Is it safe to hold my partners hand? Are we going to be heckled for hugging? Thoughts that rarely cross a heterosexual mindset. I have been verbally attacked on a few occasions simply for holding the hand of the person I love. My sexuality is so much a part of my identity, it defines who I am and how I present. Although my friends and family support me and fully accept who I am it hasn’t always been easy; I don’t want you to feel sorry for me though, I want you to help make a change. Change your perception on Gay marriage and families. Change your perception of gender identity, make the conscious effort to be an ally and make the LGBTQ + community feel safe in the best way you can.
I remember feeling sick to my stomach at the thought of coming out as an anxious and confidence lacking teenager. I can’t help but wonder if there had been greater representation growing up then perhaps this ‘coming out’ thing we must do just wouldn’t be a thing. Being LGBTQ+ was very rarely discussed in school, and when it was, I can only remember it being so in a negative light.
As an adult I make it my mission to improve representation. I know there is a child out there somewhere that is questioning their gender or sexuality and want them to see something so they know that it’ll get easier; that they can live in a society where they can be true to themselves. While at university I made 2 films that aimed to shine light on the LGBTQ+ community, my proudest achievement was screening the films at various locations around the world and raising awareness of the issues we face.
Knowing and hoping that someone somewhere could feel represented. Moving on from university was difficult, I didn’t know my place or what I was meant to do, and it didn’t help that this was mid-way through a global pandemic. I worked various roles and didn’t feel satisfied or purposeful. That was until I got the call for an interview with HFL. It sounds cheesy when you know a role is ‘meant for you’ but after researching the company it’s unconscious bias and stance on anti-racism I knew I wanted to work here. As a side note this is the first role in my life I’ve interviewed for using my shortened name Charlie (instead of Charlotte) which doesn’t seem like a huge deal for most, but for me this came after many years of questioning my gender identity, sexuality and how I present myself as well.
Not long after I was offered the job and from my first day my confidence has grown. Not only do people ask your preferred name, but most people also have their pronouns on email signatures which is super useful. There is huge diversity within the company and people are very open regarding their experiences with racism, homophobia or disablism. All of which HFL takes a stand against and works hard on raising awareness of. I’ve felt very welcomed and comfortable talking about my sexuality and experiences within the LGBTQ + community, and people are interested in hearing about it.
My role here is running the central social media accounts, and this means I can regularly speak up about any LGBTQ+ awareness days I feel we should support. This has given me the opportunity, to write a blog for pride month. My hope is that with us working hard to educate and diversify ourselves within the company will ultimately help externally with the work we do with schools and settings.
In the 7 months I’ve worked here I’ve seen some great things: Michael Gray (Former primary English adviser at HFL) writing blogs and taking part in events; Andrew Moffat speaking about the ‘No outsiders project’ at our Primary English Conference; Sharing various LGBTQ+ educational resources for colleagues to learn about the community; the encouragement of pronouns in people’s emails. We recently ran our ‘Grow your library’ campaign and a good handful of books on our library list were about LGBTQ+ families and stories including my favourite ‘And tango makes three’ by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
We’ve had great responses to the work we are doing. These kinds of things have made it easier for educators to teach their. Having these kind of resources and training available will help colleagues in schools and settings to make one feel confident in related lessons, or if students come to talk to them about these topics. So when I look back to the scared and timid 15 year old me, lacking representation and role models; I look at the work I do now. How I have contributed too it really makes me feel proud. Proud to be part of a company that is making a real difference. Proud to be part of the change we so desperately need.