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It’s June. It’s Pride month. We officially launched our SCC Rainbow Network on 1 June, which has already doubled in membership. We spoke to Alex Heighton, who leads the group, to find out why they got involved and how SCC can support the LGBTQ+ community.

 
Hello Alex. Tell us a bit more about the Rainbow Network.
Hi. It’s our LGBTQ+ employee network – one of the seven diversity and inclusion groups set up at SCC earlier this year. I got involved because, as an openly trans, non-binary person, I am keen to raise awareness and do what I can to make the world a better, more accepting place. At university, I was heavily involved in trans and non-binary activism, and I think there’s a big gap in what LGBTQ+ people experience and what the general public know. For me, leading the Rainbow Network provides a chance to help educate people and raise awareness. That’s what Pride is about too.

When did you come out as a trans non-binary person?
Publicly in mid–2018, but it’s something I’ve known since 2015, when I was in my teens. A lot of people said that I was too young to know, but I don’t think people give children or teenagers enough credit. People also assume that you come out once and that it’s done, but you actually come out a little bit every day. Plus, when I meet new people or someone that I’ve only chatted to on the phone, then I’ll ‘come out’ again.

Does it bother you to have to constantly do that?
I think it’s wonderful that I get to share who I am, but then not so wonderful when it comes to some of the questions that inevitably follow. As soon as I mention I’m trans, some people think they can ask any personal questions they like, and that they’re entitled to know about my genitals, for example…

Aside from that line of questioning, are people generally supportive?
Yes, they are. Which is great. But more widely in society, there’s been a lot of back-pedalling when it comes to trans acceptance. Being queer in general changes who you interact with – who you’re drawn to, and who you become friends with. Sometimes, when I’m just talking casually with friends, I can forget that I live in a world where homophobia and transphobia exist. Surrounding myself with like-minded people is both an escape and a comfort.

So creating a group like the Rainbow Network is a good thing?
It is, because it provides a place for LGBTQ+ people to feel supported, comfortable, and part of a wider community. But it’s also a shame that groups like this have to exist.

What could SCC do to support trans and non-binary colleagues?
There has already been support and understanding shown, which is a great start.
I was approached by a senior leader – Nat Sherratt, our CIO – to ask if there was anything that the business could do to support me. It resulted in gender neutral toilets in CV2, so that was definitely a step in the right direction.
I think introducing pronouns in our signatures was also an important element in terms of educating people and raising awareness. People don’t realise how unnecessarily gendered things are, so when it comes to writing policies and procedures, rather than using ‘his’ or ‘her’, using ‘they’ or ‘them’ is more inclusive.

What do you think colleagues could do to support the group?
Well, they can join us – whatever their background or situation – the group is open to anyone – whether you’re someone from the LGBTQ+ community or an ally who wants to support us. I think there’s a general willingness to support LGBTQ+ people, but people don’t exactly know how.

For me, it’s important for people to realise that what they’ve grown up with, what they’re used to, and how they live, is not the same for everyone and it’s important to stop for a second, recognise differences, and the struggles others face. While we might not be able to change the world, we can do all do our bit to make sure it’s a friendlier, more welcoming, and inclusive one to live in.

Alex Heighton


Tags: diversity and inclusion, diversity and inclusion groups, LGBTQ+, LGBTQ+ community, rainbow network, scc rainbow network
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