Blog | LGBT History Month 2022 – PS Louise Beale

I am in the final few months of my full time role as General Secretary of the Scottish LGBTI Police Association, a full time role within Police Scotland. I have been a police officer for just over 15 years, starting my policing career in West Yorkshire Police and very much in the closet. It was challenging to hide who I was, and without a doubt played a part in feelings of isolation and difficulties in the start of my policing career.

In 2012 I transferred from Leeds to West Lothian, Scotland. Moving from a large multi-cultural city to an economically depressed old mining town, this was a shock to the system to say the least. It also presented an opportunity for me to be my authentic self. From then on, I was, for the most part “out” at work.

It wasn’t until 2018 that I had any involvement with the then Gay Police Association, where after I was nominated by a colleague (and not present at the vote) I was elected “The Women’s Rep”. This was in no small part because, the GPA didn’t have any female representation. At all. I went to a couple of committee meetings but didn’t really have any idea what was going on.

In 2019 through a mixture of lack of alternatives, my current position and timing, I took on the General Secretary role. It was never in my plan of things to do, or career aspirations, so much so, initially I turned down the role. It wasn’t “policing” and what on earth did I know about running a Diversity Staff Association? It wasn’t that long ago I was issuing tickets to drunk people in Bathgate for peeing in the street…

I clearly remember being sat in meetings with very senior officers, not a clue what any of them were talking about, no idea how to write a suitable Briefing Paper and a total sense of horror at the mammoth task ahead of me. Where to even start?

With the exception of 2 people the entire exec committee had quit. I felt a massive sense of responsibility to make things better, if I could, bit by bit and one day at a time. It was often a thankless task and felt not dissimilar, to hitting my head off a brick wall. Frequently. This role has without doubt been the steepest learning curve I have ever had, testing me in ways I never thought possible.

Upon reflection, there have been many successes over the past two and a bit years, although not always apparent at the time. The Association now has a full committee, divisional reps in nearly every geographical division in Scotland; an increase of almost 700% in membership. The introduction of Gender Neutral Hats in Police Scotland, is probably the most visible change, and something we worked on for a long time. Other less visible but perhaps more impactful developments have included the launching of the UK policing’s first LGBT+ reverse mentoring scheme, and putting on a series of events, activities and conferences.

The most important measure of success however has been the legacy. The team that has been built, the stories that have been heard, and the positive changes that have taken place. The Association has gone from strength to strength and I fully expect this to continue under the new General Secretary. Diversity Staff Associations/Networks are an often under-appreciated and under-utilised resource within Policing, if you are reading this and have a network within your force area why not reach out and get in touch? You might be surprised at what you can get involved in and what positive change you can effect in your force. Thank you to everyone who has been part of this journey.

 

Written by Police Sergeant Louise Beale, General Secretary of the Scottish LGBTI Police Association.

Blog | Introduction of Network Co-Chair – Chief Inspector Lee Broadstock

On Wednesday 11th January 2022 the National LGBT+ Police Network held an NCG (National Coordination Group) meeting with the addition of an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM). The EGM being required due to National LGBT+ Police Network Co-Chair Clint Blackburn providing his intention to stand down effective from the December 2021 NCG meeting.

During the EGM, votes were cast by the Regional Representatives on behalf of the LGBT+ Networks that they represent, and Chief Inspector Lee Broadstock of Greater Manchester Police was successful. Lee says:

I was very pleased and proud to have been elected as the new Co-Chair, taking over from Clint. It really is a huge honour to hold the position and to work alongside Amy Tapping, who remains in her first tenure as Co-Chair.

For those that don’t know me, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself:

I am currently an operational Chief Inspector on a busy district in Greater Manchester Police and I have been on the executive committee as either chair or co-chair of GMP’s Pride Network since 2011, so a significant time, and I’m really proud of the achievements and developments made by GMP Pride Network over the past 10 years. Prior to COVID19, Manchester Pride was really well represented by Police participants from across the UK and beyond, and at the Pride Parade in August 2014 the world’s first rainbow liveried police vehicle was launched. It has been amazing to see this idea replicated across the UK and across the globe.

From the connections made at Manchester Pride, the idea for a new National LGBT+ Network was formed and here we are now with what is recognised by the NPCC, College of Policing and other notable stakeholders as the most engaged and impactive staff network in Policing, everyone who has been involved with the National, at Regional level and at a force/agency level should be really proud of this achievement, I know that I am.

With this recognition comes a sense of responsibility that I now share with Amy, and at the NCG meeting, both Amy and I noted how challenging the current climate is and how challenging the next few years will be for LGBT+ policing, but collectively we will meet the challenges and will make Policing UK a better place for our LGBT+ colleagues and for the LGBT+ community. How could we fail with the amazing people we have in our Networks.

I plan for this to be the first of a series of blogs from myself and Amy and also the rest of the NCG team, as the Network is a team, a fantastic and inspiring team.

I would also like to welcome PC Dan Low from Sussex as the new secretary of the Network, taking on my previous role. It was stated that Dan has big shoes to fill, to which I must point out Dan has bigger shoes than me, so he will prove to be excellent as your new secretary.

I cannot end without paying thanks to Clint Blackburn. Clint has been a great Co-Chair and leader and I know he is not far away for advice and guidance. Also thanks to Tracy O’Hara, Lou Provart and Peter Rigby, the previous Co-Chairs who have all played vital parts in making this network what it is today.

And finally, thanks to our outgoing NPCC LGBT+ lead – now retired DCC Julie Cooke. Julie was the most incredible lead and ally for us, and is now a friend to many of us. We are all looking forward to getting to know our new NPCC LGBT+ lead DCC Vanessa Jardine and welcome her into her new role.

Best wishes to you all and enjoy LGBT+ history month 2022 and all of this years upcoming community events

Lee

Blog | LGBT History Month – PC Ashley Toner-Maxwell

PC Ashley Toner-Maxwell – Police Scotland

As a child I absolutely loved sports. I grew up skateboarding and playing football with the boys. So it was a real shame I missed out on so much PE in high school. While the boys played rugby or football outdoors, I spent some PE lessons alone in the changing rooms. Back in the early 2000s it was commonplace for high schools in Scotland to have strictly gendered PE classes. The girls were expected to dance and dancing made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. It still does! It felt like such an injustice. I was 13, and I was being denied doing activities I enjoyed purely because of my gender.

I felt a similar feeling of injustice and confusion when I joined Strathclyde Police as a Special Constable in 2010. I distinctly remember being issued my uniform in a large games hall with the rest of my mostly male cohort. I couldn’t understand why the women were issued cravats and bowler style hats and the men were issued ties and peaked cap style hats. Why, I thought, did the organisation not get rid of the bowler hats and cravats back in the 70s when the skirts, handbags and smaller batons were deemed sexist? It felt repressive. It didn’t cross my mind at that time that there might have been someone in the room who didn’t identify as exclusively male or female. It wouldn’t be until much later in my career I’d recognise the implications of gendered headwear for my non-binary colleagues.

I joined the regular constabulary in 2011 and as I progressed through my first few years, I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable wearing my bowler hat. To me, it reinforced gender stereotypes, made an unnecessary distinction between male and female officers and most significantly, presented a real problem for my non-binary colleagues. I belonged to an organisation committed to positive action and inclusivity yet the unavailability of a gender neutral hat did not align with its values of fairness, integrity and respect.

It wasn’t until 2017 I finally acquired a police baseball cap. At the time it was only worn by public order, firearms and a small number of other specialist officers regardless of their gender. I started to wear it routinely on shift instead of my bowler hat which I promised myself I’d never wear again in support of my non-binary colleagues. I was challenged several times by supervisors as at that time the baseball cap wasn’t compliant with the uniform standards of a response officer. I viewed every confrontation as an opportunity to explain the detrimental impact the current uniform policy was having on some of my colleagues.

In 2018 I took my concerns to the Scottish LGBTI Police Association. I felt heard, validated and empowered to be involved in making a change. I had been a member of the Association since I joined the police but had never been actively involved. It was at this point I decided to join the committee and take on the role of Welfare & Wellbeing rep.

The Scottish LGBTI Police Association, in acknowledgement that gendered headwear directly affected some of its members, worked tirelessly for change at every available opportunity.

On the 28th of August 2019 Police Scotland published a memo granting permission for all officers to wear gender neutral headwear (in the form of the police baseball cap) should they wish to do so. Although an interim solution, I felt delighted and relieved by the news. This was one of the biggest changes to uniform policy in many years. The Scottish LGBTI Police Association are now focusing efforts on the move to one single, gender neutral style of hat for all.

This experience taught me the importance of being persistent, the influence of staff associations and the power in always standing up for what you believe in. I now feel very comfortable in my uniform in the knowledge that Police Scotland understands and respects the importance of gender identity and expression for LGBT+ staff.

 

                    “If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

                                                                                                                                                         Desmond Tutu

Blog | My Coming Out Story – Supt Paul Court

My Coming Out Story…

“In coming out, I want to be the person I was born. I want to be able to enjoy my successes without having the issue hanging over me. I want to be able to find somebody to share my life with”

This is an extract from my coming out letter. It took me four years to draft. At the time I wrote:

“I have thought about telling you all at some point but the occasion never feels right. And when it does, I worry about the reaction that I will get. So I have written what I need to say in a letter. It’s probably the wimp’s way out. That said, writing this letter is the hardest thing I have ever had to do”.

I never did send the letter but instead I shared it in person with Joanne, my sister, shortly after having nearly been found out one evening in March 2011 when my mum came to my house unexpectedly to tell me about the death of my grandad. A frantic panic ensued as I attempted to hide the secret boyfriend whilst my mum stood outside (my contingency plans hadn’t considered the ‘death message’ scenario!) Needless to say, the kerfuffle then prompted some inquisitive questions from the family. In the nine months that followed, I would share the letter with each family member one at a time. Each time was as equally traumatic as the previous, albeit it never needed to be.

When I share my coming out story with others, I usually get asked the same curious questions and so I thought I would try to answer these questions using direct extracts from my coming out letter:

When did you know you were gay?

“I have known since high school and I have done everything I can to change. I have thought about how I can get rid of this secret every day for the last ten years”.
Why didn’t you come out earlier?

“The main reason is that until now, I haven’t been able to accept who I am. I’ve hoped it will go away and that I will meet a girl (I’ve tried that and it didn’t work!) I also haven’t told you because I worry about the consequences of people knowing I’m gay, both in my private life and in my work life. I’m not expecting that everyone is going to take this well. I accept that I may have fewer friends than I started with. I am accepting that I am likely to be subject to abuse, prejudice, discrimination and people talking behind my back. I am accepting that I will forever have to correct people about the assumptions they make. I am accepting that I may lose people close to me who can’t accept me for who I am. I am accepting that I may hurt people when they find out I have been dishonest with them.”

So what happened when you came out?

“I hope everyone who reads this letter feels they are able to speak to me openly about my sexuality. I hope that I will have the same support from my family and friends that I have always had. I hope that my friends still want to be my friends because they like me for who I am. I hope my family can still feel proud of what I have achieved and will go
on to achieve. I hope you have the strength and courage to be able to tell people I am gay without shame and to defend me from those who mock. I hope I will have your discretion and support.”

The good news is that all my hopes were realised. My family, friends and colleagues without exception, provided unwavering support. But whilst I have told you about how I first came out, coming out isn’t a single event. And it doesn’t always happen on your own terms, for instance when the Command Team secretary read my vetting form without my knowledge and found out I was gay before any of my family. Or when I was homophobically assaulted in the city centre which effectively outed me to the whole organisation (the offender received six months imprisonment). Or the many occasions when I am asked about my wife and have to correct people (or sometimes not if I feel too awkward doing so). And whilst it does get easier, each time is stressful and each time requires a quick decision as to whether it is safe.

So, what can we do to help? Well from my own experiences, there are a few simple things we could all commit to on National Coming Out Day to help others:

  1. If your colleague avoids talking about their weekends or time off, be sensitive to the fact that there may be a reason for that.
  2. Consider your use of language when asking about someone’s partner so as to avoid assuming their gender. It is the most common cause of my repeated ’coming out’.
  3. At the point someone comes out to you, know that they may be at their most vulnerable and it may have taken them years to build up the courage to say those words to you. Be kind, be compassionate, be sensitive. It is a huge compliment that they trust you.
  4. Challenge processes within your force that may out people e.g. vetting forms being passed to line managers rather than direct to the force vetting unit. In doing so you are helping those who can’t speak up for fear of outing themselves.

These simple things will undoubtedly make life a little easier for those who aren’t out. As I sign off, I wanted to finish with a final last extract from my letter:

“No matter how scared I feel at the moment at the consequences of sending this letter, I feel like the biggest burden has been lifted from my shoulders”

Whilst coming out was the hardest thing I have done, it was the best decision I made in lifting the biggest burden. Thought it wasn’t only me it impacted. After reading this blog Joanne messaged me:

“I remember your coming out to me extremely vividly. On that day, my life changed and I suddenly saw all the minorities in the world in a different way. It made me a significantly better person”.

Until next time…

Paul

P.S. If you are considering coming out or you are the parent of a child who you think may be LGBT+, this Stonewall page has some really helpful guidance.

 

Written by Superintendent Paul Court, LGBT Reserve for the National Executive Committee of the Police Superintendents Association.

You can find more information about Supt Court in the ‘Our People’ area here.

Blog | International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia – PC Paul Bloomer

It’s IDAHoBiT, the day when the LGBT+ community and our allies the world over come together to stand against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. I’d invite anyone to look at the many positive messages Police Services and Criminal Justice agencies all across the UK are putting out on IDAHoBiT, this isn’t cynical box ticking, it’s part of a genuine effort to reach out.

This year the theme is, Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing. Reflecting on this theme led me to look back on the past 15 months, at how the pandemic exposed some of the deepest divisions in our society, while the murder of George Floyd by a police officer drew out righteous anger from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities across the globe. At home, LGBT+ people saw great strides forward, with Marriage equality finally being granted to those in my own country and commitments from the Northern Ireland Assembly to ban conversion therapy. While progress is always welcome I can’t help but recognise that within some Black, Asian and Minority ethnic communities mistrust towards police has deepened, also many trans people within our community struggle to access healthcare, while reports of Transgender hate crime have increased sharply in recent years, and yet we know that many incidents still go unreported.

Most people won’t think twice about calling police if they have been a victim of crime or to report an incident, however for many people from marginalised communities such as Black communities and trans people, the thought of speaking to a police officer can bring about feelings of anxiety or even fear.

Not being able to engage with Police, means that these crimes not only go undocumented but crucially those victims never get support from the criminal justice system, nor any semblance of the justice a victim of crime deserves. There are fantastic 3rd party reporting and hate crime advocacy schemes such as those run by Citizen’s Advice, Stop Hate UK and here in Northern Ireland, the Rainbow Project. These amazing schemes aim to help people report the hate crime they are suffering without having to engage directly with Police at the onset. While it’s great that these schemes exist, they don’t preclude police from making efforts to build trust with those marginalised communities, in fact it’s more important than ever for police to do just that. Myself and the vast majority of us within policing acknowledge how important it is, that those of us in Policing do all we can to reach out to marginalised people including taking innovative and novel approaches to specific communities in order to help them feel safe, secure and empowered with the knowledge that we will stand up to protect them from hate, and that where they are victims of hate, we will do all we can to bring the offenders to justice.

Policing is not a static, immovable institution, policing is constantly evolving and changing alongside society, with many police services having whole departments devoted to innovation and change. Policing today is vastly different to how it was 40 years ago and almost unrecognisable to the 40 years before that, nowhere is that change more obvious than in my home country. It’s so important that as we grow and change, the voices and lived experiences of marginalised people are heard and understood by those who are able to drive that change.

This brings me back to the theme of this year’s IDAHoBiT, Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing. For Police and communities alike we must come together, to try overcoming that which divides us, and work to make policing better by driving that positive change, so that those most vulnerable to hate crime, have the access to justice that everyone in our society is entitled to. We must resist hate crime together, supporting one another and ensuring that victims of crime can have the healing that can be achieved by obtaining support and justice.

On this day, which for me has always been about standing against hatred, I call upon my colleagues to continue those efforts to reach out and engage with marginalised communities, this means for us to be prepared to listen, be open to change and open to challenges from the communities we serve, while being resolute in our duty to protect people from harm. For those communities who have mistrust or doubt in Policing, I ask you not to suffer hate alone, please report it to us. Please engage with your local police officers, engage with your local Police and Community Safety partnerships and tell us what you need so that we can serve you better. Please challenge us to do better and work in partnership with us to help keep you safe. Please give us the chance to help you, protect you and support you.

We must acknowledge the very real historical and current difficulties between Policing and some marginalised communities. We must overcome these together, because if we don’t we cannot make progress, people will continue to suffer hate crime and not have access to justice. We may never be able to drive out hate completely from our society, but I have seen that when communities, police and partner agencies work together, we can make hate incidents an extremely rare occurrence rather than a daily fact of life for some people. We can’t do that without our communities on board to help.

Nothing will change if we all stay the same. We all must change and grow for the betterment of all. It will take real effort on all sides but I believe that together; resisting hate and supporting each other can lead to healing.

 

Written by Police Constable Paul Bloomer, Co-Chair of the Police Service NI LGBT+ Network & Regional Representative.

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

 

Blog | International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia – PC Amy Tapping

Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing

When writing this Blog I wanted to reflect on what IDAHoBiT means to me as police officer. I joined policing in 2004, the same year this day was created and first celebrated.

When joining the police as a gay woman I didn’t see a need for me to join any staff associations or networks, I was blinkered to the diversity of LGBT+ outside of my own circle of friends so now as Co-Chair of the National LGBT+ Police Network, I recognise the responsibility and need to stand up and be heard for those that are not in a position to do so.

I look to my role as a police officer, an aspect of the Oath I took back in 2004 was to Prevent offences against people, in the case of IDAHoBiT, offences motivated by hostility or prejudice of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. I consider what is my influence on this?

I consider the historically poor relationship between the police and those who identify as LGBT+. My role and that of my predecessors is to make change and to improve this situation. I want to help create that trust and confidence in the police so all are confident to approach a police officer if they are a victim of Domestic Abuse, Sexual Abuse or Hate crime.

My role and that of my predecessors is to create opportunities for that trust and confidence to grow. I do this firstly by challenging those leaders in UK policing, encouraging them to see and think about how the decisions they make affect our communities or diversity in the police service. This is to effect positive change in policy and procedure and to remove bias where it may exist, consciously and subconsciously.

I then look outside of the police and how to reassure all under the LGBT+ umbrella they can have confidence in UK Policing. What do I do as an individual?

I wear my rainbow epaulettes, I use my social media accounts to support days of recognition and highlight the good work we are doing. I continue to report to the social media platform holders any harmful comments. I identify which could cause harm and of course I will report anything I consider constitutes a crime. I proudly walk in my uniform in a pride parade; this is my identity and I am proud of my uniform. By bringing my whole self to work, and consistently raising issues and pushing for positive change.

Taking all this into account I look to this year’s theme of Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing. Together with my colleagues across the country and with 3rd party organisations I will resist those who wish to cause harm to our diverse communities, We will support and safeguard those who need it striving for the changes needed at all levels. Finally I will continue to work to heal the rift between various individuals and groups of individuals whose trust we need to build. The first action towards this is the Network’s Intersectionality working group from whom the national network will use to educate ourselves and create a deeper understanding of the needs of our larger LGBT+ family.

 

 

Written by Police Constable Amy Tapping, Co-Chair of the National LGBT+ Police Network.

You can find more information about PC Tapping in the ‘Our Leaders’ area here.

 

Blog | International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia – DCC Julie Cooke

IDAHoBiT is marked each year allowing individuals and groups to stand together with LGBT+ people against discrimination and abuse. IDAHoBiT started in 2004 to draw attention to LGBT+ equality issues and to highlight progress being made throughout the world. The day was designated due to the 1990 World Health Organisation’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder…that is right…1990!

IDAHoBiT 2021 theme is – Together, Resisting, Supporting, Healing! In the context of the last year and a bit, I think we all need and want to be together in some way. I recently wrote to all Chief Constables asking them to support their staff during Pride Season – to attend parades or events, knowing that this is so important for the wellbeing of LGBT+ people. We absolutely need to support each other and I am a firm believer that at some point, we all need some form of support. And when it comes to healing….a decision was made 31 years ago to declassify being gay as a mental disorder; I find myself talking about this and often question the date – like I do each time I say out loud that it was in 2014 that the first same-sex marriage occurred in the U.K!

So, this year when I think of IDAHoBiT, I consider how many people there are who suffer some form of LGBT+ abuse but they don’t have the confidence to tell anyone about it, seek support or report it to the police. It then makes me think of role models – are there enough people out there who you recognise as being like yourself and help to build that confidence for you?

On many occasions I’ve heard it said that “You can’t be what you can’t see”. This was headlined in an article about how to get more women in Tech businesses, the premise being that to get women into tech, you need to show women in leading roles in tech companies…anyhow…it caught my eye. The quote has also been attributed to civil rights activists and others. The great thing about quotes is that they can mean different things to different people and for me I relate it to Role Models. How can you succeed in Policing if you do not see successful colleagues that look like you or stand for the same things as you?

There has been much work in UK Policing over the years to increase the diversity of our people -especially BAME and LGBT+. This goes back to the founding Peelian principles of Policing in England and Wales that “the police are the public and the public are the police”.

I was delighted earlier this year to Tweet my support for CC Adrian Hanstock, the first gay man to be the Chief Constable of a British Police force. This is to be celebrated, but at the same time we could ask, why did it take so long? We will never be able to wholly answer the question definitively, but here are my thoughts……

Adrian is quoted in an article explaining that British Policing a few years ago was not the most willing to embrace difference. Views on homosexuality were often hostile and suspicious. Adrian’s story is not dissimilar to many I have heard, from officers and staff of various backgrounds. Time and time again I have heard that people could not be themselves and tried to hide their true self, in fear of discrimination or abuse. This was not just in Policing, but if we are honest, it was reflective of the general societal view; or at least how general societal opinion was voiced at the time (in the 1980’s).

At that time there were few LGBT+ role models for people in Policing; and for people to feel comfortable in their job and to excel in their profession, it must have been very difficult. So, I am proud to say that this year we have published our LGBT+ role models in policing booklet. There are 34 role models across a great diversity of LGBT+ identities, all of whom have a part in policing. I believe it will enable LGBT+ people, internally and externally, to recognise people like themselves and have confidence to be themselves or indeed confidence to report if they are a victim of homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate.

I remain determined in resisting the often ignorant calls of “why do we still need rainbows, why do we need a lanyard, why do we need Pride” – I would love to respond by simply saying “see above”. But whether you are a LGBT+, an ally, a family member, friend or colleague – if you just stop and think about the fact that it was only 7 years ago, that 2 men or 2 women were able to get married, then that is the reason we still need to wave rainbow flags! That colleagues of mine tell me they risk-assess public displays of affection or whether it is safe to hold hands, something easily taken for granted by so many. There are many issues that still need addressing and as National Police Chiefs’ Council LGBT+ portfolio lead, I hear the continued calls for parity for all communities and people. It is only when someone is accepted, respected and allowed to live their life as who they are, that they can begin to heal.

In policing it is our aim to be as representative of our communities as we can be. This will assist in educating all our staff to recognise all forms of hate, specifically homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate, encourage people to report and then deal with it as well as possible.

For my sign off today, I would just like say – be kind, be polite and be a role model, you just never know who is watching you and the impact you can have on someone’s life.

 

 

 

Written by Deputy Chief Constable Julie Cooke, NPCC Lead for LGBT+.

You can find more information about DCC Cooke in the NPCC Portfolio area here.

Blog | Policing and LGBT+ History Month 2021 – DCC Julie Cooke

After an extremely challenging year for many of us, this year’s LGBTHM seems more poignant than ever. I have taken time to reflect on the many blogs, articles and social media posts which have been shared by colleagues and our LGBT+ communities. I have done this with the backdrop of It’s a Sin and the memories that has evoked in many, myself included. If I am honest, this month alongside that TV series, has spurred me on to do more and make more progress.

I have remained connected, via our National Police LGBT+ network, with local networks to ensure we are there for each other. I have been so aware of the isolation, the lack of LGBT+ community events, no Pride season, people/colleagues living in anti-trans or homophobic, biphobic homes or relationships during Covid and the impact this has had on so many.

I am the National Police Chiefs’ lead for LGBT+ and I am a proud ally for my LGBT+ Police colleagues.  I have had this role now for 4 years and I volunteered to do it because I want inclusion for all within policing and within society. My focus is LGBT+ as that is the portfolio I lead on; and we have other leads for race, religion and belief; gender; disability; age; gypsy Roma & Traveller and many other aspects of policing. We are all working towards a much more representative and inclusive policing organisation. This is vital and a key Peelian principle, we are the public and the public are the Police.

When challenged about the work I do around LGBT+, be it on social media or otherwise, I reassure myself that no I am not virtue signalling, (meaning that I do this work to try to show others that I am a good person….. and want to say things that will be accepted by others.). I am doing the right thing for the right reasons. This is to ensure we work within the Equality Act, that we deliver on our public sector duty and that I do all I can to ensure every single Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Non-Binary colleague, can come to work each day knowing they can be themselves.

I wanted to reflect on why we have LGBT+ History Month (LGBTHM). The event came in the wake of the abolition of Section 28 (of the Local Government Act 1988) in 2003, which stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. This meant that LGBT+ teachers and pupils were not allowed to be open about who they were and conversations could not take place. Only a couple of days ago I heard a non-binary police officer talking about going to school under S28 – ‘6 years of bullying…my life was utter hell’ – and no one could stand by them and support them. This was following on from the extremely homophobic AIDS epidemic and at a time when LGBT+ people still could not marry or adopt, nor did they have protection in some basic laws.

As the National Police Chiefs’ lead for LGBT+, it is a time to consider where are we now with LGBT+ inclusion within policing and take a look at the battles that have taken place over the years purely for LGBT+ people to be accepted. I looked on the LGBTHM website which said ‘educate out prejudice and make LGBT+ people visible in all their rich diversity’. I find it incredible when I hear people being negative about someone simply because they are LGBT+, when it is so obvious just how much of a difference it makes to have a society and workforce that is made up of rich diversity. Difference makes such a big difference.

So what is it about our society that still makes people worried about telling others they’re LGBT+? Many people ask me why we still need to keep pushing LGBT+ inclusion as everything is fine these days. And yet when we hear of a top class sport person, TV celebrity or other well know person coming out as gay or bi or trans, it is newsworthy and surprising for people and still causes discussion and support, as well as negativity and hate. When did I come out as straight – well of course never? But it still remains a big thing for some people in the LGBT+ community to be able to honest about who they are.

I can walk down the street holding hands with my husband and no one bats an eye lid. When two women or two men walk down the street holding hands, then they may get looked at, pointed at, stared at, verbally abused or even physically attacked. And if you’re trans – you will be extra vigilant about being able to be you most days. The impact this can have on someone’s wellbeing is huge and we all have to be allies for each other, regardless of whether or not we are part of the LGBT+ community. These are our colleagues and friends and many are not afforded the same rights or privileges that non-LGBT+ people are. Human rights are not politics and my support of LGBT+ matters is about doing the right thing and making our workplaces welcoming and inclusive.

I am also told that I should get on with proper policing – lock up burglars, robbers, paedophiles etc.  And of course we do that and I lead a force where my officers and staff are doing that on a daily basis. Those within LGBT+ networks and those running LGBT+ social media accounts, all have busy, full time jobs embracing many, many varied roles in policing. The work they do to progress LGBT+ equality is often done in their own time and with good will and intention.

The work I do is to ensure that we attract the very best into Policing, to encourage a wide diversity of officers and staff (our duty to be representative of our communities); that we are an inclusive organisation; that our staff can deliver their best by being able to be open about who they are (if they wish); and our communities are likely to get a better service because we educate our staff about all elements of society – including LGBT+.

So why am I writing this article? I want to continue to raise awareness that it’s still not always easy to be LGBT+ in policing. Many people will say – ‘why do we still need to march at Pride, why all the rainbows, aren’t we done with that now’? Well the answer is a deafening ‘No’. Although many of us know someone who is lesbian or gay and therefore have some sort of understanding, a lot of people have no understanding of being Bisexual (Bi) or Trans. I speak regularly to police colleagues who are lesbian, gay, bi, trans, non-binary, intersex; their experiences enrich me, they make me think differently and that can only be a good thing. I want to make sure that they get the support they need to feel valid about who they are and can feel confident in work.

Thankfully our workforce make up is changing. Trans colleagues are feeling more confident than ever to be themselves, there are supportive leaders, networks and teams out there. We still see however that all too often their identity is questioned, queried in a way many others are not. It is in my gift to ensure that we continue the dialogue, the conversations, the education and the awareness of trans matters.

People don’t choose to be trans, they are trans and they are trying to live the life to which they are entitled. I am working with many internal departments and areas of business to continue to update systems, working within the law to progress LGBT+ matters across the piece.

As I close this article I am delighted to see that the MoD is allowing former personnel discharged over their sexuality to have their medals restored. And in policing we are about to publish our new LGBTQ+ Role Models booklet – such great diversity of people in policing who can be role models and advocates for others. Every day in February the National LGBT+ Police Network has tweeted about a piece of LGBT+ history – some of it has shown the incredible bravery of individuals who have fought to ensure inclusion for all LGBT+ people – but some seem disappointing that it has taken so long for parity and equality for LGBT+ people. We have also seen what we believe to be a first in Policing with Adrian Hanstock becoming the first openly Gay male to be Chief Constable at BTP.

So as we head towards Pride season – and hopefully the opportunity this year for something other than virtual Pride – consider what it’s like to be persecuted just because of the person you love or the person you are. People don’t choose their sexual orientation or gender identity, it’s who they are. And like everyone else, they have the right to feel comfortable and confident in work as well as when they walk down the street. Every day, thousands of LGBT+ officers and staff in the service help to keep the public safe and build bridges with their local communities (giving them confidence to report the abuses they face). Reflecting on the past, and the importance of celebrating LGBT+ History Month, I would like to celebrate the successes of our LGBT+ staff and thank them for their contribution and ask others to consider what they can do to be a positive ally. The impact of being visible and wearing a rainbow badge or lanyard is incredible, working with your local LGBT+ networks and supporting their work makes a huge difference. Whilst an ally who calls out Homophobia / Biphobia / Transphobia and explains why what was said may impact in a certain way, especially when there aren’t LGBT+ staff in the room is a valuable asset to any team.

The work continues all year round to progress LGBT+ matters and I am proud to be the lead for this NPCC portfolio.

Thank you for reading.

 

Written by Deputy Chief Constable Julie Cooke, NPCC Lead for LGBT+

You can find more information about DCC Cooke in the NPCC Portfolio area here.