In 2014, I was employed to run a project supporting LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, plus all other
minority sexuality and gender identities) unpaid carers in Hackney. It was the year that same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK and my mood was jubilant and hopeful. I watched the footage of those first few couples walk hand in hand down the town hall steps, and I imagined the countless people before them who had kept their love secret and lived in fear, or resigned themselves to a life of loneliness. I thought of all the people over the years who had fought to get us here, and I cried. This was never just about marriage for me – it was a sign that at last we were accepted; at last, we belonged.
I was naïve. And by the end of my first year in post, my hopeful jubilation had been replaced by a fire in my belly that has not diminished as the years have gone by. There has been monumental progress, it’s true. But until I started talking every day with LGBTQ+ people from all walks of life, I didn’t realise how far we still have to go. I listened as people’s stories spilled from their lips into the room and each person and each story stayed with me, and each in a small way changed me.