As LGBT+ Officer for the Force and UNISON, my role is to focus on everything Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.
We recently added '+ ' to includes other areas of sexuality and gender identity such as Straight Ally's, Pansexual, Asexual and intersex....the list goes on.
I work to keep the Force informed and in tune with the LGBT+ public we serve as well as our own employees.
So many people ask me why roles like mine are still needed and why events like PRIDE still happen in our modern, more accepting world?
Yes, we have come such a long way, but acceptance for LGBT+ people hasn't always been at this improved level. The terrifying persecution and violence towards gay and bisexual men is, for lots of people, still within living memory. For some young and older LGBT+ people, the bullying, violence and hatred is still experienced today at school, work and even home.
Only last week, our public support for LGBT History Month was challenged and referred to as "sick". Someone even questioned whether we should be talking about these issues, as young people read our social media and we could be making them gay. Sadly, ignorance is still around today and one we continue to challenge.
The police were always feared by the community, right up until 2003. Although homosexuality was partially decriminalised in 1967 it stated that sex between two males in a private place was legal, however 'private' did not include hotels, shared accommodation or potentially even the family home. This change in the law actually saw an increase in arrests as police actively hunted gay and bisexual men for gross indecency. Women were never targeted; MP's tried to make sex between two women a crime in 1921 but the House of Lords threw it out.
Bridges need to be built, rebuilt and maintained and the scars of emotional wounds we created years ago need our help to heal.
Our Force is making waves in how it represents itself within the LGBT+ community. We hold regular surgeries in trusted LGBT+ venues, rainbow epaulettes can be worn and rainbow flags are raised to celebrate events like PRIDE and LGBT History Month. We walk proudly in PRIDE events and work closely with Stonewall.
When I first came out in 1997 it was a scary time. I did not understand my sexuality and felt completely on my own. I spoke to a doctor, feeling really low, and he simply said "Well you don't have to be gay" and washed his hands of me.
LGBT+ issues were never discussed in schools and I did not know another gay person. I was lucky; my family accepted me and helped find a youth club specifically for LGBT+ people, called the Young & Gay Awareness Project. The help I received here ultimately kick started my life and I made friends I still have today.
It was an honour to go back to my roots and attend the same club in Swindon - now called Out of the Can - with PCC Angus Macpherson at the start of LGBT History Month. Their work to support young LGBT+ people continues to be outstanding. Having a police presence at places like this lets young people know we are on their side. Perhaps in decades to come, when all LGBT+ people remember the police in a good way, my role can become more relaxed, but in the meantime I will carry on policing with pride.