I was born in 1964 and brought up in Tonypandy in the heart of the Rhondda Valleys. Home was a typical Rhondda house and we were a typical family. My wonderful dad, Albie, worked as a dental technician and lovely mam, Margaret, like many others at the time was a housewife and looked after our family for many years before training as a nursery nurse. Life was simple, secure and happy.
After finishing school at 18 I went to college for a year and then started work as a receptionist in Cardiff’s Dental Hospital, met my future husband, got married and settled down. We were happy and had two children. I had a successful career; becoming the HR director of Gwent Healthcare Trust. So with a career and a happy home life, including two young children, the next chapter of my life came out of the blue and would change things forever.
Working long hours in a demanding job isn’t unusual and working closely with your PA and often falling in love and meeting your future partner in work is a path well travelled, unless that is, you’re both married women with young kids and both straight (in fact after 16 years together, my lovely wife Dee still thinks she’s straight!). Dee and I would find excuses to work late together, I started to have feelings for her, we became closer. I started to question myself – was I a lesbian? I didn’t know the answer and I didn’t know if Dee had feelings for me. She was the brave one and she sat me down and told me how she felt. It was the best news ever – we’d fallen in love, but then the reality kicked in…. what about husbands, kids, our parents, family, friends, bosses, colleagues? How much would we hurt them? Would we be accepted? What about our jobs?
We started seeing each other as often as possible outside of work, living two lives, it was emotional, difficult and exhausting and we knew it couldn’t go on forever. For one thing my husband, Dee and I all worked for the same organisation – how mad is that? We decided to come out, confess and stop living a lie. Our husbands were naturally angry and hurt, parents were shocked at first but later accepting and family, friends, colleagues, bosses were all supportive and children adjusted quickly. We were excited, happy and relieved. After going through all that Dee decided that she couldn't carry on, amongst other things she didn't want to be a part-time parent and she went back to her husband… but thankfully not for long, we were in love and there was nothing we could do about it other than be together. My husband was my greatest support at this confusing stressful time.
Whilst very difficult at first, the ultimate support and acceptance we had from everyone in our lives was the greatest gift we could have asked for and we’re still thankful. We had a civil partnership in 2008 and married (by accident… but that’s another story) in 2015. Being gay hasn’t held us back because of people around us and who we are. We were helped and I am determined to help others in the LGBT community.
One of my proudest moments was being awarded the Stonewall Role Model of the Year in 2015. Giving something back to the LGBT community was something that just felt instinctive – I’d been so lucky to be supported – I wanted to do the same for others. My role allowed me access to speak about diversity issues at meetings of senior leaders and conferences such as HPMA (Healthcare People management Association), NHS, Fire and Rescue, Stonewall and too many others to mention, challenge behaviours in my organisation and give confidence to others to do the same. I found my voice on social media, becoming visible in the media but most importantly being myself (I’m still Tracy from Tonypandy). My actions resonated with others – why? I’ve no idea. I became an ‘accidental role’ model just by doing what I believed in, living my values, treating people as I would want to be treated. If I can be a role model anyone can – don’t wait to be asked!
As chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service I am able to promote the equality agenda in my organisation and intend to do more across each ambulance service having recently taken up the lead chief executive role for diversity and inclusion for AACE (Association of Ambulance Chief Executives). Before being invited to take up the role I was already active in promoting diversity and LGBT issues within the ambulance and fire service sectors. So I relished this new opportunity – how could I say no? Emergency services respond to the needs of all communities and all under-represented groups should have confidence in our services and be properly represented in the workforce. This is a new role for me but one I am looking forward to – I will keep you posted on what happens next.