Marking Lesbian Visibility Week.

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As some of you may know, it’s #LesbianVisibilityWeek. So, this week, I thought I would share my story…

Twenty years ago, just three short weeks after I first came out as gay, I went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve at the Catholic church that my family and I had diligently attended for years. This year, rather than talking about the warm fuzzy nativity story of baby Jesus, the priest decided to passionately preach about everything that was wrong with the world, including how apparently ‘we were all becoming way too tolerant towards homosexuality.’ At this, a man stood up in the middle of the congregation and applauded. I shrunk into my pew wishing the ground to swallow me up, wanting to be anything but visible. Suffice to say, I never went back to church.

A few years later, as a young solicitor, and on an otherwise ordinary Monday morning, the Partner I shared an office with relayed to me with disgust how a gay couple had been kissing in front of him and his wife in the line to a nightclub. Once again, I shrunk into my seat, vowing not to utter a word about my own weekend, which I had happily spent with my female partner.

For years I hid important parts of myself for fear of being judged and discriminated against, just because of who I love. Because of who I fundamentally am. I figured that it was safer if my true self should neither be seen, nor heard. Visibility was not an option.

But things got better. With time, I found that, at least the immediate world around me, became more tolerant. I witnessed the repeal of Section 28, the enactment of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, and finally the granting of truer equality with the legalisation of gay marriage in 2013. 

Mere tolerance grew into acceptance, and acceptance grew into inclusion and true belonging. I stopped hiding and started to unapologetically hold my head high. I found my tribe who love me for me, and even people to look up to that extended beyond dead poets and suicidal fiction characters. Today I can switch on Netflix and find positive representation everywhere. I feel safe to be myself at work.

Some of the religious institutions have also come a long way. My kids go to a Church of England school, but are taught to respect and understand all religions. They are also schooled on the rainbow of different types of love and families that can exist. That this is not only normal, but amazing. My kids are never (well, rarely) made to feel different or weird for having only mummies. Trust me when I say that I interrogated the school about these things before I allowed my kids to so much as cross the threshold of the school. (My mind was set somewhat at ease when I was informed that even the vicar is gay!) 

But I’m one of the lucky ones. Lesbians and other members of the LGBTQ+ community are still discriminated against around the world. Many religious institutions still live in the Dark Ages. There are 70+ countries in the world where being gay is still a crime. Some even punish homosexuality with the death penalty. So, being visible could land you in prison, get you beaten up or even killed. And let’s be honest…we’ve still got some way to go to get true equality even in the UK.

This is why it’s still so important that we continue to recognise and celebrate Lesbian Visibility Week and Pride, year in, year out. We have to celebrate how far we have come, and keep fighting for equal rights everywhere. I know that I am privileged, because, unlike so many others, I live and work in an environment where it’s safe for me to speak up. This is why I, and many others, are choosing to use our voice and to be visible…in the hope that one day, we all can.

So, I hope you will all join me in celebrating #lesbianvisibilityweek. I am proud and grateful to work in such an inclusive and supportive place and to be a part of continuing to make our culture at By Miles one where everyone feels they are valued for who they truly are.