Staff story: Mel Bloor-Steen
I have worked at CWP since 2014 and my role is Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive and Chair. I want to share some of my experiences to help raise the profile of Pride, the LGBT+ Network and the NHS Rainbow Pin Badge initiative. I feel that all of these are really important since, at one stage in my working life when I was not “out” at work, I felt that I really couldn’t be myself at all and it created a lot of anxiety and stress for me. I remember feeling immense pressure to plan what I was going to say in conversations with colleagues about my home life, in order to avoid slipping up and accidentally using the pronoun “she” about my partner. Then one day, I decided to change all that and started to talk openly about my “girlfriend”. I immediately felt a huge weight lifting from my shoulders and realised that I could finally start to openly join in conversations about what we’d done at the weekend!
I have always considered myself and others to just be people, rather than using labels. I don’t think of anyone as gay or straight, black or white or any of those labels - everyone is simply a person to me and a unique individual. Somebody’s sexuality shouldn’t matter. Whilst I am a very open person and don’t want to hide my sexuality, I don’t feel the need to talk about it all the time either.
At the place I worked before I joined CWP, there was a young guy who I was friendly with. One day, he came into my office clearly upset and said he needed to tell me something. I thought he was going to tell me he was ill but instead he told me he was gay and he didn’t feel he could tell anyone. We chatted a few times after that and eventually he felt ready to speak about his boyfriend. It was then such a joy to watch him relax and be his true self and I like to think that being able to speak to me, someone he knew wouldn’t judge, helped him to discover the confidence within himself to open up to others.
When I came for my interview at CWP, it was at a pivotal part in my personal life as I was getting married and relocating from St Helens to North Wales. At the job interview, I subtly said that I was due to get married and referred to my partner as “she” - not to test the interview panel but to avoid any assumptions, misunderstandings or embarrassment, for the panel mainly. But I also noticed that none of the interviewers so much as raised an eyebrow which was reassuring for me.
A while after I joined CWP, I remember a colleague said to me that they had never met a gay woman before. I made light of it and replied “Oh I think you probably have but not realised it!” I would far rather people talk openly to me and ask questions than make assumptions. I like to be open and to help people understand that being gay makes me no different from them.
I feel that the fact that I work so closely with Trust Board members sends out such a powerful message about inclusion at CWP; from the top down the culture is both positive and supportive of those considered to have a protected characteristic.
It’s great that CWP celebrates Pride and has the LGBT+ Network. I am proud to be a member and would definitely encourage people to join to make connections with others, raise awareness and be instrumental in making changes too.
The NHS Rainbow Pin Badges are another helpful way of subtlety saying “If you need someone to talk to, I’m a safe and supportive person to approach”. Speaking to the right person for that first conversation can be so important.
If you need support or someone to talk to then please get in touch with me or one of my network colleagues and we’ll be happy to listen.