Why SEEN is important to me (v)

Experience and Worries in The Workplace

This wasn’t something I ever saw myself doing, after I came out as a lesbian to my family that loved and accepted me, to walking with Stonewall at London’s Pride Parade. I didn’t know that a new ideology was emerging from internet discussions into general life and into politics. I didn’t see myself as a very political person until I realised what you can lose if you don’t pay attention to the discussions around you. This is why I’m no longer afraid to speak, because I’m now aware of what there is to lose.

My life as a lesbian is determined by my sex and the sex of the person I fall in love with. This same-sex attraction is what gays and lesbians have fought to protect in this country, and in countries where my grandparents were born – is still illegal and could get me killed. My elderly, Jamaican grandparents who live in the UK have amazingly accepted me with love—even more challenging for them than me telling them that I was an atheist!

What I feel now, in communities expressly for people like me, is a poison of distrust and hate for reasons that are far from reasonable. Apparently now it’s true that my earlier definition of homosexuality is now a statement of hate and a ‘dogwhistle’. It seems like without any balanced discussion, we have now accepted the ideology of gender identity, something I see as similar to adopting the Christian faith of my grandparents without question, because they would feel distress if I didn’t?

Gender identity in the workplace forces me to lie, and I like to think that I’m an honest and open person. Gender identity makes me worry for the boundaries of private spaces such as toilets. Sometimes I go into work sweaty and need to change clothes, and rather than use the small cubicles I quickly switch tops near the sinks. Gender identity puts an extra stress on a lone female, unsure if the toilets will truly be single-sex, and if a male person states his right to use our spaces, we will further worry about what may happen if we show anything but blind faith in the male’s personal belief that he is the same as us.

I am respectful with my own beliefs, but I do not use religious epithets when talking to a Sunni Muslim colleague, nor pray with my Christian colleague over her lunch. When I tell them I am an atheist I’m not called slurs, but when women say we do not believe in gender ideology we are called “terfs”, bigots and casual violence is promised by either a punch or murder by those of particular strong faith (protest signs in Scotland come to mind). This toxic environment makes one wary of speaking out, which is why I really do think you will not hear many voices like mine, because they are silenced out of fear.

I really do love my job, I can see the many great ways my career can progress as I learn more. In the end we are trying to be apolitical in our approach to our work with shared goals. Why would we jeopardise that by forcing people to lie and pretend that biological sex doesn’t matter?

Finding SEEN was like a breath of fresh air. It was exactly what was needed; clear information and a perspective to balance out the poisonous atmosphere. They put sex above gender identity and highlight the reality of living in a sexed world by sharing information on female safety and sexist stereotypes or behaviours. I’m also pleased to see them shine a light on forgotten LGB history this February, especially when important figures are set aside or written over to declare their faith to gender ideology. Here I think of a gay man, Malcolm Michaels Jr, known famously as Marsha P Johnson who was an outspoken gay rights activist. According to Stonewall veteran Fred Sergeant, he was proud of being a non-confirming gay man, and although he had a drag queen act, did not identify as a trans woman, a label that has only been attributed to him by others.

SEEN knows this, and as we learn how to engage with each other’s networks respectfully I feel so much more hopeful about the future of the workplace environment. I hope more voices are heard within the Civil Service, and due to the clear divide of politics within LGBT spaces, it is crucial that talks continue.

Cover image: “Woman Silhouette” by pixabay is marked with CC0 1.0. To view the terms, visit https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/?ref=openverse.