Proud to be a straight ally

NHSE Pride 2013

14 / 5 / 2015 9.14am

People sometimes ask me why I decided to work in the field of diversity. 

Good question! 

I'm not sure I've ever really asked the question of myself. 

Although I know there are a couple of very personal reasons why it is an area that interests me, no compels me, based on the (bad) experiences of some close friends and family members. 

 "Don't you feel a bit out of place?" people ask me. "Don't you feel a bit uncomfortable as a white, heterosexual, non-disabled, male - maybe a bit intimidated?" 

Truth is, I probably do feel a bit out of place sometimes. And the truth is that some people probably find it hard to accept that I have anything credible, meaningful or valuable to add to their lives. After all, what can I know about race hatred, discrimination or prejudice? But I'm not sure I've ever felt intimidated.  

I certainly can never have felt as intimidated as a black or gay person being shouted and screamed at by a bunch of skinheads simply for what they were (something which I have personally witnessed). And I certainly can never have felt as uncomfortable as a woman walking into a conference room or board meeting full of mainly men. That's intimidation! That's uncomfortable! 

Any 'discomfort' that I might have felt over the last 10 years working in this area pales into insignificance against the stories of daily hatred, discrimination, fear, intimidation that black, gay, lesbian or Muslim colleagues have described to me.  So I am always willing to put myself into situations that challenge me - and others. 

It's Pride In London in June and NHS Employers has committed to supporting a walking group and I'm going to be there. This is going to be a totally new experience for me. I've seen the pictures and it clearly is a fantastic occasion - and one of the few times (I suspect) when a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans person can genuinely and openly celebrate their sexuality. I know that I am going to feel very out of place. But the difference for me, and this is why I will never complain about feeling 'uncomfortable' or 'intimidated' is that every single person I meet on that parade will welcome me and be happy that I want to share that experience with them, regardless of my sexual orientation. That for me is inclusion. And that for me is why I am proud to be a straight ally for the LGBT community!

Paul Deemer is head of equality, diversity and human rights at the NHS Employers organisation.

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