I am honoured to be asked to pen a small article about my life and role with Stonewall. I often say to people that I am lucky to have two jobs, my day job as Distribution Director for Swinton Insurance, and my gay job as a trustee for Stonewall.
I realised when I was about thirty-five that I might be attracted to men and I spent five years struggling with that. I was married to an amazing woman and lucky enough to have four fantastic children whom I knew would all be devastated if I came out.
However, at aged forty I decided I could no longer deal with a double life. I chose to come out to my family, friends and colleagues at work. All my fears of rejection, vilification, hatred and the loss of my family, which had been going around inside my head for so long, proved to be unfounded. With the exception of a few very narrow minded people, I have been incredibly lucky – I still am. Fifteen years later and I have an amazing relationship with my family. I have also been really fortunate in that my sexuality has made no difference to my progression at work or my relationships with my colleagues, and I am so lucky to be in a relationship with an amazing man.
I appreciate this is not the same for everyone, many of whom have different and far worse experiences, hence I wanted to do something to help other people facing the difficulties of coming out, being themselves and being accepted for who they are. I worked with some friends to set up an organisation called LINK which aims to provide support for LGBT people working in insurance who find it difficult to be themselves at work. The statistics are horrible, many young graduates joining the industry have said they had to go back into the closet when they joined the insurance industry. This is unacceptable. LINK now has hundreds of members and works with many of the leading insurance companies including Lloyd’s of London to ensure that the industry plays its part in being accepting without exception, and welcomes diversity in all its forms.
I was overwhelmed and honoured when I was considered for a trustee position at Stonewall. I have always admired Stonewall from its early days, for its campaigning zeal, it’s no nonsense approach, for the strengths and foresights of its founders and for its work with schools, institutions, governments, internationally and in sport, to help eradicate homophobia everywhere.
Being a trustee of such an organisation is a real privilege, they are an amazing team with a brilliant CEO in Ruth Hunt. Our mantra of acceptance without exception is one I wholeheartedly support. Stonewall’s work with schools is acknowledged as outstanding and I believe that it is through education at an early age that we will eradicate homophobia and homophobic bullying; but there is a long way to go. Recent political events around the world have highlighted that some very unpleasant people exist who think it is okay to be racist, homophobic, sexist and misogynistic. This is clearly unacceptable and we need to continue the fight to make sure that people are treated with respect and dignity, and are not discriminated against on the grounds of their sexuality.
Sport remains a major influence in the lives of many and yet some would argue that only limited progress has been made in terms of acceptance, that there are still no openly gay Premier League football players. Stonewall’s rainbow laces campaign has highlighted there is still more to do, especially in football, and I’m proud of the fact that Stonewall has taken the lead in this area.
Internationally, there is also a great deal to do. There are still countries in the world where it is illegal to be gay; where being gay could lead to imprisonment or death.
Stonewall is successful thanks to donations from those who believe in what it stands for and want to help. It is a registered charity and relies on donations to survive and therefore if anyone feels able to donate to help the work, that would be absolutely amazing.
I have been incredibly lucky and I know that is not the case for many. Stonewall offers a lot of support for gay parents and parents with gay children. Please reach out to Stonewall if you feel you need some help, and I’m always on hand to speak personally to anyone who is going through what I went through.