of privileged LGBTI+ people have gained acceptance up to a standard that they feel equal and free. I think, looking at what is happening around the world, we have to be really wary to pretend we “made it”, because we did not. Backlash is more common than ever and the anti-gender movement, “pro-family” activists and repressive governments are singling out our community or parts thereof and pushing back.
So why do we need Pride? Because we need to be visible, we need to tell our stories and we need to fight for those that cannot. Let’s use our privilege to push for equality globally, because I do not think we can say we are equal, if “we” is not everybody in our community.
On a personal and a professional level what has been your proudest achievement to date?
I think the execution of Copenhagen 2021 has been my proudest achievement and more specifically, all these fantastic activists we got to engage. In the end, it is them doing the frontline work and they are the people that need to get the spotlight. With 230 scholarship recipients, amongst which many youth leaders, we really got an opportunity to make Copenhagen 2021 more special. Covid 19 has had a big impact on the event, but I am proud what we put together.
Where would you like the LGBTI+ community and its place in the world TO be in ten years’ time?
The sky is the limit, but in the words of the great Ymania Brown during our Copenhagen 2021 Human Rights Forum opening event at the United Nations City, let’s place those that have always been in the back of the line, in the front. We need to make sure we can all climb that ladder of equality and I think we need to look at those community members that are in the gravest situation, fearing for their lives. Those are the people that need to be supported the most. Decriminalisation is the bare minimum, but I want to dream so much bigger than that.
Who is your “hero”?
My heroes are all these activists that are working to improve the lives of community members in their regions, sometimes in fear but with resilience, as they want to leave this world in a better place than they found it. People like Lilly Dragoeva, Lady Phyll Opoku, Julia Maciocha, Erick Ivan Ortiz, Viktoria Radvanyi, Martin Karadzhov and Ymania Brown are some of those, I got the honour to work with, but there are so many others we might not even have heard of, but who deserve the acknowledgement for all their hard work, every day, without backing down on what they believe in. There is one thing we can and that is not be a silent bystander, be an ally, be a supporter and be a change maker.
ABBY CHICKEN IS A SUSTAINABILITY MANAGER FOR A LEADING LUXURY RETAILER AND HAS ALSO WORKED FOR PRIDE IN LONDON
You are a Sustainability Manager for a leading luxury retailer. What does that role involve?
I lead on sustainability mindsets for a luxury retailer: this involves working with team members and customers on how to help them embrace more sustainable lifestyles in their day to day – everything from repairing much loved items or buying vintage to opting for plant-based meals in restaurants or refilling a water bottle. I build community and charity partnerships and facilitate volunteering opportunities for team members, cover diversity and inclusion, sustainability literacy and support with customer communications and events. It’s pretty broad, but keeps it interesting as every day is completely different.
For almost four years you were also Director of Volunteer Engagement at Pride in London. What did that involve?
It’s a pretty big job! Now I’m a mum I struggle to see where it fitted on top of a day job, but it was an absolute joy for a significant part of my life – and one where I met my wife and made lifelong friends, a real chosen family.
Pride in London is run entirely by volunteers and depends on over 1000 people turning up on parade day to steward, fundraise, help backstage and fill countless other roles to enable one of the biggest one-day events in the UK – Pride in London has become a true beacon of diversity for the world.
My role was volunteer engagement – I led the team who recruited, trained and deployed all of those people across the operation, as well as a core team of around 200 year-round volunteers. As volunteering is entirely optional, it meant that each year we engaged and trained nearly 1800 people in the run up to the event (it’s where I cut my teeth on public speaking) and led us all to some incredible moments, real lifetime highs and lows – standing in an empty Trafalgar Square at 5am before the whole event kicked off, the anticipation before the parade starts with 1.5 million people attending, chairing meetings from Boris Johnson’s chair in City Hall, supporting the operation when The Elders came to London. It was a real privilege.
How important is a culture of diversity and inclusion in the working environment?
I could reel off stats around improved commercial performance when you have a diverse workforce or the relentless suck on worker productivity if they spend energy and emotion hiding a part of themselves in their day-to-day roles. People cover and hide anything from sexual orientation to religion, bereavement to mental health to menopause, and it’s all exhausting and hugely detrimental to the wellbeing of any workforce. By now we all know this to be true; the more interesting thing is the stories around people and how vibrant things become when authenticity and difference is allowed to flourish.
Having set up the first employee network at the John Lewis Partnership some years ago, I was honestly surprised by how needed it was. I’ve lived most of my adult life with the privilege of being in industries where it has been safe to be out, and living in communities where I didn’t need to hide. Not everyone has this luxury, and employee networks are a great way of identifying people who you can talk to, whose experiences might help – within a short space of time we had over 600 members and were consulted on policy changes, training and became a go-to for managers who were navigating issues within their teams and needed support. I know there are many mixed attitudes to corporate representation at Pride events, but knowing that an organisation attends is fantastic shorthand for knowing you’ll be safe and supported in the workplace.
On a personal level what do you consider your greatest achievement?
In 2017 the Pride in London team was recognised with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which was a huge accolade for a lot of hard work from the whole team. To be honest though, what really made it worth it was the individual comments and thanks from volunteers and people attending the event over the years about how we had made a difference to them, to the attitudes of their families or their employers. I’ve had letters from asylum seekers who volunteered with Pride in London about what they’d escaped, been nominated for diversity awards for something so simple as being myself, being out (and being pretty shouty!).
Being visible, being around others who recognise and celebrate you – you never know who you are inspiring or whose life changes as a result. That’s powerful.
head of social impact AT LUCKY GENERALS
CHLOE DAVIES IS THE HEAD OF SOCIAL IMPACT AT LUCKY GENERALS
What is Lucky Generals and what does your role involve?
Lucky Generals is a creative company for people on a mission. My role requires taking a fresh approach to social responsibility, including sustainability as well as Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. The position spans both Lucky Generals’ own approach to social responsibility and the clients’ strategies. Essentially, I am responsible, alongside management, for setting the company’s social impact goals and ensuring that they are met in the most effective and creative ways possible.
You’re a full-time ambassador for Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) in England and Wales. Again, what does that role involve and do you think that the LGBTQ+ community has specific mental health issues that our straight friends may not have?
As an ambassador my role is to support MHFA England to improve the mental health of the nation, bringing my expertise of inclusion and equality in social spaces, corporate organisations, and the wider community, to the social enterprise. I absolute agree that the LGBTQ+ community has its own mental health issues and, within that, dependent on the additional layers of your identity you carry, you may face further difficulties. Working parents, carers, people of colour, neuro-diverse people, our trans and non-binary siblings, we know that within our wider community many are really struggling with their mental health, experiencing anxiety and depression as just a few examples and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continues to effect so many more each day.
Compared to years ago, LGBTQ+ people are arguably becoming more and more accepted n society. But it’s not perfect. What more needs to be done?
Through whose eyes? There is definitely a greater visibility for our wider community but I don’t think I can agree that there is more acceptance when we see the way the wider trans community are being targeted and in particular Black trans women who are being killed in disproportionate numbers. Trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people still cannot self-identify on legal documentation such as their passports, and hate crimes are on the rise. There is still so much to be done, within community, in the workplace, in wider society, probably never more than at a time like now.
What has been your proudest achievement – both professionally and personally – to date?
Personally – it will always be my sons, Miles and Theo. It’s an honour to be their mother, they are the gift I prayed for and never thought I would ever meet.
Professionally – right now it’s the role that I’m in, I really feel like every day I am contributing to making a positive change within, to and for society which is incredibly motivating but, I’ll be honest, I hope that I have many more as I grow and as my career continues into the future.
ACTIVIST AND TRANS SPOKESPERSON
EVA ECHO IS A MEMBER OF THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERvICE LISP FOR HATE CRIME, AS WELL AS A BRAND AMBASSADOR FOR THE LONDON TRANSGENDER CLINIC
You’re a member of the Crown Prosecution Service LISP for Hate Crime. What does that role involve and what is being done to tackle hate crime nationwide and is there room for improvement?
Being a member of the CPS’ hate crime panel allows me to use my lived experience to help others and to create change. We look at all five strands of hate crime (gender identity, sexuality, religion, race, and disability) and any intersections. We examine previous cases through a critical lens, making sure everything was done to achieve a prosecution, challenging the decisions made and identifying areas for improvement.
Feedback to our own social groups is crucial too. Due to confidentiality, I cannot discuss specifics, but I am able to give an insight into the work the CPS does, creating awareness and better public understanding of the judicial system. For example, hate crime is taken very seriously. Under the Criminal Justice Act, a court can impose uplift in sentencing – something the public may not realise and may prompt them to come forward to report hate crime.
Outside of the hate crime panel, I’ve also led trans awareness training and done presentations for the CPS as well as creating community engagement events, which bring members of the public, the CPS and the police together to learn from each other. It also allows the public to challenge the criminal justice system or to have any questions/concerns answered. It’s important that all parties (public, police and CPS) are on the same page. There’s always room for improvement though and, whilst we can’t get everything right first time, it’s important that we listen and learn.
You’re also a brand ambassador for the London Transgender Clinic. What does that role involve?
Being a brand ambassador for the London Transgender Clinic (LTC) allows me to bridge the gap between patients and the clinic. With the current NHS trans healthcare in crisis, more and more people are turning to private healthcare. Private healthcare is often seen as a mysterious entity, with people wanting to access it but not knowing how to or thinking they can’t. I can use my position to help by sharing my own experiences. I provide valuable feedback to the clinic too. Private healthcare isn’t accessible by everyone and, if there are ways to make it more accessible, then the feedback can form a vital first step. Since I started working alongside LTC, we’ve created a monthly direct debit scheme which helps patients to manage the cost but, most importantly, allows patients to access treatment sooner.
It can be argued that trans awareness and acceptance has improved greatly in the past few years. Do you agree? And what else needs to be done?
es and no, really. Even since I came out in 2017, there’s been a significant change in acceptance and understanding of what it is to be gender-diverse. However, in the grand scheme of things, the shift in the last few years is a drop in the ocean. Transphobia is on the rise here in the UK and our lives have become political pawns. The misinformation and media attacks on trans people pose a very real threat on the rights of all marginalised groups. Right now, those that oppose our existence are a minority, but they shout louder. As a community, we must stop any in-fighting and all stand together in solidarity. We need our allies to be vocal too, combining their voices with ours to drown out the hate through education and lived experience. People hate and fear what they don’t understand. Our lives oppose what has previously been taught… but what can be learned can also be unlearned, as long as we adopt the right approach. If we just shout back at the haters, it becomes a lot of noise, and nothing will change. Remember when tattoos were mysterious? Thirty years ago, if you told somebody you had a tattoo, you’d be met with questions such as “did it hurt?” or “what did you get?” Now, if you told someone you had a tattoo, you’d be met with “so?”. Tattoos have become accepted. Normalised. We can and we will be too… and it’ll happen by us being ourselves and not allowing hate to interfere with who we are.
What words of encouragement would you give to a young trans person?
There’s only one of you, so be your own kind of beautiful. I’ve always struggled with my identity and how I fitted into the world. I was trying too hard, often relying on external factors and those around me, in order to be defined. It wasn’t until recently that I realised that I was never not a part of the world, the world was simply waiting for me to present myself and to step into the space that’s mine. You all have a space too. Think of it like your bedroom – put up the posters or photos you want, paint it whatever colour you want… it’s your safe space. Be proud of that space you’ve created and remember that no two spaces are the same, so don’t worry if yours looks totally different to everybody else’s. You’re still valid.
What do you consider to have been your proudest achievement to date?
Ooh, this is a tough one!! There was a time when I would say it was writing a song, playing it live and hearing the crowd sing it back to me because it spoke to them. Thinking about it now, that was filling a gap. Helping others in the hope that it helps me or gives me purpose. I realise now my proudest achievement is much simpler. It’s the day I accepted myself. I released myself from my own internal prison. I know… this sounds so cheesy… but it’s true!! Whilst I’m involved in so many things, ranging from legal action against the NHS due to the long waiting times for accessing trans healthcare to talking to people who are gender-questioning and afraid to come out, I couldn’t do any of it without self-acceptance, which gives me the strength to keep going, no matter what the challenges are.
HEAD OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AT DIAL GLOBAL
MEIKE IMBERG IS THE HEAD OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AT DIAL GLOBAL
You’re Head of Diversity and Inclusion at DIAL Global (Diverse Inclusive Aspirational Leaders). What is DIAL and what does your role involve?
DIAL Global is a global community for Diverse Inclusive Aspirational Leaders. The purpose of DIAL Global is to create a more open, diverse and inclusive society. To achieve that we help organisations grow authentic cultures to unlock more innovation, more creativity and more profitability.
We equip business leaders around the world with the insight, inspiration and personal support they need to make brave choices and make real, measurable change.
In my role as Head of Diversity and Inclusion I support our members strategically to drive and implement authentic diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives, structures and processes holistically across their workplaces. This includes areas such as talent acquisition and marketing, staff learning and development, employee resource groups (ERGs), data monitoring and procurement.
It is important to help organisations understand that authentic diversity and inclusion needs to be driven from the top and needs to be an organisational responsibility. The onus should never be on marginalised groups to educate those around them and we see time and time again that those organisations who are most successful in implementing long-lasting structural and cultural changes are those whose boards and senior leaders are taking ownership, are accountable, and do not shy away from showing vulnerability and a willingness to learn. And of course, in every organisation we have the “keen beans”, as I like to call them, who are eager to start or get involved with employee resource groups, help to shape inclusive policies and structures or want to take a lead on community engagement.
Diversity and inclusion will always be a journey and while it is great to see that organisations increasingly recognise the need and also benefit of prioritising diversity and inclusion, there is a lot of work ahead of us and the journey will always continue.
How important do you think it is to be “true to yourself” in the business environment – whether regarding your sexuality, creed, background, or race? And what benefits does being out give to not just the individual but a business as a whole?
I have always been fortunate enough to be my true self at work and I feel the positive impact of that every day – I never felt like I needed to hide anything about myself. While that is just my own experience, we do know that statistically people are happier, more comfortable and subsequently more productive when they can be themselves at work. I highly doubt that there is anyone in the business environment who has not experienced either what it feels to be disadvantaged because of one or more parts of their identity or how great it feels when you can unlock your full potential. One way or another we all had either good or bad workplace experiences and often a mix of them.
The notion of “bringing your whole self to work” is becoming more widely known and organisations like Stonewall or Open For Business are doing incredible on-going work to reiterate that it is indeed very important to be “true to yourself” in the business, and all other environments, of our day-to-day life. Both organisations focus on LGBT inclusion, but they also highlight how diverse our identities are and how important it is for organisations to approach intersectionality in a meaningful way. Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain – Work Report 2018 for example, found that “one in eight black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT employees (12 per cent) have lost a job in the last year because of being LGBT, compared to four per cent of white LGBT staff”.
That is why it is so important for organisations to approach diversity and inclusion in a holistic way and to recognise that it is a never-ending journey. While there is a lot of research out there which discusses the business case and economic benefits for diversity and inclusion, it is also the right thing to do from a human rights perspective. Why would organisations not want all their employees to feel comfortable, happy and thrive in their work? Why would organisations not want to contribute to a better future for all of us and benefit in return by attracting and retaining the best talent and increasing their bottom line?
The demands of the future generations are for organisations to take proactive and serious actions to make a difference and reduce inequalities and being true to ourselves in the workplace plays a crucial part of that.
On a personal level what has been your proudest achievement?
I always held the belief that the world would be a much better place if everyone would be able to be their true self, including doing what they love, in a place they love, and with people around them who love them – for exactly who they are. It may sound a bit dreamy for some, but this vision has always driven me in life. I am a big believer in the universe, positive energy, and that everything happens for a reason.
So when I think about what my proudest achievement is, it must be the fact that I always listen to my intuition and that all my experiences, the good ones and the bad ones, have shaped and helped me to be where I am today. I have a wonderful, loving family; I am surrounded by amazing and caring friends; and I was always fortunate to work with some awesome colleagues. All these people allow me, and more importantly empower me, to be myself every single day. That is why I feel like every achievement I experience in my life is a collective achievement.
I am a true extrovert and social butterfly and having so many wonderful people in my life and constantly meeting people who are passionate and want to learn about diversity and inclusion is what gets me up in the morning and fills me with a seemingly endless supply of energy to keep going. Every day I am grateful to do what I love and that gratitude drives me to become better at what I am best at for the benefit of others.
And as long as I can help others to be their true self, thrive in what they do, and help to drive organisational changes to ensure we’re making the world a better place every day, I will never stop working in diversity and inclusion.
DIRECTOR COURaGEOUS INCLUSION
ALISON PACIFICO- FRANCE IS THE FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF EVOSIS
What is evosis and what does it do?
Evosis celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year. Over its lifetime it has essentially been the vehicle for me to achieve what I want in my career and for organisations. It began focussing on people transformation (evosis is the start of the word evolution and end of the word metamorphosis) based on my expertise in business psychology, leadership and organisation development.
Over the years I (and evosis), have evolved to focus on Diversity and Inclusion work with the same developmental approach. I now also often work in partnership with a diverse group of other fabulous practitioners. Our vision is: “To evolve the human race so that everyone inherently values, and has the skill, to be truly inclusive of each other’s diversity”. We work with a whole range of organisations of all sizes across industries both nationally and internationally. These have included Young Lives vs Cancer, John Lewis Partnership, The Global Fund for Human Rights and Hunter Healthcare (specialist recruitment for the NHS).
How does who you are impact on the work you do?
My identity is integral to my work, I am a white, pansexual, non-binary person from the North of England who has experienced depression, is a “wobbly walker” and has a spinal cord injury. I intentionally use both the privileged and disadvantaged aspects of my identity to inform, inspire and promote inclusion.
I also have a strong social justice motivation which includes me volunteering as a trustee for charities as well as many of my clients being charities.
What is courageous inclusion?
Courageous inclusion is a way of being, described in a model, which provides a simple approach to diversity and inclusion. It is also a skill, which can be improved, of having conversations, which are sometimes uncomfortable, with the goal of learning and being able to include everyone.
The model is described at
We also run programmes for people wanting to develop the skill of courageous inclusion. You can find more details of those at
What other types of projects do you work on?
We consult on Diversity and Inclusion at a strategic level, helping create applicable strategy which connects to the organisation’s goals as well as programmes such as employee networks, reverse mentoring and role model and ally training (there is a full list at www.evosis.co.uk/organisations.html). One of the most fulfilling parts of my job though is the variety of activities I undertake. This includes podcasts and speaking events and recently consulting on a series of management training videos. Click on the following link to my podcasts and information about upcoming speaking events.
How important is a positive and proactive culture of diversity and inclusion in the workplace – both for the commerical organisation and the individual?
There is an ever-growing body of practice-based research demonstrating the benefits of diversity and inclusion for organisations, teams and individuals. This includes.:
Organisations with inclusive cultures are:
- 3 times more likely to be high-performing*
- 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes*
- 6 times more likely to be innovative and agile*
- 2 times more likely to meet or exceed financial targets*
- 30% higher revenue per employee than competitors§
Inclusive teams increase performance
- 29% increase in team collaboration*
- 20% increase in quality of decision-making*
- 17% increase in team performance*
Inclusive leaders improve experiences for individuals
- 70% increase in psychological safety and inspiration*
- 70% increase in experiences of fairness, respect, value and belonging*
One day per year additional work attendance per employee ±
Beyond these statistics, when individuals are empowered and feel safe to be themselves, they are able to work to their true potential, achieving personal aims and innovative solutions for their organisation. When organisations truly embrace diversity they benefit from the power of positive deviance – the ability to listen to and implement novel ideas which make a difference. One example of this is how Alan Turing was able to break the Enigma code and create the first computers.
What do you consider to be your proudest achievement?
Thanks for asking this question, it’s one I usually shy away from but today I’m feeling empowered enough to answer!
I am proud of so much in my life, grateful for the opportunities I have had and the support I have received to achieve them. In my personal life, my achievements include riding a Royal Enfield over the Himalayas in India and learning to walk again after a spinal cord injury.
In my work life I am proud of what my programmes can achieve. I have recently published a case study (www.courageous-inclusion.com/impact.html) where an already very inclusive team increased their ability to be anti-racist by 39%. The aim of these courses is to create sustainable development for people so they can apply diversity and inclusion to their own professional expertise. This has also created changes such as a CEO considering not only how he builds a diverse organisation, but also how he could ensure he contracts services from a diverse set of suppliers, paying them a fair fee. All to create a more robust and successful business.
* Deloitte review January 2018: The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths by Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon
§ Research by Deloitte. Juliet Bourke, Stacia Garr, Ardie van Berkel, Jungle Wong (2017) Diversity and inclusion: The reality gap (2017 Global Human Capital Trends)
± HBR March 2019 Why Inclusive Leaders Are Good for Organisations, and How to Become One. Juliet Bourke & Andrea Espedido
CEO OF GLOBAL BUTTERFLIES
You founded Global Butterflies in 2015. What is Global Butterflies?Global Butterflies is a trans & non-binary inclusion company that aims to help organisations to recruit and support trans & non-binary people in the workplace. We also help companies to provide good and respectful client services to the trans & non-binary community.
How important is a diverse and inclusive culture to the successful running of a business, particularly in relation to trans and non-binary employees?Extremely important. We know a diverse and included workforce performs better and is more competitive compared to others that are not. Workforces are changing, 12% millennials are non-binary and for Gen Z, well, one in four may change their gender expression during their lifetime! Companies need to be ready for this or they will lose good employees and future clients.
How does one go about creating that diverse and inclusive culture?You have to build it into your DNA, not bolt it on. E.g. Leadership, HR Teams, Managers, Client-Facing Staff, Contractors, Policies and Healthcare. You are only as good as your weakest link, look to them all. It starts at the top, actions not words, a 1% change at the top means a 100% change at the bottom.
While working in the City you transitioned your gender expression from male to female. How did your colleagues react to your transition, and did you experience any difficult situations?Well, it was a long time ago, but my work colleagues were very good. A good transition /change in gender expression comes down to good communication, respect and a little project management. It was true 20 years ago and still is today. There were difficult situations, constantly being “outed” by some people was particularly annoying, having to educate people all the time could be exhausting.
What challenges remain and what more needs to be done in trans and non-binary acceptance and rights?Good question. A lot more has to be done, but right now holding on to the rights that we already have is becoming a challenge. We have seen the Government, UK media and BBC actively attack the trans & non-binary community, trans women in particular based on a false narrative. Ask any trans/non-binary person in the UK right now, and they will tell you that they live in fear. The UN has said, in a recent report, that this roll back of rights intentionally pitches women and some LGB people against the trans community and is being orchestrated by right-wing extreme groups. People need to understand that these groups want to eventually remove LGB and women’s rights also. This swing to extremism is here and now in the UK.
What has been your proudest achievement?Marrying my wife Emma a few weeks ago LOL! However, I am really proud of the work Global Butterflies has done in just six years. We have an impressive client list and many of them are active trans and non-binary corporate allies. Global Butterflies has donated much of its time and raised money for LGBTQ+ causes, especially for GiveOut, we are very proud of that.
LGBTQ+ HEALTH speaker
SHANNON WHITTINGTON IS an LGBTQ+ SPEAKER, EDUCATOR AND BEST-SELLING AUTHOR
How important do you think it is for an LGBTQ+ person to be out at work?
It is important for an LGBTQ+ person to be out at work only if it is safe for them to be out at work. Imagine going to work every single day having to hide who you are. Yet, this is the case for nearly 50% of us. We hide due to fear of discrimination, being misunderstood, and being passed over for promotions just to name a few. I hid in the workplace for years, and trust me, it didn’t feel good. On the other hand, when we can be out, wow, what a lovely experience to be allowed to be the fullest expression of ourselves.
What steps can an employer take to create a genuinely inclusive and diverse work force?
I love the quote by Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It starts with each of us, doesn’t it? Employers need to have anti-discrimination policies prominently displayed and enforced. A no tolerance for homophobic or transphobic behavior is mandatory. LGBTQ+ people must have a safe place to go to if discrimination does occur and violators need to be held accountable. Also, ERGs (employee resource groups) are a great way to create inclusion. Hiring outside of what an employer might deem a “cultural fit” is another way to create a diverse work force. I could go on and on… healthcare benefits, maternity/ paternity leave for same-sex couples, insurance that covers gender-affirming surgeries, fostering open communication, etc.
In the past few years we have seen great advances in LGBTQ+ rights both in the workplace and in the wider community. What else remains to be done?
And I am happy to see these changes but there are still plenty of organisations that simply ignore us or pretend we do not exist. I speak a lot about LGBTQ+ workplace inclusion, and, invariably, an employee will ask why they must attend this training. Like, why is it necessary? This tells me that I still have a lot of work to do.
On a positive note, I am delighted when I see organisations require this training. I’m finding that some organisations really want to do and be better and I am always delighted to help them. But it’s more than hanging out a shingle (flag) and calling it a day. There must be commitment by internal stakeholders to be truly successful in these efforts.
What has been your proudest achievement?
I am proud to say that I will be completing my doctorate in nursing soon and I will be offering a course on LGBTQ+ Person-Centered Care for healthcare professionals.My goal is to transform how we receive care, and I also want to transform how we are treated in the workplace. I’m also proud to have written a new book: LGBTQ+ ABCs For Grownups. It’s a quick read, sorta like a children’s book that explains the letters, flags, pronouns, terminology, and ways in which individuals and organisations can be an ally. It’s beautifully illustrated and simplifies topics that can be confusing for some.
Marketing CAMPAIGN Manager
Joe McGurk is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Barclays UK and also the midland chair of Spectrum, its lgbtq+ group
As well as being Marketing campaign Manager at Barclays UK, you are also the Midlands Chair of Spectrum. What is Spectrum and what does it do?
Spectrum Allies is our internal colleague network of LGBTQ+ people and their allies– as a group we commit to making Barclays a better and more inclusive place to work for the community and really help to guide the business in making the right inclusive decisions.
In terms of what we do: as a colleague engagement group, we recognise and celebrate various important calendar events across the year (such as Pride Month, World Aids Day and Transgender Day of Remembrance to name a few!) and we help to educate our colleague community on these important events, encouraging organic networking and growth opportunities to nurture our LGBTQ+ Barclays colleagues’ growth and development in safe spaces.
Externally, Spectrum help to drive really important initiatives: through fundraising and colleague volunteering, Barclays supports the Terrence Higgins Trust’s Work Positive Programme, which helps those living with HIV to get back into work. We also develop amazing external campaigns such as 2021’s “Stand With Pride” which you can find online!
Barclays are also a founding partner of LGBT+ Foundations with Pride in Ageing in the North-West, which helps people over 50 get access to housing, health services, mental wellbeing counselling, and group support to help them cope with isolation.
How important do you think it is for an LGBTQ+ person to be out at work?
I think that we have to be sensitive to the context of each individual’s personal identity to understand the importance of being out at work. For me, being out is being authentic, unapologetic and unashamed of my personal life. It allows me to bring my whole being to the table, to bring my full perspective to business decisions, and this translates differently for colleagues of all backgrounds.
I also understand that culturally it might be more difficult for others to live in their true identities at work and so we need to respect that, and show support where we can.
What steps can an employer take to create a genuinely inclusive and diverse work force?
From a grassroots perspective we have to look at the environment and culture of the work force, which needs to be promoted all the way from the very top – nurturing an open and welcoming environment for people of all intersections, whether or not that is race, culture, sexuality or any other protected characteristic.
More formally, an inclusive recruitment process where a conscious effort is made by hiring managers to consider applicants from diverse backgrounds is key to forming a well-rounded and truly effective work force. We have to unpack subconscious biases that are engrained in us culturally. We all have to take accountability for those biases.
In the past few years we have seen great advances in LGBTQ+ rights. What remains to be done?
I think it’s really important that we lift up the voices of the most vulnerable members of our community – the transgender community in particular have seen great hostility in the UK and we have to find proactive ways to support them and use our voices daily to point out when something isn’t right. We also have to look at the unique intersections within our community, for example those who are Black, Asian or ethnically diverse will have a particularly unique LGBTQ+ experience different to those who identify as white and cisgender. We have to make an effort to recognise privilege where relevant and create equity.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Without a doubt my proudest achievement since joining Barclays Spectrum was helping to drive the “Stand with Pride” campaign. This was an amazing inclusive virtual series of internal colleague Pride events, driven in tandem with a fantastic external colleague developed by our Sponsorship team. It included important educational panel talks, as well as a lot of fun with a virtual drag queen bingo session hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’s Divina De Campo. It was amazing from start to finish; to be at the spearhead of such an amazing internal initiative was a highlight of my career so far – I hope I get to do it all over again next year.
DIRECTOR THE JAYNE OZANNE FOUNDATION
JAYNE OZANNE CAMPAIGNS FOR EQUALITY WITHIN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, AND IS THE FOUNDER OF THE JAYNE OZANNE FOUNDATION. SHE RECENTLY RESIGNED FROM THE GOVERNMENT’S LGBT ADVISORY PANEL IN PROTEST OF THEIR ATTITUDE TOWARDS CONVERSION THERAPy. SHE IS A WRITER, BROADCASTER AND LGBT+ CAMPAIGNER
You describe yourself as being “unashamedly gay, and unashamedly Christian”. Many may think, rightly or wrongly, that these are mutually exclusive, given some faiths’ attitude to LGBTQ+ rights. How is being “unashamedly gay, and unashamedly Christian” compatible?
So many of us have felt that we had to walk away from our faiths when we came out, and yet I passionately believe that God does not discriminate, even if some religious organisations do! As a Christian, I believe in a God of Love who loves us all equally but created us each uniquely. God IS love, and where there is love there is something so pure and beautiful that it must be celebrated, cherished and blessed.My hope is that in being so out about both my sexuality and my faith I can model to people an authenticity that they find intriguing and attractive, and which leaves them wanting to find out more about God (even if they don’t want anything to do with the Church!).
Why did you recently resign from the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel, and what could the current government – and indeed any subsequent governments – do to ensure equality and acceptance for LGBTQ+ citizens? What work still needs to be done?
There is so much that still needs to be done! I resigned last March because I was deeply concerned about the way in which the government was dealing with the horrific practices of “conversion therapy”.We needed an outright ban, and yet at that time all they seemed to want to do was to consider non-legislative options, which risked focusing purely on minors and creating various loopholes for religious practices (the most common form of “conversion therapy”) and for trans people (those most at risk).I stated at the time that I was worried about the increasingly “hostile environment” for LGBT+ people in the UK, which is most evidenced by the way our trans friends are being treated.We have come a long way as a society in the UK but there is still so much more that needs to be done.This involves tackling the root causes of so much of the hate and discrimination we face – whether that be in religious or cultural settings, or because of “fake news” and ignorance.
You’re the director of the Ozanne Foundation. What does the Foundation’s work involve?
Our foundation works with religious organisations from around the world to tackle discrimination and prejudice on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity.Last year we launched the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives, which brought together hundreds of senior religious leaders to agree and sign the Declaration on the “Sanctity of Life and the Dignity of All”, and which finished with a service of celebration at Westminster Abbey.Together we are working to safeguard LGBT+ people in various religious settings and are calling on our governments to urgently take steps to ban “conversion therapy”.
In the UK that has led me to set up and chair the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition, which brings together a broad coalition of LGBT+ organisations, academics, faith leaders to work with MPs and other allies to ensure we get a comprehensive ban on conversion therapy.
What has been your proudest achievement to date?
Apart from finally coming out after 20 years of conversion therapy and at great cost to myself, I think the achievement I’m most proud of is the video of senior faith leaders sharing the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives’ Declaration.This is an extraordinary video, which I know has moved many LGBT+ people to tears as they finally hear senior faith leaders saying sorry for the trauma that certain religious teachings have caused and calling for an end to discrimination and violence, as well as an international ban on conversion therap
PROGRAMME SUPPORT OFFICER AT LAW FIRM clifford chance
TATE SMITH IS A TRANS ACTIVIST AND PROGRAMME SUPPORT OFFICER AT LAW FIRM CLIFFORD CHANCE
You’re a Programme Support Officer at Clifford Chance. What does your role involve?
I’m currently on secondment from my secretarial role to a project management support role, supporting Senior Project Managers to deliver a multi-stream programme of works and business critical and strategic activities. It’s very different from what I’m used to but I’m really enjoying it.
How did your colleagues react to your transitioning?
Very well! I didn’t expect any different since our firm has done such fantastic pro bono work for the LGBTQ+ community including the X Passport case. I joined the firm when I was only three months into my medical transition and didn’t come out until a few months after that and everyone has been incredibly supportive, respectful and never made a big deal out of it which is really important to me. It’s important that I go through my working day as just Tate and not be defined by my trans identity which is what my colleagues do. I’m lucky that I have such a fantastic support network built from our LGBTQ+ network which really gave me the confidence to bring my authentic self to work.
You also describe yourself as a trans activist. What does that involve?
I see my being out and open as a gay transgender man as activism in its simplest form but I have developed my own style of activism where I speak at many corporate organisations, charities, student societies and to the media about what it’s like to be trans. I raise awareness to topics such as the difference between gender and sexuality, the effects of testosterone, intersectionality, family and workplace acceptance, toxic masculinity and male privilege. My favourite way to do this is by hosting a “lunch and learn” where people can come along for an hour, listen to my story, and then I finish with an open Q&A and terminology session which I’ve found very successful. It’s very important to me that transgender people are visible, especially trans men, and that I educate people and debunk common myths.
It can be argued that trans people are becoming more visible and accepted by society. From your experience is that true? And what challenges remain ahead?
To an extent, yes. There’s much more documentaries, press coverage, media representation and conversations being had around the trans experience, so visibility is increasing. I agree that we are being more accepted by society but the journey is far from over. There is a lot of anti-trans hate being spread amongst news outlets particularly focusing on trans women being predators and the infamous transgender bathroom debate. The government seems to be obsessed with trans people’s bodies and still won’t help us access the healthcare we need.
I still feel that trans men are not as represented and personally I don’t feel entirely accepted by society. It’s a scary time to be a trans person right now but at least with my activism I can shed the light on trans joy and how proud I am to be a transgender man.
On a personal or professional level, what have you been proudest of?
Personally, moving out, leaving my unsupportive family, and funding my medical transition with my own money. Professionally, delivering Clifford Chance’s first “lunch and learn” with an openly transgender person to 50 people at the top of our office overlooking Canary Wharf. It was significantly oversubscribed with people queuing outside and that made me feel very special.
JADE HOSKINS IS LADY PHOENIX, THE TRANS WOMAN BEHIND STUNNING NEW VENUE ZODIAC
You originally successfully opened Zodiac Bar in Tufnell Park, miles away from the traditional LGBTQ+ commercial “scenes” of Soho or Vauxhall. Now you have relocated to Camden, making you, I think, the only LGBTQ+ venue in London’s Camden following the demise of the legendary Black Cap. What occasioned the move to Hampstead Road and what makes Zodiac different to other bars and venues?
I have lived in Camden for over three years and I loved the diversity of the area. I found this great space in Camden and felt like it could be a great home for the local LGBTQ+ community. The difference with ZODIAC is that we are not a corporation, we are a community space with a family feel where everyone from the community is welcome.
As a trans woman, have you found any problems with acceptance among the “traditional” LGBTQ+ commercial “scene” and, if so, how can we – as a community – help to improve that situation?
One of the reasons I wanted to start ZODIAC was that I felt that I didn’t always have a place in some of the gay bars in London. Some of them seemed to cater to a specific crowd and I didn’t always feel welcome. I think as a community that we need to embrace all parts of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s important to realise that we are all more alike than we are different, we have all had a difficult journey and we should work to lift each other up.
The trans community has – arguably – become more accepted and certainly more visible during the past few years. What more remains to be done and how can Zodiac help?
I think there is a lot of educating to do, especially outside of the LGBTQ+ community so that people better understand gender dysphoria. I hope to show with ZODIAC that we can all walk together, and that there are opportunities for Trans people in life. I also hope to give opportunities and a voice to the Trans Community.
Sum up the Zodiac Bar On the Hampstead Road in three words.
Community, Love, Family
Who is your hero/ heroine?
My hero is my mother, she was always the centre of our community where I grew up in the Philippines and brought people together, I feel like I am very much like her!
Certificate of Diversity practices
Together in solidarity we will be pro-active in bringing an end to pink-washing and tokenism towards the LGBTQ+ community during and after Pride celebrations and to build a sustainable inclusive future.
The CODP is awarded to organisations across the UK and around the world that have worked authentically towards creating LGBTQ+ inclusive workplaces.
Organisations with a proud and proven record of diversity and inclusivity will be deserving recipients of the Pride Life Certificate of Diversity Practices, the ultimate gold standard of LGBTQ+ accreditation, authentically respected as part of the Seal of Approval and Executive Leadership Programme.