Event | Hosting the National LGBT+ Police Conference 2021

 

Working together to improve policing services and workplaces

On Thursday 16 September, several hundred colleagues from police and related organisations across England and Wales joined the online National LGBT+ Police Conference 2021, this year hosted by Avon and Somerset Police.

Bringing together police officers, police staff and partner organisations, the conference aimed to equip attendees with fresh and innovative ideas and actions, to create a brighter and more inclusive future for LGBT+ individuals and communities.

The traditionally-annual event, which was postponed from July 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is the seventh of its kind to be held, but the first to take place online.  It was attended both by delegates who identify as LGBT+ and those who wish to support and act as active allies to the LGBT+ community.

 Under the theme of Inclusive Policing, a range of topics – from addressing domestic abuse and violence to inclusive leadership – were considered from an LGBT+ viewpoint.  Those attending heard from a diverse array of speakers from within and beyond policing – including Avon and Somerset Police’s Temporary Chief Constable Sarah Crew who spoke on leadership and allyship – and had the opportunity to share innovation, good practices, views and experiences.

The event was highly praised by those attending as “inspirational”.   Delegates, many of whom had made personal pledges of positive action during the event, spoke afterwards about the joy of being able to connect with colleagues from other parts of the UK and being energised by what they had seen and heard.

 

Policing for everyone

Avon and Somerset Police Chief Officer for People and Organisational Development Dan Wood, who is the organisation’s Inclusion, Diversity and LGBT+ lead, said:

“We believe passionately that policing is for everyone, so in every aspect of what we do we must make sure that all people are supported, valued and respected, regardless of their background – this includes people of different identities and sexual orientations.

“We are painfully aware that LGBT+ people in our communities and our workforce can experience prejudice, hate and discrimination as they go about their daily lives. There should be no place for that.  We are committed to tackling crimes against the LGBT+ community and take issues of concern extremely seriously.

“We pride ourselves on our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and making life better for our communities.  Delivering a national conference which will help many in policing to be better informed and able to tackle the issues facing our LGBT+ communities and colleagues, has been a proud milestone in the history of Avon and Somerset Police.”

 

To find out more about our inclusive culture, head to: Our inclusive culture | Avon and Somerset Police

Article | Pride Month – Why Should We Be Proud? – PC Paul Bloomer

June is Pride month

So what exactly is Pride Month?

You may have noticed a lot of businesses and public sector bodies have added rainbow emblems to their logos and social media profiles for the month of June and wondered why.

Here, Constable Paul Bloomer of the Police Service of Northern Ireland LGBT+ Network explains more:

June is celebrated as Pride month across the world as it was the month that the Stonewall uprising occurred in New York on the 28th June 1969. This led to the birth of the modern struggle for LGBT+ equality. On the first anniversary of the uprising in 1970, Brenda Howard helped organise the first ever Pride march; she’s fondly remembered by the LGBT+ community as the ‘mother of Pride.

The Stonewall uprising was widely seen as the turning point for LGBT+ people becoming more accepted in society and receiving better equality protections. June is also the month when most cities across the world have their LGBT+ Pride festivals.

Pride month is about the LGBT+ community coming together to celebrate our identities in order to empower and support each other. It is also an opportunity to educate the wider community by telling our stories of the joy and empowerment we gain from being able to live our lives as our true authentic selves and also our stories of marginalisation and discrimination which, sadly, many of us still face, in particular bi people, trans people, non-binary people and LGBT+ people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Why is it called Pride?

The name Pride was suggested by the American LGBT+ rights campaigner L. Craig Schoonmaker before the first Pride march on 28th June 1970. They said: “A lot of people were very repressed, they were conflicted internally, and didn’t know how to come out and be proud. That’s how the movement was most useful, because they thought, ‘Maybe I should be proud’.

For me, Pride is the opposite of shame. Many LGBT+ people have been taught throughout their lives to be ashamed of their identities, this can cause people to have feelings of self-loathing and lead us to live inauthentic, unhealthy, unhappy lives. Showing people that they can be proud of who they are and that they are surrounded by a community of people who love them, support them and affirm them is so powerful and meaningful.

Sounds great, how do I get involved?

A good way to become involved is to join your workplace’s LGBT+ Network, get involved in their pride participation and be a visible ally. Anyone can be an ally and LGBT+ people can be allies to each other, it’s really important that LGB people are allies to our trans and non-binary community members. It’s important to also think about intersectionality in our allyship and going beyond LGBT+ characteristics, by also being allies to women, to Black, Asian and ethnic minority people and all those from minority backgrounds who experience marginalisation.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that we are creating an environment where people feel that they can be their true authentic selves, so that all of us can be happier, more empowered and more confident in our workplaces. You can do this by listening, being open minded, using inclusive language and standing up when you see homophobic, biphobic or transphobic behaviours.

I think I’m LGBT+ but I don’t feel proud of who I am.

Take a deep breath. That’s ok. There is nothing wrong with you. For a long time society taught us that being LGBT+ was something wrong, dirty, immoral and perverse. We are none of those things, but those messages of intolerance are still pervasive in today’s society, even though we enjoy better acceptance today than generations before us. Many LGBT+ people still hear these messages of intolerance from their friends, family, colleagues and the media. Many of us internalise these messages and convince ourselves that they are true.

They are not true. You are beautiful. You are what you are meant to be. There is a community out there who will affirm and support you. Being LGBT+ is valid and accepted in today’s society and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You cannot change your innate characteristics but you can learn to love yourself and accept yourself.

The only thing you should try to change is to continually strive to be a better version of yourself, educate yourself on the lives of people you don’t understand and work to try to raise up and empower the people around you. If you need support, your LGBT+ Network is there for you too, contact us to get help if you need it. There are also external support services such as The Rainbow Project, Cara-Friend and the LGBT+ switchboard. You are not alone.

 

You can find more information about PC Bloomer in the ‘Our Role Models’ area here

Article | The Legacy of LGBT+ Shame – PC Paul Bloomer

From my school days I remember being taught about the solider Wilfred Owen and the poetry he wrote in the trenches of WW1, I also remember being taught about Alexander the Great and how he established an empire that stretched from modern day Macedonia to Northern India. I was never taught that they had same sex relationships and those relationships were some of the defining aspects of their lives. The wives, husbands and partners of important historical figures have always been included in the recorded history until it comes to LGBT+ people, where they are often conspicuously absent.

For three generations after the war, Alan Turing was deliberately ignored and left out of the historical telling of how the enigma code was cracked, something which was crucial in turning the tide of war against the Nazis. After the war he worked on artificial intelligence, he established the test of an A.I which is still used today, the Turing test. Most people around today know his story thanks to the film ‘The Imitation Game’ but this film and the recognition Alan Turing now receives only came about because of a concerted campaign by LGBT+ activists and educators who lobbied the government to pardon Alan Turing and to address the injustice he had faced, namely the humiliation and pain he had suffered leading up to his death, as well as being left out as a crucial figure of the history of WW2 and computing.

Alan Turing was convicted of Homosexual acts in 1952, the punishment for which was being chemically castrated. This consisted of him being injected with an oestrogen derivative, which caused drastic changes to his mood and body. In 1954 Alan Turing took his own life not able to live with the burden of shame that had been put on him by the society he worked hard to save from fascism. He killed himself with a poisoned apple, some have had said this was an intentional metaphor on his part, as the apple was thought to be the original forbidden fruit.

There is a reason these stories haven’t been taught in schools and this is because there is still a stigma and shame of being LGBT+ in our society.  While it’s easy to think we have all moved on, and some in society collectively pat themselves on the back saying “oh how far we’ve come since then”. It’s still the case that LGBT+ people still live with the legacy of that shame and the adverse mental health effects that it brings.

A study into adverse childhood experience by Dr Vincent Felitti showed that the greater number of extreme negative experiences a child has, the greater the chance they will develop mental health problems in adulthood. The study showed the most damaging experience was “recurrent chronic humiliation”, another way to put this would be to say, ‘being shamed’. Children that experience this dramatically increase the chance they’ll develop self-destructive mental health problems in adulthood. While LGBT+ representation in the media and in wider society has improved, there are still generations of LGBT+ people still alive who didn’t benefit from the more accepting environment that exists today. They grew up feeling ashamed of who and what they were and faced humiliation for that. When faced with this evidence it’s easy to see how LGBT+ people are disproportionately affected by mental health issues.

The writer Matthew Todd said this in a 2018 Guardian article,

“Gay people are not the only ones to suffer such shame, but experts, both gay and straight, agree that gay kids are overwhelmed with it. Many of us grow up, come out and have wonderful and happy lives. For others, the journey can be rockier. Many bury their feelings, hoping they’ll go away, some psychologically “split”, like the heterosexually married men who believe anonymous internet hook-ups don’t count as gay if they happen in secret.”

The legacy of shame can be apparent in the community, a lot of LGBT+ people have the shared experience about the homophobic bully in school who pops up on gay dating sites or in the in a gay bar years after they tormented the ‘queer kid’ in school. A lot of LGBT+ people know a community member who is very vocal about their distaste for LGBT+ pride events, can’t abide butch women/effeminate men, states how they, “aren’t like other gays” and will undertake actions to disempower and undermine other LGBT+ people around them. Behaviours like these can be indicators of internalised homophobia and that the person concerned in some way has a deep rooted shame of their sexuality or gender identity. This self-resentment and internalised homophobia/transphobia can have deleterious effects on a person’s self-esteem, self-worth and mental health. When I see LGBT+ people speak out against equality for their own community I can’t help but think this is a reflection of their own internalised self-hatred. We must show fellowship and support those who struggle with their own shame and not judge them or alienate them but help them see how their behaviours are hurtful to themselves and the wider LGBT+ community.

David Copeland who bombed the Admiral Duncan gay bar in 1999, feared he was gay and violently acted out against the LGBT+ community in London. The most deadly homophobic attack in recent history, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida in 2016 which killed 49 people and wounded 53 others was perpetrated by Omar Mateen. It was widely reported that Mateen, used gay dating apps and met dozens of men for sex in the years leading up to the attack, his ex-wife also believed he was gay. The list of politicians and religious leaders who espouse homophobia and transphobia, who later end up being exposed as having ‘closeted’ affairs with same sex people is seemingly endless.

Of course these are extreme examples, not everyone dealing with the shame of being LGBT+, commits acts of terrorism or promotes hatred, in his book ‘Straight Jacket’ the author Matthew Todd talks about other ways this shame manifests. In the same 2018 Guardian Newspaper article he said,

“Talking about gay shame and self-loathing is not easy. It flies in the face of the message of gay pride that has dominated the gay rights movement of the last 50 years. But we must talk about it. Most people wrestling with shame hurt themselves. Disproportionate numbers of LGBT+ people suffer with self-destructive behaviour. At the end of 2016 we lost George Michael after years of mental health and addiction struggles. A year later, 21-year-old American rapper Lil Peep died from a fentanyl overdose months after he came out as bisexual. The 38-year-old presenter of the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chaser programme, Joel Taylor, died from a GHB overdose on an Atlantis gay cruise. All in a year that saw the usual reports of unsupported LGBT+ teenagers killing themselves, such as a 15-year-old in Stirling, after years of bullying, and a 16-year-old girl whose life-support machine was turned off after doing the same. And so it goes on and on, without much awareness or enough being done to address the situation. It may not fit the narrative we wish to promote but there are huge numbers of people getting themselves into serious situations without enough support. Mental health isn’t “nice” or glamorous or about clinking champagne glasses at fancy events, it’s often about self-hatred, substance abuse, sex and people engaging in extreme behaviour, which many find hard to be sympathetic towards, but that is where the work lies.”

I feel that we LGBT+ people and wider society need to show more compassion for those who struggle with their shame about being LGBT+ and help them have Pride in themselves. We must also educate all young people of the positive contributions LGBT+ people have made to history so that future generations do not have to deal with shame as we do. Many in our community are stuck in a cycle of shame, poor mental health and self-destructive behaviours at the moment and it’s causing serious harm, it’s time to break that cycle. We can do that with compassion, education and continuing the effort to dismantle of the shame of being LGBT+ in our society, allowing all of us to have Pride in ourselves and our identities.

Written by PC Paul Bloomer, PSNI

 

If you need help or support with any of the topics mentioned please see the support services listed below for help and information:

Aware – 07548 530931

Lifeline – 0808 808 8000

Samaritans – 0330 0945717

The Rainbow Project – 02890 319030

LGBT+ Switchboard – 0808 8000390

Police Care UK – 03000120030

Call 4 back up – 03001210999

Our frontline – Text BLUELIGHT to 85258

Article | Reflections on the fight that went before.. – PSNI

It was 2017 before uniformed PSNI officers walked in the Belfast Pride Parade. There was a wave of community support for this move but also a deeply cynical view from many that stemmed from a historical hurt of police discrimination toward the LGBT+ community.

For the LGBT+ community in Northern Ireland change has been slow, but despite this there has always been a lively Queer culture in Belfast, even if it was hidden from view. Putting both these in context of a complex and somewhat dark history of Belfast Queer life I have reflected on some poignant dates in Northern Irish LGBT+ history.

1970- Gay Liberation Movement in Northern Ireland and UK was developing and demanding direct action for equality.

1972- Gay Liberation Society (GLS) at Queens pursued equality alongside law reform.

1974- Cara-Friend was established in Northern Ireland.

1979- The murder of Anthony McCleave. A Belfast Telegraph headline read, ‘Homosexual drowned in own blood’. This disgusting piece of insensitive journalism no doubt compounded the grief of a family who had already faced the tragedy of the sectarian murder of Anthony’s brother, Sammy. Anthony McCleave was a popular porter working in the Belfast City Hospital. On the night of his death Anthony had gone for a drink in the Chariot Rooms, Lower North Street. The Chariot Rooms is fondly remembered by the LGBT+ community as one of the first ‘gay bars’. Shortly after midnight Anthony was found seriously injured in an area close to Chichester Street, a popular cruising area for gay men in Belfast. Anthony was so badly beaten that initial responders thought he had been shot in the head. Despite this the RUC concluded that Anthony was drunk and had fallen. The LGBT+ community were plagued by ‘Queerbashing’ but also gay men in known areas were easy targets during a very dark period in NI history. Most gay men targeted wouldn’t report the assault and robbery because they knew it wouldn’t be investigated or feared they would be the focus of any prosecutions.

1980’s- AIDS crisis and the now famous TV advert hit our screens.

1988- Section 28- making it illegal for local authorities to ‘intentionally promote homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any mainstream school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.

1981- Hugely significant legal case. Dudgeon v United Kingdom, heard in the European Court of Human Rights, created a precedent that homosexuality could not be criminalised in a country which was a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. This case was taken by local man, Jeff Dudgeon MBE, an Ulster Unionist councillor, author and historian. He was arrested in the 1970s when his home was raided at dawn. His papers, letters and diaries were seized and authorities were so intent on prosecution that 22 sets of charge papers were prepared for alleged acts which could not be prosecuted for in England/wales and would not have been prosecuted in Scotland.

1982- Homosexuality was decriminalised in Northern Ireland. (Scotland 1980 and England/Wales 1967) This delay of a quarter of a century meant that an entire generation of gay men grew up under the shadow of shame, believing that their love was a criminal act. In Northern Ireland this was largely due to religious and political views. Rev Ian Paisley 1977 campaign, ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ received significant following.

1990’s- Belfast was still a difficult place to be openly gay. The first Pride Parade was in 1991 and only 117 participants marched, countered by numerous protesters opposed to gay rights.

1997 – Murder of Darren Bradshaw. Darren was a serving RUC officer and a gay man. He was having a night out at the Parliament bar, a popular gay venue in Belfast the time, when two INLA gunmen entered the bar and shot him three times. Darren died at the scene. Initially the RUC refused to acknowledge him as a Police officer and would not honour him at all. The RUC had never refused to claim one of their officers killed in the troubles until Darren Bradshaw. Officers serving at the time who knew Darren say an internal culture of homophobia was responsible for this. A campaign internally by officers eventually saw a memorial instated at the Police College in Garnerville many years after his death.

1998- Good Friday Agreement which began a process which led to significant advances in the legal rights of LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland.

1999- The Northern Irish Human Rights Commission was established.

2002- After an NIHRC report it became illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation in Northern Ireland in employment (2003) and goods/services (2007).

2007- A study found Northern Ireland to be the most homophobic western country.

2008- A prominent NI politician and wife of the first Minister told a reporter that gay people were an ‘abomination’ and made her feel ‘sick’.

2016- Belfast Trans Resource Centre opened.

2018- Historic convictions for abolished homosexual offences in Northern Ireland disregarded and pardoned- available in England and Wales since 2012.

2020- Marriage equality (…FINALLY!)

As 2021 LGBT+ history month draws to a close I think it’s important to reflect on our colourful and difficult past. Above is only a snap shot but many of the dates mentioned marked movement in the struggle for equality and they have been made relatively recently, events in the living memory of the LGBT+ community. We should reflect on how far the LGBT+ community in Northern Ireland have come. Reflect on how much we owe to the brave LGBT+ activists who stood up when their lives were at risk for doing so. And also to remember that the fight for equality is not over and we have to be vigilant now more than ever before to protect the rights that were hard won.

Article | #MoreColoursMorePride – PS Morena Wickham-Thomas

The Rainbow flag is an iconic symbol of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) pride and social movements. The colours reflect the diversity of the LGBTQ community. The flag was the creation of artist and gay activist, Gilbert Baker. Baker was challenged by Harvey Milk to design a symbol of pride for the gay community to replace the Pink Triangle symbol commonly used for the LGBTQ movement. The pink triangle adopted as a symbol of gay rights represented a dark chapter in history and Harvey Milk felt a new symbol was needed to uplift the movement. The original pride flag flew at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on 25th June 1978 and had 8 colours but the most common variant used today has 6 stripes; red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

                                                                                             

The reimagined ‘progress’ flag, first used in its basic striped version in Philadelphia Pride in 2017, and the more recent flag designed by Daniel Quasar incorporates a black and brown chevron to represent black and minority ethnicity (BAME) people. It also includes the white, blue and pink chevron for transgender people. It has been widely adopted recently due to the international focus on Black Lives Matter protests and vitriol in the UK press about Trans lives fuelled by comments made by J K Rowling.

                                                             

Why the need to change such an Iconic symbol?

In June 2018 Stonewall revealed that 51% of LGBTQ BAME people reported having experienced racism from within in the LGBTQ community. The pride flag ironically stands for unity and inclusion but yet BAME people feel they have been marginalised, ignored and excluded. Adding colours to the flag won’t eradicate racism and colourism but it does serve to fuel this important conversation. However the change has not been welcomed by all. The change proved controversial and a fierce debate has raged within the community between those who believe the move inclusive, and a great symbolic gesture to the BAME community,  and those who feel it is unnecessary addition to a piece of iconography that already symbolises universal inclusiveness.

Regardless of your opinion on the flag change no one can ignore the need for true inclusivity and an end to the concerning levels of racism and exclusion experienced by BAME LGBTQ people. Racism isn’t just an issue in the LGBTQ community, but we can be at the forefront of challenging it. The inclusion of black and brown stripes on the pride flag has at the very least highlighted that there is a problem and we are determined to change it.

 

Written by PS Morena Wickham-Thomas

Article | The Origins of LGBT+ History Month – PS Beth Wickham-Thomas

After being founded in 1994 by Missouri high school teacher Rodney Wilson, LGBT+ History Month has evolved into a month long celebration with the taglines- ‘Claiming Our Past, Celebrating Our Present and Creating Our Future’. History Month is observed in the UK, Hungary, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Greenland and the city of Berlin. Times may have changed from years past  when LGBT+ issues were not only taboo but would have been illegal to have been discussed in school but as recently as 2017 a Stonewall Survey found that 2 in 5 of LGBT+ students had never been taught about LGBT+ issues in class.

However, LGBT+ History month is not just for schools it is for everyone. It is a time to learn about the achievements of members of a community that have been hidden, persecuted and discriminated against. It is an opportunity to raise awareness of current prejudices against the LGBT+ community and stand against it.

Why February? In Canada, Australia and the United States LGBT+ History Month is celebrated in October to Coincide with Coming Out Day but is celebrated in the UK in February. Schools Out UK is the founding Organiser of History Month and the first took place in 2005. This came after the abolition of Section 28 in February of 2003. Section 28 stated that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality.’

Themes – Since 2011 the theme has been linked to a subject in the National Curriculum with the first being ‘Sport’ and this year’s being ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’. There are free resources on the LGBT+ History site and lesson plans have been created for teachers on the Schools Out Web Page. Since 2014 the month features LGBT+ persons in order to give LGBT+ students role models and to combat so called ‘straight washing’ of history. The life of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and Trans person has been highlighted each February with this year being the first for a fifth person to highlight the +. Over the next month, we will be introducing this year’s five selected persons. Starting today with Mark Ashton, whose involvement in Lesbians and Gays Support the miners is the basis of the heart felt comedy film ‘Pride’.

For the first time in 2018, Northern Ireland became one of the Schools Out hubs for LGBT+ history month. The PSNI were honoured to take part in partnership with the Ulster museum, officers created a piece about the first uniformed participation in Belfast Pride. This was shown in a special event held in the Ulster museum with the piece forever held in the museum archives.

History Month is important to me as I can use it as an opportunity to learn about the history of my community which has very often been hidden. Having just had my first child I want her to see her family reflected in the books she reads in class and that it is as standard as any other type of family. We are never too old to learn and at the end of the day whether it is LGBT+ History or Black History, it is the history of us all. We are obligated to look at it all not just the bits that suit our own views

Written By Beth Wickham-Thomas – PSNI LGBT+ Network Co-Chair

Article | LGBT+ History Month – Body, Mind, Spirit

Mental health is something that is likely to affect us all in some way during our lives, whether it be ourselves or someone close to us. Research by ‘Rethink Mental Illness’ shows that members of the LGBT+ community are 1 ½ times more likely to be affected by anxiety and depression, and there are a number of contributory factors such as discrimination, struggles with identity, and isolation amongst others.

In recent years, there has been a greater general acceptance and understanding of LGBT+ issues, but there is still a disparity worldwide in terms of LGBT+ rights. Conversion therapy, for example, which sees sexual orientation as an illness that can be cured, is still legal in many parts of the world, including in the UK. There is still a very real and widespread feeling that those from the LGBT+ community are worth less than others, that they don’t deserve the same rights as others, and that they are mentally or physically unwell. Issues like that of conversion therapy only strengthen this feeling and reinforce it to people from the LGBT+ community, as well as dangerously impacting on the perception others hold of them. This can also present a barrier to access to healthcare for members of the LGBT+ community, who fear discrimination and a lack of understanding.

A Stonewall survey in 2018 reported that;

52% of LGBT people said they had experienced depression.

Almost half of Transgender people (46%) have thought about taking their own life.

One in six LGBT people said they drank alcohol almost every day.

One in eight LGBT people said they had experienced some form of discrimination from healthcare staff.

The figures above are more than just statistics – they are the lives of those around us, our friends and our family. This LGBT+ history month, in the spirit of Body, Mind, Spirit, we can focus on looking after ourselves – taking care of our body and mind in turn has a positive impact on our spirit, what makes us who we are.

There are a number of organisations that can provide support to members of the LGBT+ community – The Rainbow Project, Cara-Friend and TransgenderNI for example. However, one of the easiest ways to look after those around you is to ask those three simple words – ‘how are you?’

Wishing all our colleagues a happy LGBT+ History Month 2021 – take care of yourselves and each other.

 

If you need help or support with any of the topics mentioned please see the support services listed below for help and information:

Aware – 07548 530931

Lifeline – 0808 808 8000

Samaritans – 0330 0945717

The Rainbow Project – 02890 319030

LGBT+ Switchboard – 0808 8000390

Police Care UK – 03000120030

Call 4 back up – 03001210999

Our frontline – Text BLUELIGHT to 85258

Article | Diversity and Inclusion- How not to do it

Lessons from the Case of Taylor v. Jaguar Land Rover (2018)

Introduction

This case is likely to be remembered as the first time a UK employment tribunal found that the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ includes persons who identify as non-binary and gender fluid (and probably opened the door for other complex gender identities).  The tribunal’s finding on those matters is at paragraphs 165 to 178 of the judgment and it is likely that these (and the relevant sections from Hansard referred to therein) will be the most quoted paragraphs in future.

However, the case also is useful in another way.  In setting out the clearest failures in dealing with Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) that this barrister (and apparently the tribunal) has seen in 25 years of legal practice, the case may serve as notice to poor employers about what can happen when an employment tribunal shines a light into such dark corners, provide comfort for good employers that they are doing the ‘right thing’ and show employees how they are protected by the work of employment tribunals.  In their concluding remarks the tribunal said:

‘We had not seen a wholesale failure in an organisation of this size in our collective experience as an industrial jury.’ [227]

And:

‘We thought it was astounding that there was nothing in the way of proper support, training and enforcement on diversity and equality until the Claimant raised the issue in 2017 bearing in mind how long the legislation has been in force.’[227]

[Numbers in square brackets are paragraph numbers from the tribunal’s reasons.]

The is an important caveat to introduce before setting out the failures.  The events examined by the tribunal and referred to in this article took place in 2017 and 2018.  At the tribunal, at least by the time of the remedy hearing in October 2020, Jaguar Land Rover (‘JLR’) accepted the depth of their difficulties and willingly took upon themselves recommendations designed to transform the D&I position at JLR.  I am informed that such steps have been underway since 2019 and that much effort is being put into these matters at JLR.  I look forward to writing a different article in a few years’ time setting out the transformation of D&I achieved at JLR and the benefits for the workforce, company and the whole West Midlands community.

So turning to the failures:

Show commitment to D&I

‘the Respondent’s complete lack of commitment to diversity and inclusion’.[79]

‘…the Respondent values its employees’ ability to perform their key roles far more than their personal welfare and wellbeing.’[227]

If you have D&I Structures, ensure they are active and effective

The Diversity Council or Committee ‘is no longer in existence or is entirely moribund’ [7].  The Claimant had been informed that the Cttee ‘didn’t really do anything but could not be god rid of for political reasons’[7].

‘…there was no visible group representing the interests of LGBT+ people..’[15]

‘…sadly apparent… there were no ERG/networks at all.’ [17]

‘…no support mechanisms for staff with protected characteristics…’[17]

If you have policies, make sure relevant staff know about them

‘All of the Respondent’s witness thought there must be (an Equal Opportunities Policy), but none of them had actually seen it’ [8].

‘…although the Respondent has a very good policy, none of those supposed to be implementing it, knew of it.’[162]

If you have policies, train relevant staff on them.

‘All of (the Respondent’s witnesses) appeared to be confused between the Dignity at Work policy … and equality and diversity issues’[9].

‘The sad truth, as this case clearly demonstrates, is that no steps were taken to implement (the equality policy) or bring it to the attention of employees or managers’[9].

‘There was no evidence whatsoever that the managers who gave evidence, or indeed anyone else working for the Respondent had been trained on the Dignity at Work policy’[14].

‘Given that the Respondent had some policies but did little or nothing to publicise or implement them’.[215]

If you have policies, use them

‘he did not look at the procedure’[14].

If you are a large organisation, have relevant experts / points of contact / support for managers

‘… no person designated to deal with diversity and equality issues.’[17]

‘Claimant was dealing with at least four people..’[41]

‘..the Respondent did not engage a specialist…’ [57]

‘Clearly this was not appropriate advice..’[23]

‘The Respondent did not give them the tools or support to deal with a situation such as this…’[226]

‘The advice from HR was woeful’. [226]

Common humanity is a good starting point for managers as a guide to good behaviour…

‘Claimant was told ‘not to be sensitive’ (about comments which amounted to unlawful harassment) [40].

‘What else would you want them to call you’ (in response to C reporting a discriminatory remark) [43].

‘(her line manager) described her as ‘not normal’…’[22]

‘(her line manager’s) response was to laugh at her…’[137]

Be proactive

‘…and nothing was done to nip it in the bud.’ [55]

‘There was nothing (in a grievance response) about the fact that the Claimant was still being subjected to abusive treatment’ [73].

‘..hardly constituted a strong message about the importance of dignity and respect in the workplace’[78]

‘..the Claimant had raised the issue on numerous occasions and nothing had been done’.[120]

‘…wholly unclear that any further investigation was carried out…’[130]

‘The Respondent’s complete failure to protect the claimant from unacceptable harassment.’[132]

‘the Respondent’s total and abject failure to protect her from harassment.’[222]

Do not treat discipline (relying on the identification of perpetrators by victims) as the only possible response to instances of discrimination.

‘There were other ways of sending a clear message that such behaviour is unacceptable and would not be tolerated’[11] .

Deal with causes not symptoms

‘Occupational Health could not deal with the cause, i.e., a sustained course of wholly unacceptable harassment in the workplace’[12].

And a selection of comments you would NOT want to hear being made by the tribunal about your case / your actions / your evidence:

‘Sad truth’… ‘A considerable surprise’…’offensive and unsupportive’…’unproductive and unhelpful’… ‘set off alarm bells’…’no meaningful action’… ‘ a very unhelpful approach’… ‘the Claimant was not supported as an individual’… ‘bland and aspirational’…’ no real value was attached to her as a human being’…’stark contrast’… ‘fanciful’…’a particularly distasteful line of questioning’…’uncomfortable and unpleasant to listen to’… ‘truly unacceptable thing to say’… ‘Hindsight did feature prominently in the Respondent’s evidence in this case.’ ‘…it highlights real and avoidable shortcomings’…’wanton disregard’…’We did consider it to be suspicious’…’surprising, to say the least…’found it hard to believe’…’the argument was totally without merit’…’unattractive, to say the least’…’In this day and age such treatment was frankly unconscionable.’…’we thought it was astounding’…’a lesson to be learned at the highest level’…’systematic failure’…’the Respondent values its employees’ ability to perform their key roles far more than their personal wellbeing.’

 

 

Article written by Robin Moira White

Old Square Chambers

 

 

The full judgement of this case can be found in the Resources section here.

 

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.