Article | Black LGBT+ Lives Matter: Personal Reflections

We asked our own officers how as LGBT+ people of colour they have helped shape the organisation from within and delivered better policing for Londoners.

There are many people of colour who have lead and shaped LGBT+ history. Such as Jose Sarria, a Hispanic and a drag queen who as an openly gay person ran for public office in the United States. Marsha P Johnson was a black Trans activist who was one of the significant people who instigated the Stonewall Riots in 1969 in New York, and Bayard Rustin, a gay black man, who as the right hand man of Dr Martin Luther King’s advisers also went on to work for LGBT+ rights. LGBT+ people of colour are proud of these names and many more who even today continue to drive forward for equality and acceptance across the world for those who as a sexual and / or a gender minority simply want to live and love freely. We asked our own officers, how as LGBT+ people of colour they have helped shape the organisation from within and delivered better policing for Londoners.

Celebrating difference

Parmeet starts by saying she takes great pride “in being a gay; I take equal pride in being a Sikh, being a female, being an Asian and being an immigrant [and I] wear my identity and attitude in everyday life and celebrate it with people who have known me on a personal basis.” Rob adds he also is proud to be a gay East Asian man and actively encourages his straight friends to join him for gay socials and invites them to play with him at his gay Asian badminton club. Angel celebrates her blackness because people of colour have paved the way for my freedom, my status, my consciousness and blackness.” She says “I draw strength from my black power and the great contribution my colour brought to building many nations.” This is echoed by Andy. As a LatinX he takes great pride “in my heritage [and] as much as my own experiences. They have allowed me to be curious about the world and those that inhabit it, and to try and support them in different ways.”

Our interviewees come from communities where homosexuality either is frowned upon or not discussed, they believe it is important to be visible LGBT+ people of colour. As Rob says: “I whole-heartedly believe that communities of colour are less likely to be accepting of LGBT+ children and relatives. The more visible [I] am, the more people will realise it is not a phase, it is not a sin and it is nothing to be ashamed of.” Angel says that by making people aware of her sexuality, she’s able to expand their ideals and perceptions they may have of black women. Parmeet has found she’s had challenging and honest conversations with colleagues [to] explain the hardships gay people [of colour] have to face so that [they] have an understanding of what the reality [is like].” She goes on to say that the homophobia that exists within South Asian culture holds her fellow LGBT+ officers back from living fulfilling lives. They communities “still have to worry about things like being disowned by their families, being ostracised by their communities, of losing their friends and not having any support system at all.” She’s therefore made it her goal to be visible for these colleagues and others so they can “speak and share their thoughts and experiences without being judged.” As a LatinX, Andy says he uses his “differences as a catalyst to appreciate and celebrate other lived experiences, backgrounds and identities…My hope is that in doing this, and taking the first step, will inspire others to talk about their experiences, and feel that their experience can help people who want a world more accepting and inclusive.”

Parmeet says it is because of being visible when marching in Pride as a LGBT+ person of colour in uniform that she and others can be “a beacon of hope to many who are still struggling to accept themselves for who they are.” It’s a chance to remember the people of colour who have “sacrificed so much to fight for our rights but also to give hope to the ones who are still fighting for their rights to equality and acceptance.” Pride gives an opportunity to educate people about differences but also accepting and embracing these differences and Rob says that Pride gives him the space to celebrate my love [and identity as a gay person of colour] publicly with my friends and family.” Angel says “it is sad that today we still “need the space as black gay people to celebrate being black and gay” and mentions this is the very reason Black Pride was set up and happens every year. “It is required as we [black people] were never considered, recognised or given that space to show who we are [within Pride in London].” Pride for Angel is the celebration of “the fight to be free to love who we want and live how we want. Pride allows for everyone to see we are all just humans with our own unique characters. Just like a beautiful rainbow.”

Breaking down the barriers

LGBT+ people of colour bring a range of qualities to the Met. Being a gay woman, South Asian and from the Sikh community, Parmeet believes she “represents the diversity that exists all around us and feel confident in policing London effectively” seeing herself as “an Subject Matter Expert when dealing with matters that affect a certain part of the community because I understand the issues affecting them and why these issues are so important..” This is shared by Shantee and Rob. Both being from South East Asian heritage, they are able to bring their language and identities to aid a policing response to a sensitive situation. When Andy joined the Met he remembers his Inspector saying “We [the Met] do not have all the answers, but you [as probationers] do. Because you are part of the communities you police and you have an understanding of them.” That moment struck Andy as a offering by the organisation to bring his identities and experiences to better policing in London. He goes on: “There is an odd dynamic in policing, where years of service can make you a great officer, yet I feel that becoming a community ambassador comes from being a professional with the courage and integrity to appreciate different communities, and the compassion to listen – as a police officer. I find that often, a conversation with the uniform that addresses someone’s concerns, where our different colour can be a shared experience, can help de-escalate situations, which can build bridges with communities through shared experience [and] empathy.”

Parmeet recalls numerous occassions when she has drawn on identities to deal with sensitive situations whilst policing London. She says “I use my linguistic skills to communicate with victims/ informants effectively; this not only helps in building a rapport and getting best evidence/information from people but also leaves them with a positive policing experience.” Shantee says “Sometimes people need to talk to someone who ‘looks like them’” and Rob adds that his insight into a particular group or culture can help with the response.

Their efforts can help break down perceptions communities may have of the police. Andy says the policing style in Brazil is vastly different to that in the UK. Brazilians have a suspicion of policing based on their experiences from their homeland. As a LatinX officer within the Met he has come to appreciate the complexities to policing and has helped better Latin American communities perceptions and relations with the Met. Parmeet understands why South Asians may be suspicious of the police from abusive policing regimes in India to challenging practices that exist in the community such as forced marriages and domestic abuse. Often the community want to deal with these issues internally and don’t want to invite outside attention especially the police; the power of honour plays a dominant role.  “When they see someone who they can identify with and communicate with in their own language, it helps build their confidence to report these sensitive but serious crimes.” Parmeet tells us about one incident when she supported a white male colleague who was assisting an elderly South Asian female. Having walked in to a police station, she couldn’t speak English fluently and the officer called on Parmeet to help communicate between them. Due to her linguistic skills but also coming from the same cultural background and a place of empathy, the woman disclosed to Parmeet that she had been a domestic abuse victim for over twenty years but never had the courage to speak out. Due to Parmeet, the woman was able to be at ease to open up to her and her colleague; she wonders what would’ve happened to this woman if Parmeet wasn’t available that day; would she have left the police station frustrated and ended back to her home to suffer more abuse? Rob has found being a visible East Asian officer in uniform has also helped change some Chinese community representatives thoughts “that police do not help us, that they only help white people, and can’t be trusted.” Shantee points out that her input on the Hate Crime Taskforce has been significant to help the Met’s response and support towards those within the Chinese and South East Asian community who unfortunately have been victims of hate crime following the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. Angel policed the very streets she grew up on; being raised on an estate in Lambeth, she was able to show the local community that black people can exist within the blue and also educate her white colleagues and change their idea of the local communities they were there to protect. This, she believes “gave room for learning so officers could take time to engage with black communities to have a better understanding of them.” Angel says: “being [a] black representative within the police allowed [colleagues] an insight into [communities] from [different] backgrounds and environments.”

Their visibility from within has also encouraged other people of colour to join the police and progress through the organisation. Shantee was a founding member and Executive Committee member of the MPS Chinese and South East Asian Staff Association on hand to provide support to our colleagues and as a visible presence in the London community. Rob as one of the Committee members says that “the fact that the East and Southeast Asian numbers are increasing is as source of inspiration and strength.”

Being resilient

Being visible in uniform can also attract negative comments from communities. They can be seen as traitors and this can cause anxiety and upset. Angel has been called a ‘sell out’ “and [has had her] blackness questioned. These incidents were and are very frustrating and upsetting.” But she adds she understands why she may encounter this response from some in her community because “I once shared their experience when growing up because of the interaction I had with the police.” Both Rob and Parmeet recall times they’ve been racially abused because they are visible people of colour in uniform. Parmeet says her colleagues have told her to “ to‘grow a pair’ or have a ‘thicker skin’ and not take these abuses personally” she argues it’s hard to laugh it off and not to take it personally” because although she’s experienced racism throughout her life she should not be expected to accept it when in uniform. Internally, they’ve experienced instances of racism and homophobia. Angel said after being stopped and searched by white colleagues whilst on the job, and being given “a pathetic excuse” as to why, she realised that the colour of her skin may cause issues for some. Parmeet has found her white colleagues have been insensitive towards the cultural issues she has experienced in her personal and professional life “because they cannot relate to it as we come from different backgrounds and cultures.” Rob remembers being emotionally distressed after confronting colleagues who said gay people “not be allowed to have children.” He says “quite often I’ve had to replay these incidents over and over in my mind before being able to let them go. They can be pretty intense.”

Towards hope 

Parmeet says she has challenged those who have racially abused her on the streets trying “to talk to people and educate them about how their mindless words affect me and others.” And internally, she’s taken the same approach to have “open and honest discussions with my colleagues on sensitive and difficult topics to encourage exchange of information, feelings and ideas to build trust and understanding [and] be accepted.” For her, despite these shortcomings, Angel says she’s “had great experiences with colleagues and made great friends within the force.” Rob agrees. For him, he believes it is the “workplace atmosphere [that] has empowered me to be confident enough to tell people” about his sexuality, his personal life – that he is in a loving same-sex relationship – challenge people on their attitudes, and be himself completely within the Job. Andy ends by saying: “In my experience so far, the Met has been a great place to learn from, yet I feel it does take all of us being able to listen with an open heart to each other’s lived experiences. At times, what people need the most is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a heart that listens.”

 

Written by Ubaid Rehman of the Metropolitan Police Service

Article | Stonewall: Reclaiming Their Narrative

50 years ago today, on 28th June 1970, the first anniversary of the Stonewall movement, many activists and members of the LGBT+ community marked the day by gathering in Sheridan Square, New York City and together they marched up Sixth Avenue to Central Park, the parade stretching for 15 blocks. It is recognised as the first gay pride.

Sergeant Morena Thomas-Wickham is a Police Service Northern Ireland LGBT+ Network Committee member and she says: “I have this black and white photograph mounted on a wall in my house, not as some sort of provocative statement but as a reminder to myself. I did not throw the first brick but I have a part to play and I am indebted to those brave enough to stand up and begin a long fight for equality. Those faces in this picture faced arrest and were jeered and spat at in the street. They faced being fired from their jobs and refused basic rights but they still marched, taking a stand and sparking a global movement into action.”

What is the Stonewall movement?

In the early hours of 28th June 1969, NYPD officers entered The Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, NYC. It was to be the third such raid on a gay bar in the area in a matter of days. Gay bars were a place of refuge for LGBT+ to socialise in relative safety in a city where homosexual relations was illegal. Unfortunately, these bars were subject to police harassment. Seen as easy arrests the LGBT+ community were historically passive and offered officers little resistance. This night was different. As the officers cleared the bar, arrested employees and ordered the arrest of anyone not wearing at least three articles of ‘gender-appropriate clothing’, the crowd did not retreat as it had in the past and a riot broke out trapping the officers inside the bar. Police reinforcements assisted the officers and quelled the riot, but over the next five nights, the riots waxed and waned. This was a spontaneous protest against police harassment and social discrimination. Stonewall was a galvanising point in LGBT+ history; the gay rights movement didn’t start that night but it was invigorated by what happened and just as Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama had the effect of animating the civil rights movement 14 years before, Stonewall electrified the push for LGBT+ equality.

So what has The Stonewall Inn and a riot 51 years ago got to do with modern policing?

Beth Wickham-Thomas, Co-Chair of the Police Service NI LGBT+ Network answers: “Stonewall is in the living memory of the LGBT+ community and it was not an isolated incident of oppression, we can see similar incidents across the UK and Ireland. Many LGBT+ people remember these incidents as they lived through them; this has manifested a deep-rooted mistrust in police in a lot of people. The LGBT+ community’s hurt and circumspection have been a barrier to overcome in order to achieve real and purposeful engagement. Despite huge progress over the last few years there remain many barriers to overcome.

Visiting the Stonewall site.

“When I was in New York in 2016 it was really important for me to visit the site of the Stonewall uprising. The site has been designated a national monument in the US. It was a moving experience for me to stand on the site where Marsha P Johnston, a black trans woman, pushed back against oppressive police tactics and changed the world. I think being a police officer made it all the more poignant as being an ‘out’ queer police officer would have been unheard of in 1969. It really showed to me how much the world has changed for the better because of Stonewall,” said Constable Paul Bloomer, Co-Chair of the Police Service NI LGBT+ Network.

Article | The Exploration And Value of Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a term, recently being used by public and private sector organisations to help better address diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) matters: particularly around recruitment. Although some in-roads are being made, there is still a great deal of work that could be done. To help understand more, we approached PC Laks Mann. He brings his knowledge and expertise to his numerous volunteer roles such as a Committee member on the Met’s LGBT+ Network and in his role as a Mayor of London Adviser on City Hall’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group. He has spoken at length about this topic at events and online, and was recently nominated for his work in the ‘Inspirational Role Model of the Year’ category at the British Diversity Awards 2020. We asked Laks to give us an insight; and what advice he would give employers to improve DEI approaches.

How would you define intersectionality?

It’s where aspects of identity intersect and overlap – e.g. race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, faith or disability – so that prejudices and discriminations converge and become multiplied.

To visualise this, if you were in a competitive race then your lane would have multiple hurdles to overcome – or each hurdle would be that bit higher – when others may be privileged to have a clear lane with no/lower hurdles.

Can you give us a sense of how intersectionality plays in your life?

I identify as a queer person of colour (QPOC), from the Sikh faith, and having Punjabi cultural roots, with a working class background. I am all of these aspects of my identity – all of the time.

So as a gay guy – I can be subject to homophobia. Being a person of colour – I have to deal with racism. Coming from a working class background – I can experience discrimination. Belonging to a particular faith/cultural community – means I can encounter prejudice. When looking at this through an intersectional lens – these barriers and hurdles converge and can all be experienced at the same time. So for me, just to be me, can involve having to navigate discriminatory systems in society that have been designed to marginalise, silence and oppress.

Do you find one characteristic dominates more than the others or does this vary in different situations? Could you explain your answer?

I’m comfortable with my identity – though I can experience different feelings, depending on situations.

Being a person of colour is a visible aspect of my identity – whereas my sexuality, or my class, faith and cultural backgrounds are not necessarily visible. So when I’m in the minority amongst white people – I’m more tuned in to racism being an issue, whereas in a situation where I’m predominantly amongst straight people – I may be heightened to homophobia. In other scenarios – I may be alert to derogatory views and comments about working class people. I can experience some or all of these at the same time within a given situation – that’s where intersectionality bites hardest.

If you link these scenarios to where others have privilege, position and power – you can begin to understand how societies, cultures and workplaces begin to enforce barriers and hurdles.

Intersectionality is being recognised more by public and private sectors right now. Why do you think this is so?

More people are talking about intersectionality because we haven’t made the progress towards DEI that we thought we would have made. Prejudice and discrimination continue to blight employment opportunities, in all sectors, meaning barriers to progression have not been tackled. In wider society, certain aspects of oppression are being reinforced with increasing levels of racism, homo/bi/trans phobia, disability hate crime and religious/cultural intolerance.

How would you advise intersectionality is recognised better in the workplace? Can you name a number of ways in which the Met has been working on this or where it can make in-roads?

Leaders in workplaces need to acknowledge intersectionality exists – only then can change become a possibility. Once leaders make that conscious effort to address workplace prejudices and discriminations – then progress can become a reality. All too often, employers make aspirational claims about meritocratic workplaces but their leaders are firmly resistant to change. Basic logic tells you that you cannot achieve difference by staying the same.

I’m not sure the Met, like a lot of employers, has grasped the concept of intersectionality. The Met seems to have a blinkered focus on simply recruiting more BAME people, or more women, into its ranks and staff. However, the experiences of racism and gender discrimination can still be an issue for some – meaning the intersectional experiences of BAME females are not addressed. Likewise, simply wanting to recruit more people who identify as LGBTQ+ into the organisation does not address the issues of racism and homo/bi/trans phobia that QPOCs may encounter.

The Met LGBT+ Network has taken the lead on discussions around intersectionality by consistently raising these issues with other Staff Support Associations, and by engaging with community organisations that reflect the diverse communities of London. I’m proud to see these achievements recognised and for the LGBT+ Network to be shortlisted in the ‘Building a better Met’ category at the Met Excellence Awards 2020!

What has been your experience of intersectionality within the Met, personally, as well as organisationally?

I think the Met as an organisation has a long way to go – the first step is to acknowledge multiple barriers and prejudices exist. There are pockets of good practice that may become central to the DNA of the organisation, perhaps in the future. Personally, I began addressing inequalities in the workplace over 20 years ago as a Co-Founder of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Ethnic Minorities Forum. At times, it feels like conversations I see taking place in the Met right now are a throwback to those PwC days!

On a personal level, I’ve always addressed instances of negativity, bad behaviour and poor treatment directed towards me with the specific individuals concerned. I’m also more confident to speak up and highlight issues that need to be discussed, and just as importantly, to champion individuals and good practice where they exist. I’m comfortable speaking about intersectionality as it’s the main focus of my contribution to the Met LGBT+ Network Committee, and fortunately I’ve had great support from colleagues and line managers. I’ve been able to represent the Met LGBT+ Network as a guest panellist and speaker at DEI events with Stonewall, British Transport Police, The Telegraph and Knowledge Quarter – and I also recently featured in a podcast with an award-winning author and DEI specialist, which you can listen to here.

The topic of intersectionality in policing has steadily risen up the agenda, and it was promising to see the National LGBT+ Police Network making it the theme of their annual conference in 2020. I was due to be a keynote speaker – though this has been postponed for obvious reasons due to Covid-19.

What are the opportunities around intersectionality for the Met?

The Met’s leaders must firstly acknowledge intersectionality exists – and begin a journey to understand the damaging effects it can have in the workplace and throughout organisational culture. When leaders actually start to see individuals working in the Met for who they truly are, the lived experiences they bring, and what and who holds them back – they can begin to change the culture to address inequalities that exist, instead of maintaining a constant state of denial. Once you have that organisational shift internally, the Met would then have a better focus on outwards engagement with communities – it would have a greater understanding of London and Londoners. The Met would become more in-step with this great city – with opportunities for increased confidence in policing from all communities.

Why should the Met and others be utilising these lived experiences?

Since I joined the Met 11 years ago, I have consistently maintained my sense of self – which at times has been challenging when navigating an organisation with institutional behaviours and practices. Like all employees, I bring a unique set of lived experiences and knowledge – which go beyond possibly featuring in a poster ad or recruitment campaign. For the Met to move forward – it needs to embrace all its employees, to listen to their concerns, and engage them with a sense of belonging – leaders need to show that all employees have a stake in the organisation. Also, the Met could place Staff Support Associations at the centre of its decision making, be more transparent with employees and the public about problems that exist, and commit to community engagement with all of London’s communities with the same vigour in order to work towards solutions. Crucially, this means understanding that some of its officers and staff belong to, and have strong connections with, often marginalised and oppressed communities – those connections and lived experiences go beyond simply images.

So if the Met wants to truly embrace DEI, it needs to understand that these discussions start within – centred around a culture of honesty and speaking truth – after all, that’s what we expect from the public

 

Source: Extract from the Met LGBT+ Network’s newsletter ‘Out & Proud’, May 2020.

Article | Lesbian Visibility Day 2020 – PS Northern Ireland

Lesbian Visibility Day is a day that recognises, celebrates and supports lesbian women to be themselves at work, home and socially. This is a day to show solidarity with every woman in the LGBT+ community and be a voice for the empowerment of all women.

Recent studies have shown that women are twice as unlikely to be ‘out’ in the workplace as their gay male colleagues. Most citing fear of sexual harassment from colleagues, fear of derogatory comments and an impediment to their career aspirations.

Sgt Beth Wickham-Thomas, Police Service NI LGBT+ network chair comments on what Lesbian Visibility Day means to her:

“What is visibility? I have been pondering that question this week and often I find that I chastise myself for not being a good enough lesbian, which is of course nonsense! For me my visibility is living my life truly and authentically. The main reason I became involved with the LGBT+ Network was because I did not see myself reflected in its ranks, so instead of looking for someone to do that I decided to be the person I needed to see. I by no means consider myself a role model but in truth everyone has the potential to be a role model even if it is just to one person.

Lesbian visibility throughout history is hard to trace as women in history have quite often been invisible. So this day is also a celebration of women and in this case those who identify as lesbian, a gay woman, queer and this is not exhaustive.

I was 15 when, in 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out publicly on her sitcom. It was the first time I had seen a lesbian on TV, there was at first celebration and then a massive backlash but for me this was brave, it was marvellous and for the first time I felt validated. It would be another few years before I took that step but that moment was a turning point for me and although times have moved on so much since then I still get emotional when I see a TV programme with a lesbian character or even when Renault’s latest advertisement had a love story with two women.

So the conclusion I have come to is when you can be yourself, your whole self, be open at work, to be supported by that job, to be who you are, then the rest of your life can flourish. You don’t need to wear a badge or T-shirt to be visible, you just need to be your authentic self”.

 

Constable Belinda Dodsworth, PSNI LGBT+ member comments:

“Even though I knew I was a lesbian from an early age, there was little or no positive representation of lesbians in the mainstream media when I was growing up. Lesbian visibility is important to help take away any stigma that gay women feel when coming to terms with their sexuality. Diverse teams perform better; it has been measured and proven. When everyone can be themselves without fear, without compromise, we have stronger connections with our internal colleagues and external communities. Lesbian visibility empowers all women, as being true to yourself at work makes you stronger and more resilient. All allies should celebrate and support those who have chosen to be truly themselves at work”.

Sergeant Morena Wickham-Thomas, LGBT+ Committee member discusses the need to reclaim and empower language:

“I hate the word ‘lesbian’. It makes me cringe. I grew up with the word ‘lesbian’ being an insult, its connotations for me are hurtful and unflattering. The word manages to make you an object, dismissing you as a mere stereotype. ‘Lesbian’ has become weaponised for me and as much as I try reclaiming it is incredibly difficult to do so. Like, seriously, has anyone ever heard the word ‘lesbian’ used in an affectionate way? ‘You’re a lovely big lesbian so you are’ No! No-one means anything nice when they call you a lesbian, it’s not empowering, it sounds like a contagious disease, or some affliction that you would probably find yourself in group therapy for. BUT- the world has changed, in theory at least, lesbian visibility in mainstream culture has never been higher, with high profile role models like the Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick, Scottish conservative leader Ruth Davidson, and Megan Rapinoe, Captain of the USA team and Ballon d’Or Feminin winner, and words are now being reclaimed- in part as a younger, more militant, queer generation demands acceptance. Visibility is not acceptance, but it is a step to normalisation, recognising someone’s sexuality without having to invalidate anyone else’s. We have a responsibility, I have a responsibility, to the next generation to keep pushing for more, more inclusivity, more representation, more normalisation and less words used to cause hurt. If I own it, it can’t hurt me, I am a lesbian…so I am”.

**Some names have been changed to protect officer’s identities.

 

Article | Transgender Day of Visibility

Today is transgender day of visibility, or TDoV for short.

It is a day when trans folk, the LGBT+ community and allies celebrate the lives of trans, non-binary and intersex people. A day to honour trans people, to embrace diversity and to raise awareness of the challenges trans, non-binary and intersex people still face as well as celebrating the contributions of trans people to society. The day was founded by US-based transgender activist Rachel Crandall, citing the frustration that the only well-known transgender-centered day was the Transgender Day of Remembrance which mourned the murders of transgender people but did not acknowledge and celebrate living members of the transgender community. The first International Transgender Day of Visibility was held on 31st March 2009.

The trans pride flag is flown by many organisations across the country to celebrate the day. The flag represents the transgender community and consists of five horizontal stripes: two light blue, two pinks, and one white in the centre. The designer of the flag, Monica Helms, explained the design as such: “The stripes at the top and bottom are light blue, for baby boys. The stripes next to them are pink, the traditional colour for baby girls. The stripe in the middle is white, for those who are transitioning or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender.”

Sergeant Morena Wickham-Thomas of the Police Service NI LGBT+ Network committee said: “Research indicates that 51% of trans people have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination. The ignorance and misconceptions around the trans and non-binary community is perpetuated by media sensationalism and this manifests itself in an unwelcoming workplace. This is why, as allies, we must do better. I must do better. As a supervisor I would be embarrassed if I found out that one of my team was frightened to be themselves at work. We all have a responsibility to make our work environments supportive, safe spaces for a diverse workforce.”

Constable Paul Bloomer, Co-Chair of the Police Service NI LGBT+ Network said: “In these challenging times of isolation and social distance which are necessary to fight the pandemic we face, we must remember those whose isolation is compounded due to them being trans and not being able to be themselves at work. It is more vital than ever that trans people and trans allies remain visible and connected.”

Leo Lardie, a trans man and Sexual Health Development Officer for The Rainbow Project said: “Trans Day of Visibility (TDoV) is about recognising, validating and celebrating trans and non-binary people for being their authentic self in a world that often frames our mere existence as a problem to be ‘solved’. With anti-trans rhetoric on the rise it is more important than ever to remember that trans and non-binary people are not an abstract concept to be debated. We are human beings who deserve the same compassion, respect and dignity that any human deserves. Today is about highlighting the accomplishments of trans and non-binary people who were often written out of history. But it’s not just about us, it’s about you. You must come out of the shadows to say that you appreciate, support and love trans and non-binary people like us. Remember to stand up for trans and non-binary people not just today but everyday! We cannot erase transphobia alone, but with your help we can!”

Article | A Celebration of LGBT History Month in Northern Ireland Police College

February is LGBT History Month. This is an annual celebration that provides education and insight into the issues the LGBT+ community faces. The aim of LGBT History Month is to primarily educate the wider community about the history of the gay rights movement and to promote an inclusive modern society. As part of the PSNI’s commitment to celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion, the Police College at Garnerville will host a display of pop ups containing samples of the oral histories of those police officers that participated in the service’s first uniformed march in Belfast Pride in 2017.

David Johnston, Police Service NI Diversity and Inclusion lead, said: “I am incredibly proud to have some of this organisation’s contribution to LGBT history recognised by the display in the Police College. This will give visitors and colleagues the opportunity to experience some of what it was like for those officers and staff to be there on that historic day. Our service is fully committed to celebrating the diversity of our officers and staff, irrespective of characteristic, and we will continue to work collaboratively with our minority support networks and other stakeholders to recognise a number of key dates and events throughout the year.”

Co–Chair of the PSNI LGBT+ Network, Beth Wickham-Thomas, said: “LGBT History Month provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge the work of those who came before us while also raising awareness of the work left to do. All too often significant historical figures have been ignored or left out of the history books because they are LGBT. Alan Turing is a notable example as he spent the last few years of his life living isolated from society, with his contributions to computing and the allied war effort ignored for decades, simply because he was gay. Today Alan Turing is remembered and celebrated but it is only through the efforts of campaigners and initiatives like LGBT History Month that this became possible. LGBT history is human history and it is right that events such as LGBT History Month raise awareness of it.”

Constable Paul Bloomer is Co-Chair of the Police service of Northern Ireland LGBT+ Network. He commented: “Sometimes it is forgotten that we are constantly creating history and we need to be mindful of what we are leaving for future generations. When we participated in Belfast Pride in 2017 we realised that we were stepping into the history books. To fully capture the day we had a photographer accompany us throughout in order to create a visual record of the day. After that, we invited those participating in the day to submit their personal stories. We later collaborated with the Ulster Museum to capture the oral history of those that participated. This led to the museum producing pop ups of the photos and a short film with excerpts of the oral history interviews. It is fitting that the display is in the Police College in Garnerville as it will share the space with the memorial for our colleague Darren Bradshaw who was murdered in an LGBT venue in Belfast in 1997.”

Superintendent Norman Haslett, Head of ‘Policing With the Community’ said: “I am delighted that we were able to facilitate this within the police estate. Pride is a great opportunity for police and community engagement. Since our participation in Pride we have noted an improved level of confidence in the police from the LGBT community. This is evidenced by increased levels of hate crime reporting as well as increased applications from the LGBT community during recent recruitment campaigns.”