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LGBT History Month with HMRC: Q&A with Holly Mitchell, Migration and Exits Planning Team Leader

Category: LGBT, Leading LGBT Organisation, Lgbt diversity, LGBT Community, HM Revenue & Customs, LGBT History Month, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial

LGBT.

1. Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I grew up just outside of Halifax, West Yorkshire, in a northern town with quite a strong industrial heritage. It was an old wool and textile town famous for the Halifax bank and more recently the Sally Wainwright TV series which are set around Halifax.

It was like any kind of northern town growing up in the 80s and 90s. One of the things that is unusual is that Hebden Bridge has a large LGBT community. It’s an arty and bohemian town in the Yorkshire valleys and there are a high number of lesbians.

2. Do you feel you faced particular challenges where you grew up relating to your sexuality?

Not particularly. The main thing was the lack of information, growing up under Section 28 meant you didn’t get any information on gender identity or sexuality at school. It wasn’t really talked about which leads to a level of stigma and lack of understanding.

3. How long have you worked at your company?

I’ve been in my new role for five weeks and 18 months in total at HMRC. In my previous job, with the Department for Education, I was Vice Chair for the LGBT+ staff network and led on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index submission for two years.

4. Have you undertaken any training with your company?

I’m currently on the HMRC Ascend development programme for Grade 6s and 7s. All staff have recently had micro-behaviours training which looks at body language, positive and negative affirmations along with more subtle behaviours, with the aim to create a more inclusive and positive working environment for all staff.

5. What are your qualifications?

I have a degree in Human Geography, a Masters in Social Sciences and range of project management qualifications.

6. Have you faced any career challenges specifically related to being part of the LGBT community?

No, I don’t think so. I’ve never come across a colleague who has had an issue or treated me differently.

I am open about my sexuality and personal life. I took shared maternity leave at my previous job. That worked well and there weren’t any issues with us being a same-sex couple. When I returned from maternity leave, I moved to compressed hours, which has worked well for achieving a good work-life balance.

7. Is your company supportive?

HMRC is a huge organisation, with around 60,000 employee and like other government departments it has a diverse workforce and is an inclusive workplace.

From a LGBT perspective, there’s a good network of people wearing rainbow lanyards in the office. There are regular LGBT+ events through our PRISM employee network and lots of visible initiatives.

8. What would you say to a young person within the LGBT community?

It’s important for young people to understand that even 10-15 years ago things were very different. Legislation and laws have changed significantly. When I left university, if you identified as LGBT+, you couldn’t join the armed forces, or get married. The steps forward have been really significant in changing ideas, attitudes and behaviours.

The important thing is understanding how things have changed, but that young people don’t have to bear the weight or burden of previous battles and previous generations.

It’s about living in the world we’ve got currently and not being held back by anything. It’s about recognising what’s gone on in the past and how far we’ve come in relation to inclusion. It’s about enjoying the freedoms that you now have.

9. What does LGBT history month mean to you?

LGBT History month is about having the opportunity to find out more about the history of people that made a difference. Whether it’s about an iconic figure from the past that did something for the LGBT community or taking some time to look into what’s going on in your local community, becoming more aware.

10. How can people celebrate LGBT history month?

The Schools Out website has a lot fun stuff on LGBT History month. You can go out and take part in an event, meet new people and maybe even step out of your comfort zone a little bit.

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