LGBT+ History Month: Debbie's story

24 February 2021 . United Kingdom

February is LGBT+ History month here in the UK. As part of our reflections we’re shining a spotlight on some of our colleagues, their journey and what LGBT+ history month means to them. This week it’s Debbie.

Debbie's story

Hi, I’m Debbie, I’ve been at Bupa for nearly 8 years now and I’m currently PA to the General Manager of Care Services.

So, tell me a bit about yourself

I’m a mum of three, one son aged twenty-three and two daughters aged seventeen and fourteen. I’ve always been very open and honest with my children as they’ve grown up and hoped they would be able to come to us and talk about anything.

This story isn’t just my own, it’s about my journey and that of my youngest daughter Piper who came out a few years ago. Before she came out, she was shy, introverted but we knew something wasn’t right and it was getting to the point where we thought she was being bullied at school or something worse. Everything was always “I’m fine” and now looking back I can see the weight that she was carrying. Even though we’d always been open with the children it must’ve been very hard for her.

When she did come out, it was a bit out of the blue. We’d been to see Bohemian Rhapsody at the cinema and we were doing some shopping In Urban Outfitters and she picked up a ring with the word ‘Queen’ on it and I asked her if she was buying it because of the film or whether she was coming out and she burst into tears and that was that.

We went home, cried, hugged, talked about it and all the family made her know that she was still very much loved. And ever since it’s like she’s turned a corner, she’s more relaxed, happier, she laughs and jokes and I feel it’s such an honour to have her as a daughter as she teaches me every day how I can be more inclusive and a true Ally.

Her coming out still shocked me though, but more in the fact that she felt like she couldn’t tell me and had to hide herself from me. It breaks my heart to look back and realise that I was only seeing a tiny portion of Piper and that she felt like she couldn’t be her true self and the anguish that must have caused, so coming out, even in this unplanned way has been such a good thing for her. Though in Pipers own words, I probably should have guessed sooner given her obsession with the Tomb Raider films!

Why is it important to recognise LGBT+ history month?

We still have an awful lot to learn about acceptance as a society, it’s not just about whether you’re LGBT+ it’s about accepting everyone. We should welcome everyone whether you like boys, girls or whether your born in the wrong body. It shouldn’t matter because you as a person is the most important thing. You’re always told that you’re unique and that’s what makes you amazing and that’s great, until you say your different and then some people still an issue with it. When I grew up it was an era where being LGBT+ wasn’t really discussed and certainly not widely understood.

I’m still learning as an Ally and opening my eyes to what the world has to offer, and Piper has been amazing in helping me on my journey. I couldn’t be any prouder of my daughter. She’s constantly teaching me things I didn’t know about LGBT+ History and culture and I get a lot of facts thrown at me to help me on my journey such as how the Stonewall riots started and the struggles people still have today. I know I’ve probably said inappropriate things in the past because I wasn’t aware, growing up when I did things were a lot different. Only now do I see how closed off I was. I think it’s refreshing to see how people are now talking about the past and seeing what we can learn from it and moving towards a much better place, but I would never have thought it would be my children teaching me!

What’s it like to be an LGBT+ Ally at Bupa?

After Piper came out, I wanted to do something with her so I reached out to Nikki Williams about Pride in Manchester to see if we could both get involved and make it something of a celebration for her. I still remember what Piper said before we went to Manchester to march in the parade, she said she couldn’t believe that Bupa would do this for their staff, and that they would focus on something so positive. We ended up having an amazing time and though last year’s celebrations were put on hold we hope to be there again sometime soon. For me, the inclusivity and support Bupa offer all of their staff, whether they’re LGBT+, an Ally or just someone needing a helping hand is phenomenal and their participation in marches and championing acceptance has huge ramifications for children growing up in todays’ society.