There’s been something niggling away at me today about our intranet Friday Fun Poll (some fun non-work related question to get people commenting) but it’s only just dawned on me what it was. The question today was about who your favourite LGBT role model was, with a list of celebrity types to chose from. Sir Ian McKellen was the obvious choice for me from the list.
But as I was doing a spot of DIY this evening (what Friday night’s have become…) it dawned on me what I’d been struggling with. It was the link between role model and celebrity.
To me, the real role models are those who get on with their ‘normal’ everyday lives, living honestly, openly and happily, yet knowing that just round any corner could be trouble, prejudice or in some countries the threat of breaking the law and what that may lead to.
Most of my LGBT role models are not in any way, shape or form ‘celebrity’. They’re people who surround me as I stumble through life’s varied trials and tribulations. So who are these role models?
My twin brother. When my brother and I were being formed, we literally appear to have split the possible genes. I got a bunch (the looks, charm, [Discuss! – Ed] right handed, creative, rugby, words/pictures, straight), he got a bunch (dull, boring, accountant, numbers, detail, football, left handed, gay). Happily civil-partnered for 10 years now, he’s Dir of Admin and Numbers stuff for a school Academy thing.
My boss. Was married with kids. Got divorced. Came out (poss not in that order but none of my/our business) Now out and living with his partner. Have known and worked with and for him on both sides the in/out thing. The older comer-outerer (sure there’s a tech term…). Just gets on with life (and his ongoing struggles to cope with my Welsh heritage). Yet has had stones thrown at him in the street. In Hampshire. WTF?
My chum and team member. Wonderfully happily married with bubba 1. And openly bi. And helps runs our GLEE (sexual orientation network). Heart’s worn on sleeve (sometimes). Proud of sexuality (and absolutely why not!) and embraces the contradiction that presents itself to others. But just had to check that the group she wants to take her child to doesn’t have a problem with LGBT volunteers if she wants to stay and help. This remains a thing. Not for much longer I hope!
My Grandma. Sadly no longer with us, but when Twin Bro came out, her response was classic and one I remain so proud of and love her muchly for. Given her post-WW1 Yorkshire upbringing, and having spent many decades in South Wales in the Methodist chapels of Swansea, and having been a post WW2 Head teacher you may have pidgeon holed her into holding certain views (not that we’d have ever known such things – we aren’t that kind of family). When she learned of Twin’s sexuality, she uttered one word. Two letters. With punctuation. “So?”
My rugby referee friend. An openly gay referee in a sport that you may think might not be welcoming. But it has been. And righty so. Because rugby doesn’t care. He uses his back story for such great effect.
Sticking with rugby, former player (and not someone I ever knew or met) but Mark Bingham is well up there on my role models list. He was on United Airlines Flight 93 that was hijacked on 9/11. He and fellow passengers tried to fight back and stopped a major incident (it was intended to be flown into Washington DC) but sadly the plane still crashed and he lost his life along with everyone else on board. But we all know, from the phone lines that were open, that he lead his fellow passengers with the call of “let’s roll”. He lead by example. And was gay. Bingham has been widely honoured posthumously for having “smashed the gay stereotype mould and really opened the door to many others who came after him.” And his name lives on with the Bingham Cup – the Gay & Bisexual Rugby World Cup. I remain proud to play my own small role in rugby, which can embrace all types of people of all colours, creeds, backgrounds and sexualities. Because sport shouldn’t care.
What links all these great people? They are (or were) great people. Friends and family all (well mostly). They all just happen to be a LGBT. All of them role models.
It’s London Pride this weekend and for the first time the firm have a team of colleagues, families and friends joining the official parade behind the Z banner. At least two of the above (maybe more – I should probably ring my brother to see) will be there and I’ll be supporting from the south coast (wearing my GLEE pin badge) and from behind our company social channels (which we’ve rebranded for the weekend*).
Am proud to be an ally of our GLEE network, proud brother, proud employee and proud boss. Proud to have such a diverse array of people in my life. Thank you for the part you play in making me, me.
*On that minor point, I haven’t sought permission to do that. I don’t believe I need to. It’s engrained in our DNA. It’s the right thing to do.