As I settle into my new role as Parliament's Director of Transformation and embrace the challenges ahead, I'm reminded of the importance of diversity in today’s changing world.
On the 8 February I went to the Embracing Diversity event organised by ParliOUT (a Parliamentary workplace equality network) and the Metropolitan Police. I was reminded of the importance of honesty, openness and sharing, and the impact it has for change.
As LGBT History Month continues, it’s good to see Parliament echoing the same principles and reaffirming the value of transparency and inclusion for all.
A chance to take stock
Even though the turnout was small, it didn’t change the significance of the event. The battle for cultural acceptance is ongoing for LGBTQ+ individuals (as it is for many other diverse groups). Differences are often seen as a reason for destruction and a divide between us. But we should remember that we're all different and that is something worth celebrating.
Standing as a Champion with a tear in my eye
To be part of this event as a ParliOUT Champion - and as a representative of the Digital Service - meant a lot to me. The speeches were emotional and provided a clear reminder that we cannot merely preach about our principles: being and becoming them is critical.
It’s through honest and open sharing that we can make some of the biggest changes. Connecting and recognising the experience of others is beneficial to all. It creates understanding between us. This is true whether in relation to LGBTQ+ issues, as highlighted at this event, or other diversities and differences.
Sue Sanders (Founder of LGBT History Month) opened the event. She said some firm words about the importance of understanding and supporting all diversities to create a better society and world.
Her speech sent shivers down my spine. She spoke with passion and authority on the struggles of all diversities, and the challenges we still face in creating an open and welcoming society. Be this through the lens of race, disabilities, class, religion or LGBTQ+ issues. Sue emphasised that in working together, we become so much more than a group of individuals.
Breaking free from the straight jacket
It was the brave words of Matthew Todd (Editor of Attitude Magazine and author of Straight Jacket) that resonated with me the most. He spoke with impressive honesty about his own experiences. He spoke of being gay, of his struggles, and the daily challenges he's faced - both those he's overcome and the ones he still battles to this day.
I’m not afraid to admit that I cried at his words. Again, they were a reminder that sharing our experiences and allowing others to connect with them can create deep understanding. This can pave the way for change and acceptance. It teaches us to listen to others, and learn from their stories and experiences.
Sharing my own experience
I, too, wanted to share my story, with this month being so important. Like Matthew’s, my journey has been far from easy. I've overcome barriers, oppression, obstacles, and often hate. It's made me stronger and I'm proud to be a part of this community, of Parliament and of the Digital Service.
It's our differences that make us unique
We all have the right to be our real selves and it's wonderful that not only the Digital Service, but also Parliament supports us all.
It’s our differences and collective wisdom that allows us all to be much more than the sum of our parts. Diversity has nothing to do with what we look like on the outside, but what we are within.
Progress and innovation happens not by the work of individual people with large IQs. It takes diverse groups capitalising on our uniqueness, our range of perspectives, and the multitude of different experiences that diversity can provide.
Read a transcript of Tori's video. This story was found with the help of Diversity Role Models which actively seeks to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying in UK schools. Thanks to I'm from Driftwood for giving us permission to use this video.