Tags: hot-topics-health-and-social-care, Health & Social Care, blog

This LGBT History month, we talk toChris Pritchard. Having been at Search for ten years, Chris has worked his way up to Director of England Temp Business for Search Health and Social Care, which represents over 2000 Support Workers, Nurses, Social Workers and other health and social care professionals. Working in such a diverse sector, Chris recognises the importance of understanding and celebrating equality and diversity in an industry that contributes so much kindness, compassion and empowerment to everyone in our society.

LGBT History Month may be seen as irrelevant given the huge strides forward in equality laws and a cultural shift to acceptance and understanding. But I think it is more important than ever to pause and recognise just how far we have come, and where we still have work to do.

Back in the year 2000, the LGBT community was still hugely marginalised and at my boys’ school, I was one of no more than three who came out (and immediately regretted it).

It was only just legal to be LGBT in the British Military- not that I had any plans to join the army. There was no civil partnership, adoption, Section 28- the law banning the “promotion of same sex families as a pretend family relationship” was still very much in force. Just watch an old British sitcom from the era on UK-Gold to catch a cringe-worthy joke that reflected the attitudes of the time.

But I was actually very lucky; Although my grandparents were ‘of their time’ with a deeply ingrained abhorrence to anything that challenged their traditional values; the next generation on in my suburban middle-class family were actually very liberal. Then of course there was my Uncle Ste.

My life has been hugely impacted by the shift in society’s attitudes to LGBT people. From our civil partnership, then marriage, to the adoption of our 2 beautiful girls, I’ve never struggled with mortgages or loans, and have never felt side-lined in my chosen professional career. I’m now a signed-up blood donor too. I live a quiet life in Stockport. I’m really quite boring and at 38, I’m more likely to be browsing for bedding plants in B&Q than waving placards at a demonstration.

Yet so much happened to allow those like me to be out, quiet and boring, by determined individuals with an unwavering conviction to bring about change. Uncle Ste was one of those who didn’t stay quiet and as a result bridged the gap between decriminalisation and where we are today. Being queer back in the late 60s was still viewed as an illness, so was referred to a psychiatrist for medical help; futile but nevertheless humiliating and traumatic.

Years would go by, and while he was subtly undermining and challenging Section 28 as an English teacher in Crawley, working voluntarily for the Terence Higgins Trust mainly educating healthcare workers about HIV and AIDS, and participating in every Pride march going, his identity as a gay man was never spoken of or recognised by his parents. He very much lived through the era that was so wonderfully captured by Russell T Davies’ “It’s a Sin” and it would have brought back joyous and painful memories.

LGBT history teaches us lessons about how we can shape the future. The primary school demonstrations in the last couple of years have shown us that acceptance is not universal, as do the all-to-often homophobia motivated attacks that appear on local news. Heteronormativity (not a word I particularly care for) is still rife: my 5 year old daughter who has, since the age of 7 months lived with daddy and dada and known no other existence, was laughing at our wedding pictures the other day remarking “you and Daddy can’t be married- two men can’t marry!”

The bizarre outburst shows why these changes in education need to happen. Those deeply concerned about “confusing the children”- those who fainted at the sight of men dressed as ladies on Strictly- are in my opinion- the ones who are stoking that confusion by refusing to accept things have moved on. Education is key; we can only hope that home schooling hasn’t lastingly narrowed our children’s world view.

Furthermore celebrating LGBT history also gives recognition to how we as a society have become more accepting as a whole. It has helped us to better understand mental health, identity, self esteem and accepting those who are different to ourselves. It has challenged and helped shape some of the archaic structures to achieve better gender equality. It provides a narrative on how society can change through education, understanding and conversation rather than violence and repression.

LGBT History month is a great opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come and honour those who have stuck their necks out to get us here. But like any marginalised group, there still needs to campaign for change; we may have reached many equality milestones but diversity should be celebrated for equality to truly exist.

But ultimately it is down to all of us to support equality and diversity; it’s not just LGBT people alone who will get us there, it’s everybody else, too. People who have “traditional views” can change their opinions unapologetically. Before he passed away last year, my grandfather (who was dearly loved by myself, my husband and our children) did the most admirable thing and admitted he had been wrong back in the sixties and had soul searched to change his Victorian outlook; partly down to the society shift and partly down to the naturally happy and ‘normal’ family I have been gladly enabled to create.

So the collective effort should continue; to see existing prejudice and hostility towards LGBT people tackled in sport, some employment sectors and some communities is still on an ongoing campaign- and only by understanding and re-visiting history can we shape the future.

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Tips for LGBT inclusion in the workplace

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