Pride – a time for celebration and reflection

Date of publication
14 June 2024

During Pride month, Chief Inspector Anthony Rogers takes the opportunity to reflect on what the civil service was like when he first joined when it comes to diversity and inclusion – and how far it has come along.

Every June I read the senior ally supporting statements about Pride and often wonder how these come across and whether they matter to those colleagues who have faced overt discrimination in the workplace or outside the workplace because of their sexuality or gender identity.

Every year when reading stories of LGBTQI+ colleagues across the Civil Service I think about how discrimination and prejudice is so destructive and must be so unsettling. Not being accepted for who you are and having to hide your natural self must be exhausting.

I joined the Civil Service in 1989. I had left Catholic seminary after four years. I was sure I wanted to be a Catholic priest and had a vocation. After four years of a six-year process I realised after much prayer and reflection that I could not become a priest. My first day in the Civil Service I was told to report to my Senior Executive Officer. In that meeting there were two things I was told that shocked me. The first was ‘don’t ever expect any support from me – I had to be 28 before I could even apply to be your grade – you have not earned it’; I was 22 at the time; the second which was more startling was ‘I am a Methodist, I hate Catholics, I suggest that you really think if you want to stay in this job’.

To be personally disliked by my senior manager because of my age and religion is something that I knew would not last. I would get older, earn my stripes as I worked through my career, and move teams eventually. I was not overtly open about my religion, so anyone who had not read my CV would not know about my time at seminary, and generally there are very few people who I have come across that have such an unreasonable view because of their religious beliefs.

What I have seen over my career by those in the LGBTQI+ community is very different to my own experience. Many of them hide their sexuality and gender identity. Watching what you say to colleagues and being on your guard all the time must be impossible. In my early years in the Civil Service – the Monday morning conversation about what you did at the weekend must on reflection have been impossible for some who had not come out or did not want it their sexuality known. I now know of several colleagues from my early career who have more recently come out who would construct elaborate stories of their weekend exploits to fit in – in the fear that if colleagues knew about their sexuality they would have been ostracised and/or discriminated against.

I fervently hope that things have moved on but do sometimes wonder if they really have. Leanne’s story gives me hope. The fact that she found the confidence to come out and feels that there are support networks in the workplace that have helped, is wonderful. As a senior leader in the Civil Service, I will always strive to support everyone, working hard to create a culture of inclusivity, across the Civil Service and here at HMCPSI.

As we reflect on why we celebrate and recognise Pride it is incumbent on all of us to consider if our actions are truly supportive or whether we just hide and don’t say what we are thinking – unlike my first manager who thought nothing of what he said and his openly hostile and negative impact. I really do hope that 35 years later how Leanne feels is a true reflection of the workplace and society as a whole.