February is LGBT+ History month here in the UK. As part of our refections we’re shining a spotlight on some of our colleagues, their journey and what LGBT history month means to them. This week it’s Chris.
Hi I’m Chris, I currently work as an Academy coach for Bupa in Salford Quays. Originally from London I moved up to Manchester around eight years ago and I’ve been with Bupa for around three years now.
So tell us a bit about yourself
Growing up in London I didn’t realise I was gay until my late teens when all of a sudden, following a conversation with one of my friends, the penny dropped. It was only after this that I started to really accept who I was.
In the following years I built up a circle of close friends through working in LGBT+ bars and clubs and what always struck me was the real sense of community. No matter their age, my friends would talk to me about LGBT+ history, passing their stories and challenges on to the next generation so we don’t lose touch with where we came from.
When I moved to Manchester I found that same sense of community, albeit more concentrated around the now famous Canal St. I continued to work in hospitality managing a bar on Canal St until an injury made me have to rethink my career.
It wasn’t the best time in my life as hospitality was all I’d know but the community rallied round and one of my acquaintances who worked at Bupa recommended looking for a job there and even helped me do my CV.
They weren’t anyone I was particularly close to at the time, but I think this just shows how caring and compassionate everyone at Bupa is and now here I am, three years later!
Why is it important to recognise LGBT+ history month?
LGBT+ history month is important to me because we all need to learn from the lessons of the past and be mindful that, as a community, we haven’t always had the privileges we do now.
It’s about looking back at our history and recognising the small changes, the small movements towards acceptance from a societal standpoint and the journey to get there.
I remember a time when there were very few gay people seen on TV and even then they were often portrayed as stereotypes or a caricature, rather than a real person. But as times have changed so has representation of LGBT+ people on TV. We first saw it with gay and lesbians and now recently we’re seeing more and more representation of trans people on television which is a step in the right direction.
Though unfortunately despite all the progress in todays society you still see instances of homophobia. Working on Canal St I would see people abused or threatened because of their sexuality or gender status so, while we’ve come a long way, we’ve still got work to do.
This is why we should remember our history, because the privileges we have today were earned in the past and, while we may have it better today, there’s still more work to do.
What’s it like to be LGBT+ at Bupa?
I’ve always felt welcome. Acceptance is so important to Bupa and I noticed this right from the start when I asked about participation in pride parades during my induction. Fast forward a year and I was lucky enough to march in the first wave of prides that we attended in London, Brighton and Manchester.
This year, lockdown permitting, I’m going to be walking from Manchester to London to raise money for the Albert Kennedy Trust - a charity dedicated to supporting LGBT+ youth who are struggling with their housing situation.
It’s estimated that one in four homeless youth arefrom the LGBT+ community, so it’s a great cause. I’m really looking forward to doing it and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my colleagues, who helped it grow from a small idea to where it is now.