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Virtual Pride and LGBT+ at DIO: Nathan’s experience

Category: testimonial, LGBT event, LGBT inclusion, LGBT+, pride, Lgbt diversity, LGBT Community, Pride Month, Pride Event, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, ministry of defence, MOD, Defence Infrastructure Organisation, LGBT Network, DIO, LGBT employee

LGBT

Nathan Whale is a Utilities Data Officer for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) where he is responsible for the capture and reporting of utility consumption and waste production data from across the Defence estate, alongside leading the DIO LGBT+ network.

In June, we celebrated Pride month, but even through the month has come and gone, we firmly believe that LGBT+ is a topic worthy of focus all year round.

With that in mind, we spoke to Nathan about his experience of inclusivity at DIO, what the company’s LGBT+ network offers staff in way of support, how he celebrated virtual Pride during COVID-19 and what particular significance this year’s Pride had. 

Joining the organisation straight out of school, at 18, Nathan has been with DIO for seven years. 

Having lived just outside of Birmingham city centre, Nathan notes that the diverse nature of his experience growing up helped shape him, however it was lacking in terms of diversity around sexual orientation. Now, Nathan leads the LGBT+ network, one of many supporting networks at DIO, and is fiercely passionate about D&I with a belief that it is about acceptance. When asked how the networks support staff at DIO Nathan conveyed:

“The networks support in various ways. We support in two forms; policy and people. Policy relates to change in business practise and enforcing policy that’s already there. Especially now, following on from the London riots which heightened alertness of calling out discrimination, [he said] stamping it out is going to be difficult but not impossible.

The networks educate DIO staff on the importance of D&I and provide signposting to things like the Speaksafe Harassment service where people have a safe space to talk, or our internal policy bites which are short videos that explain various policies and procedures across defence. We educate on LGBT+ inclusion to highlight issues across [the community] so people are more aware.”

One of Nathan’s passions is mental health and, having experienced anxiety himself, he now helps other LGBT+ members by being there to talk and listen to anyone who feels they need support. Nathan said:

“Everyone’s experience is unique, but I can listen, support and sign post people to the help they need, one of my particular passions is mental health. I’ve known a lot of people that have been shaped by their own mental health and the struggles they’ve had. There was a survey done that showed that LGBT+ staff struggle more with wellbeing, but they are also reporting [at DIO] that they’re getting more support and that their colleagues are creating a safe place and their managers are creating a culture of talking about it.”

With COVID-19 affecting Pride events across the country LGBT+ community members and allies have had to get creative and find virtual ways to celebrate Pride and show their support. 

“I dialled into the Birmingham virtual Pride which was really good. There was a whole bunch of content in there and it went on into the night. What was good is that I didn’t see many negative comments which was new. To have so few of them is an indicator of change and it was brilliant to see.

During Pride month we [the network] have sent weekly emails with content tackling Mental health, LGBT+ parenting, trans awareness etc. and we will be putting it all on SharePoint for the whole of DIO” said Nathan.

This year is of particular significance as it marks 20 years since the military ban was lifted in 2000 and lesbian, gay and bisexual people were finally allowed to serve. Before this lift, if someone was to come out or be discovered as gay, they would be stripped of any achievements or medals and kicked out of the military. 

We have come a long way since then, it’s a great achievement to celebrate and it is still within our life time. I was invited to the Houses of Parliament to celebrate the lifting of the ban with the Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Jonny Mercer, who made a public apology that the law was ever in place,” said Nathan.

But what does Pride mean to Nathan?

“For me celebrating pride is about acceptance and that goes for looking back on the past and accepting what happened and making sure it can’t happen again. It’s about accepting ourselves and others and looking to the future to create a world that we want and are proud to live in. 

“Typically, there is a lot of Americanised talk of Stonewall and undoubtedly it helped with culture change, but there is also a lot of UK history that gets missed,” he said.

Alan Turing broke the Enigma code during World War Two but after undergoing aggressive chemical treatment believed to ‘cure’ people of homosexuality, committed suicide at the age of just 41. This story is one of many that make up British LGBT+ history and Nathan has written a timeline of historic British LGBT+ events that he shares internally with DIO’s staff.

Pride can be a time to focus on history such as this, learn about what the LGBT+ community have faced in the past and celebrate the changes that have been made over the years in terms of rights and acceptance.

“Change really starts to happen when it’s at the forefront of our minds. If someone is being discriminated against, we have to act, everyone is now talking about it and there is a real push for challenge. Going forward from this point it will be a real shift in culture and the way things work and I’m very excited about it,” said Nathan. 

Nathan is not only passionate about LGBT+ inclusion but all aspects of D&I. Throughout his time at DIO, Nathan has found the reverse mentoring scheme offered particularly helpful in endorsing D&I across the organisation. The scheme encourages both senior and junior members of staff to mentor each other to learn about the different challenges individuals face due to their diverse characteristics. Nathan said:

“Reverse mentoring is where the junior grades can mentor senior grades based around D&I. For example, someone with a disability might mentor a senior person to widen their scope of perception. That’s been really good and very effective.”

When asked what advice he would give to young LGBT+ members thinking of a career at DIO, Nathan said:

“If you join DIO you’ll be supported, and accepted regardless of any diverse characteristic. Businesses need people to be authentically themselves in order to thrive with a diversity of thought.”

Thank you, Nathan, for talking to us today

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