Profile | Tracy O’Hara | Lesbian Day of Visibility

Today is Lesbian Day of Visibility. A day where we celebrate and acknowledge the lives and contributions of members of the lesbian community. This year, we are proud to profile some of our members and share what Lesbian Day of Visibility means to them.

 

Detective Constable Tracy O’Hara QPM – Merseyside Police

I feel it is important for LGBT+ youth to see a reflection of themselves in the Police service. This is why I am happy to share my story on Lesbian visibility day 2021. It has been a tough year for our communities and not having LGBT+ spaces, events and Pride has made it even more difficult to feel a part of things. So to take part in this and to feel connected is wonderful.

I have been out since I was 21 when I first truly became aware that I am a Lesbian. I joined the Police in 1996 and back then, I didn’t come out due to the environment in which I worked. Very soon though with the help of our Police LGBT+ network, I was out and proud. I can be myself. It is vital for my own mental health, for my managers as I perform better when I am not hiding myself.

I am proud of who I am. I have achieved my childhood dream to be a Detective, I live with my girlfriend and our dog, I recently passed the sergeants exam and I have even been recognised by Her Majesty the Queen for my services to policing. It is vital I am visible, I am proud and I am me. Being a Lesbian, I feel, is something to celebrate not to hide. It makes me who I am.

Profile | Jacqui Prest | Lesbian Day of Visibility

Today is Lesbian Day of Visibility. A day where we celebrate and acknowledge the lives and contributions of members of the lesbian community. This year, we are proud to profile some of our members and share what Lesbian Day of Visibility means to them.

 

Inspector Jacqui Prest – Merseyside Police

Hi my name is Jacqui and I wanted to share with you a little of my life journey, from trying to hide my true self to finally being empowered to stand tall, dance through the streets of Manchester and be very open about being a gay woman.

I have always been attracted to the same sex from early primary school, through Secondary school and into College. All that time I knew these feelings were not the ‘norm’, so I pushed my feelings down so deep, I would banish any thoughts as ridiculous and certainly didn’t, couldn’t talk about them to anyone. I was so confused, scared about acceptance from my family and friends I became emotional and angry almost all of the time, my poor mother knew there was something going on.

I have 4 brothers and 2 are also gay but that didn’t help when one Sunday I asked my brothers for help to tell her I was also gay, I can still hear her scream and then run past me as she entered my bedroom and through everything I had onto the streets. It took around 12 months for our relationship to get back on track but it did, I know sadly many don’t.

In 1997 I joined Merseyside Police and once again I went back into the closet. At home and in my social life I was my true self but I did not feel strong enough to be myself at work so I hid the true me from everyone I worked with.  My life must have seemed so dull to them, I dreaded the questions about boyfriends and what I got up to at the weekend (if only they knew) a far cry from the black and white uniform my weekends were full of rainbows, dancing and romance.

As friendships were formed in Merseyside I realised I wasn’t the only person hiding my sexuality in the job, and we had a shared sense of secrecy.  I would watch police officers marching at Manchester Pride and feel excitement about what could be, but then I would return to work and listen to the comments and my rainbow screaming to get out would stay quiet and hidden.

In 2007 I transferred to GMP and from day one I brought my true authentic self to work, and I have never looked back. I now march and dance in uniform at Manchester Pride every year, the acceptance and sense of overwhelming pride is something everyone should experience. In 2015 I was promoted to Inspector and I have been the proud chair of GMPs Pride Network for over 5 years. The struggles for acceptance and equality are still there, they are getting better.  I am privileged to know and work with inspirational officers and allies who have and continue to pave the way for others.

Please look for the support around you, seek out your Pride Networks they will be a great support to you and most of all be you, bring your rainbow with you wherever you are, whatever you do and shine.

Profile | Tabetha Dale | Lesbian Day of Visibility

Today is Lesbian Day of Visibility. A day where we celebrate and acknowledge the lives and contributions of members of the lesbian community. This year, we are proud to profile some of our members and share what Lesbian Day of Visibility means to them.

 

Learning Design Specialist Tabetha Dale – College of Policing

I never expected to be a lesbian. Life threw me a curve ball in the mid 90’s when I met a woman who would become my first girlfriend. It knocked me sideways because I was married to a man and had a 2 year old daughter. What followed was lots of questioning of who I am, why this happened to me, emotional turmoil, stress, anxiety and of course a Decree Absolute. But I got through it with support from friends and family and I developed amazing friendships with other lesbians who have been a constant source of support. They introduced me to my first Pride event and the concept of ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ – something which still makes me smile today when I think about it – apparently I’m ‘femme’! They were never ashamed of who they were or what they stood for. I’ve seen the discrimination they have suffered for being who they are, including physical assault, and they are incredible strong women.

My ‘squiggly’ personal life has mirrored my equally ‘squiggly’ career. I now work at the College of Policing in the beautiful surroundings of Harperley Hall, County Durham. I’m a Learning Design Specialist which means myself and my team mates design modern learning solutions for a modern and diverse police workforce. I feel very privileged to be part of the College. It’s a really diverse place to work where I can be myself and I don’t need to hide who I am. I’m actively involved in the LGBT+ Network and have taken a lead in working with other LGBT+ colleagues and allies in raising awareness across my workplace, the College of policing. I’ve met, and made friends with, lots of colleagues at the College of Policing and developed great friendships with some equally great lesbians. 

Lesbian Visibility Week reminds me of who I am, how special it is to be lesbian, the journey I have taken and the friends I have made. It also reminds me of how incredibly lucky I am to have the freedom to be who I want to be and not live in fear.

Profile | Annabel Warde | Lesbian Day of Visibility

Today is Lesbian Day of Visibility. A day where we celebrate and acknowledge the lives and contributions of members of the lesbian community. This year, we are proud to profile some of our members and share what Lesbian Day of Visibility means to them.

 

Intelligence Analyst Annabel Warde – City of London Police

I’ve been immersed in the world of policing for a little over two years now, having initially discovered my passion for it whilst studying towards a master’s degree in Criminology.

I currently work as an intelligence analyst for City of London Police within a specialist national-taskforce – the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED).

I enjoy policing as it provides me with a unique insight into my community. It also gives me a deep sense of satisfaction, in light of the real-world impact that my work has. The challenges you face are constantly evolving, which provides an opportunity to be creative in your approach and to “think outside the box”.

Historically, the Police, as an institution, has been viewed negatively by the LGBTQ+ community and, more generally, by those who are marginalised or under-represented within society. One of my key motivators for joining was to help change that perception, and to provide representation within the force, both as a female and a lesbian.

I have been open about my sexuality with my friends and colleagues since I was a teenager, but it was only recently, during lockdown, that I opened up to my immediate family.

I grew up in a very small village in the New Forest, which, in comparison to London, wasn’t diverse at all. With very little exposure to others that identified as lesbian, or LGBTQ+, it was really difficult to come to terms with and accept my identity.

Being lesbian was, and still is, hugely stigmatised and often viewed through a narrow lens of homophobic tropes and stereotypes. Therefore, like many others, staying in the closet felt like the only option for acceptance. In more recent years, lesbians have become better represented in many areas of society – politics, pop-culture, social media, film, TV, athletics, arts, and literature. This greater visibility helped me to legitimise my own identity and understand that sexuality is never something to be ashamed of.

Since coming out, I have been incredibly fortunate that my friends and family have been nothing but supportive. I hope that providing visibility within the force, and in my personal life, encourages others – particularly those struggling to come out – to be their true, authentic selves, and normalises identities within the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Profile | Danni Gibson | Lesbian Day of Visibility

Today is Lesbian Day of Visibility. A day where we celebrate and acknowledge the lives and contributions of members of the lesbian community. This year, we are proud to profile some of our members and share what Lesbian Day of Visibility means to them.

 

Police Constable Danni Gibson – Cleveland Police

Hello I am Danni Gibson, and I am proud to be the current chair of the LGBT+ Network

I have been involved in the LGBT+ Network since we relaunched in 2015, and been Chair for the network since 2017.

I love being part of something that has many different functions within the force and representing Cleveland at national LGBT+ events.

I feel it is important for LGBT+ visibility to show support for all officers and staff. I am passionate about `driving forward the fact that every person should feel comfortable and confident to come to work and be their true selves without discrimination.

I identify as lesbian, and have been out within the work environment since I joined Cleveland Police as a PCSO in 2010. I felt that it was important that I could come to work and completely be myself with colleagues.

Growing up, I never saw anyone on TV, in life, police officers that were ‘like me’. I never knew anyone who was LGBT until I went to university in 2004. I believe this is the reason I didn’t understand my sexuality, or talk about it until then. This is when I finally felt completely myself!

This is one reason why I feel it is really significant for me personally to be open. If this encourages a colleague or friend to come to me if they are struggling with their sexuality, or to just be more comfortable to be who they are, then I am completely happy with that. Today there are many more lesbians visible, on TV, films, social media and in society in general. I think this is a huge help for young people to be more at ease to come out and not be in fear of doing so.

Lesbian Visibility Day is a day to recognise those who identify as lesbian, celebrate and embrace diversity. It is also important that Lesbian Visibility Day is used to educate around stereotypes of what it is to be a lesbian and that we aren’t all ‘femme’ or ‘butch’, that every person is individual and have their own identity, regardless of sexuality.

Profile | Louise Beale | Lesbian Day of Visibility

Today is Lesbian Day of Visibility. A day where we celebrate and acknowledge the lives and contributions of members of the lesbian community. This year, we are proud to profile some of our members and share what Lesbian Day of Visibility means to them.

 

Police Sergeant Louise Beale – Police Scotland

I am Louise, a Police Sergeant in Police Scotland. I have previously worked in West Yorkshire Police and then Lothian and Borders before the amalgamation to Police Scotland. I am currently the General Secretary of the Scottish LGBTI Police Association.

“You can’t be what you can’t see”, the wise words of Marie Wilson continue to strongly resonate with me to this day and especially within policing. It is just over 100 years since Edith Smith became the UK’s first female police officer and since then there have been significant changes and increase in representation of women. In Police Scotland around 32% of police officers are women; huge progress has been made with increasing representation. Slowly, this will be the same for representation of the LGBT community within all walks of life, including policing.

In 2017 Dame Cressida Dick, the current commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, publically came “out” making her the highest ranking gay officer in UK policing and a role model for many. For a variety of reasons, there are still members of the LGBT community who do not feel safe to be “Out” at work within policing. People need the self-confidence to be their authentic selves but also have confidence in the organisation. Currently, many staff and officers in UK policing “choose not to disclose” when it comes to identifying their sexual orientation, thereby showing we have a long way to go still. This is important because the police must attract and retain the best people for the job including those who are from minority groups. In the UK, we police by consent. To do so legitimately we must be reflective of the communities we serve, that includes those from often “invisible minorities” of the LGBT community. It makes sense that we need more visible role models in policing to encourage others to follow suit.

In recent weeks I was confided in by a colleague who was inspired to train in Public Order after seeing me on duty as being the only female Public Order Officer at an organised event.  As a Public Order officer and a Public Order Medic, I am in the minority in this role, but it never occurred to me that by just being visible I can inspire others. This cements my view that being visible on days like these hugely important.

Profile | Sarah Pengelly | Lesbian Day of Visibility

Today is Lesbian Day of Visibility. A day where we celebrate and acknowledge the lives and contributions of members of the lesbian community. This year, we are proud to profile some of our members and share what Lesbian Day of Visibility means to them.

 

Detective Superintendent Sarah Pengelly – Cheshire Constabulary

Hello, I’m Sarah Pengelly, I’m a police officer with Cheshire Constabulary.  I’m a Detective Superintendent and I lead our Major Investigation and Coroners Teams. My team investigate homicide and other serious and complex crime, and support the Cheshire Coroner.  I also have a command role as our Force ‘Silver or Duty’ Commander.

I have nearly 30 years’ service , I find it hugely challenging and equally rewarding , I believe policing is a vocation, no two days are the same , and every day is still a’ school day ‘ – an opportunity to learn and develop.

I identify as Lesbian, I have known I was lesbian since my mid-teens.  I found growing up in a Dorset Village difficult, I was hugely self-conscious of feeling different to my peer group and I never really became confident enough to build relationships until my early twenties. I am blessed to share my life with my wife and our hugely supportive wider family.

I joined the police in 1991, and within a week of joining my team I was ‘outed’ behind my back – I didn’t want to share my personal situation with anyone, so it was a shock, and I felt I had to prove myself as an officer to be ‘accepted’ and looking back it spurred me on to work harder, and I threw myself into work. Looking around me, I felt isolated there were no clear visible role models for me either male or female to identify with. I joined CID, hard as it was, I tried to be as open as I could, and recall vividly taking the bold step of taking my girlfriend to socials. I practically made myself ill worrying about being judged rather than being myself.