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Pride Month 2023: “It’s ok to change your mind”


An Assistant Service Manager at Cafcass reflects on her personal journey through the LGBT+ spectrum, the support she receives from the Pride network and how lived experience offers insight into the experiences of the LGBT+ people we work with.

Since I joined Cafcass I have moved across the LGBT+ spectrum like it’s a bingo game and I’m trying to score points for every letter. That’s the joy of sexuality: it’s fluid, you don’t have to pick one and stick with it. Some people’s preferences might stay the same throughout their lives and others might not. People grow and change, our preferences evolve, and sexuality can be no different.

In the absence of positive LGBT+ role models I had the benefit of a supportive, liberal and nurturing friendship group as a teenager, yet this still didn’t trigger any insight into my rainbow-based diversity factors. It was a decade later that I stared to question whether heteronormativity (heterosexual relationships as ‘the norm’) was right for me. I began to identify as bisexual: somebody who is interested in relationships with men and women. I arrived at Cafcass three years ago appearing heteronormative, in a male/female relationship and part of a ‘nuclear family’. People made assumptions about my sexuality based upon what I looked like, which was frustrating. This involves ‘coming out’ repeatedly which can be stressful, exposing and boring. Disclosing our sexuality isn’t necessary in lots of conversations, but I embrace opportunities to challenge homophobia and bigotry which can be even more powerful if you are willing (and able) to share a little of yourself.

The bisexual identity stopped fitting because to me it didn’t encompass the full spectrum of gender options out there, as the term ‘pansexual’ might. I dabbled with the term ‘queer’ before learning that some of my LGBT+ comrades found the term very offensive, distinctly remembering having that word spat at them whilst being assaulted at the height of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s. I’m forever grateful for them for sharing their stories and educating me along this journey. The word ‘queer’ has been reclaimed and I know it is a term that really resonates with some, particularly our young LGBT+ people, noting the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) proudly uses this terminology. Language can be complicated because everybody is different. If you are unsure what terminology somebody prefers, ask them.

In due course my relationship status changed, and new terminology fitted better.  I’m currently waving a lesbian flag (bonus points if you know the colours of that one, it looks a bit like a sunset) but who’s to say what my flag of choice will be next Pride month? For that reason, I wear the Pride Progress flag as my cape, I love the inclusivity and it’s a lot more cost-effective!

I can’t say my evolving sexuality has been easy for those around me all of the time and this has been a challenge to contain emotionally. The Pride network has been an excellent source of support and they probably don’t even know it. Our meetings are a safe space to reflect on nuanced experiences unique to the LGBT+ community, to look at best practice with our young people and their adults, and to work on ways to educate others. We use our lived experiences to offer insight into the experiences of LGBT+ people to offer the best practice Cafcass can through training webinars and in consultation with the leaders for equality and diversity. We laugh a lot.

I’m a true believer that ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’. It’s important for LGBT+ people to be visible. Would my journey across the spectrum have been a little smoother with visible LGBT+ role models earlier? I think it might. I get very emotional hearing younger generations talk about their sexual and gender identities so candidly. The world is changing, and we all need to keep up.