The experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the ‘Roaring 2020's’ might seem far removed from those living, or coming out, in the 1970's, 80's and 90's. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the parallels with the past, or the challenges that remain today.
Learning from our history
This week, as part of the CMA’s celebration of LGBT+ History Month, we’re welcomed the makers of The Log Books podcast to chat with us about the work that they do. The podcast centres on the log book entries made by volunteers at Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline first established in 1974 from a small room above a bookshop near Kings Cross Station. Drawing on those log books, each episode of the podcast takes up a different theme, and guides us through a period of history, pausing in its second season to focus in depth on the impact of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Learning from our history, and acknowledging the gaps in our knowledge, is such an important step to creating an inclusive and supportive culture. Whilst laughter and joy shine out from the voices of the past, there is desperation and isolation, too, coupled with a lack of information about what to do or where to turn. Educating ourselves helps ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, and have the right information to hand to impart to those who need it.
The present challenges
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an acute effect on the LGBTQ+ community. At its most extreme, it has had a disproportionate impact on the health and livelihoods of many, and sadly in some parts of the world it has surfaced old prejudices, providing an excuse to blame LGBTQ+ people for the spread of coronavirus. But for almost all of us it has left us feeling cut off from our support and social networks.
Not everything went smoothly when I first came out over 15 years ago, but there was an immediate group of friends, family and colleagues that I could turn to and who gave me the support and perspective that in time allowed me to own, celebrate and champion my sexuality. The experiences of LGBTQ+ people during a global pandemic, particularly those coming out without those immediate networks of support, advice and friendship to draw upon, is not so very dissimilar from the experience of those who contacted Switchboard almost 50 years ago
The good news is that there’s so much that we can still do during coronavirus to build and strengthen those networks of support. The CMA’s Rainbow Network has set up a wide range of activities throughout the month to create both informal and formal opportunities to talk, connect and unwind. We’ve drunk tea and watched movies together, but we’ve also learned from each other.
Our Rainbow Network works to champion LGBTQ+ matters, and ensure that all staff at the CMA feel supported in their work environment and can bring their whole selves to work. If you’d like to learn more about our staff networks, you can find out more about our initiatives to champion inclusion and diversity.