By Antoinette Turner, Spectrum co-chair
On International Women’s Day I want to share the news about my new role as co-chair of Spectrum, our LGBT staff group. As women around the world celebrate their achievements, past and present, it’s as good a time as any to share my views on why lesbian and bisexual women should make their voices heard.
I have been a member of Spectrum for 10 months now. Our former co-chair, Suey Stockton, encouraged me to join. Her enthusiasm and hard work was infectious and had a huge impact on my wanting to continue her role.
I have experienced homophobia, both in my private life and at work from a colleague whose religious beliefs conflicted with the way I am. I always respect people’s faiths, so I asked this colleague to offer me a similar respect too.
When I was younger I noticed homophobia, but it never seemed to affect me. As I got older I came across it a lot more. I thought people were becoming more enlightened and accepting of LGBT lifestyles, but I guess I was wrong. Although things definitely have changed, there are still people out there who refuse to accept differences.
When I first met my wife, we were out supermarket shopping and a very angry gentleman threw something at me and shouted filthy dikes. Chances are this person didn’t really understand why he was doing that. He may have been confused, but he still did it. I don’t want anyone else to experience that sort of abuse. I am a very strong person, but I’m aware that others aren’t. Homophobia can cause serious damage to mental health and can have devastating consequences on people’s lives.
Although things definitely have changed, there are still people out there who refuse to accept differences.
I want to be able to make a difference and be there for those who need support. I don’t want people to ever feel like they are alone. Here at Riverside there is always support available and I want to be a part of that network in my role as Spectrum co-chair.
When Suey left Riverside I knew straight away I wanted to carry on her good work. It is important to have female representation in a group like ours. Thankfully over half of Spectrum members are women. I’m glad, that in contrast to some businesses where men dominate LGBT staff groups, ours is far more balanced in terms of gender, so that women do have visible role models and should feel more comfortable being themselves at work. According to Stonewall, lesbian and bisexual women say that the visibility of openly-gay women at work is key to their confidence and success.
I’m looking forward to expanding membership of Spectrum and I’m excited about making a real difference. Our Friends of Spectrum group is also growing, following our February campaign to generate more and more allies across Riverside. Homophobia is unacceptable and the more people who stand up to it the better.