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We are Together: LGBT network in profile

Together is ICAEW’s inclusive community focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT+) issues. Our mission is to create an open, progressive and informed working environment to support ICAEW's employees and stakeholders. Check out our profiles below.

     
     
     

Grace Gayle (heterosexual)

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 Grace Gayle

 Grace Gayle

  • Location: London
  • Sexual orientation: Heterosexual 
  • Pronouns: She/Her

Why are you part of the Together Community?

It is important to me for so many reasons that I would need more character space! In my view if you want change, then you have to be a part of it. My true passion relates to intersectionality, which is about people identifying with overlapping categories of identity, experience, and what makes them who they are - and the importance in taking these into account. Something I was first introduced to at a Stonewall event in ICAEW!

I think it makes simple good sense for our society to promote positive attitudes and support for people who identify as LGBTQ+, who are human like everyone else! Two simple reasons include my faith as a Christian and as an Afro-Caribbean woman. If only because of these two things, sometimes (but not always) the assumption is very much that I think the opposite. I have a sincere and strong belief in people being treated and recognised for their humanity - not as a label  - and that I think, I hope makes me an ally.

I have friends (and family), as well as my Church of England Reverend, who identify as LGBTQ+. This has meant I have witnessed homophobia in all sorts of varied and frightening ways, and more recently than I would even have imagined. Things are changing…but I have found that people’s actions can sometimes be opposite to what is said.  

What does it mean to you and how has it helped you?

I believe being an ally is to stand up, be counted and help support in making general attitudes as well as the workplace LGBTQ+ friendly. Most people don’t care about who you are and just want to get the "job" done – and that’s fine. 

But there is an additional case for treating people fairly and not with judgement. Using inclusive language and professional behaviour is important. Stop and think before you speak, be honest, if you don’t know - ask. No need to be friends with everyone but it does need to be fair. I’ve still got a lot to learn and I'm open to doing what I can.

As an ally of Together and the chair of Embrace, the internal diversity and inclusivity staff network, I’ve worked with the Social Media team on promoting positive ideas via Instagram – and also helped bring about a ½ day internal inclusive language workshop. These actions in their small ways, I really do hope have helped. I would never pretend to know what it means to be LGBTQ+ but if only for the two reasons of being a black woman and having a personal passion in being treated fairly, then I am happy to be counted as an ally.

Jonathan Worrell (gay)

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Jonathan Worrell 

Jonathan Worrell

  • Age: 41
  • Location: London 
  • LGBT+: Gay 
  • Pronouns: He and Him

Why are you part of the Together Community?

I helped form Together with a number of colleagues as we wanted to drive a culture at ICAEW that is open, inclusive and that celebrated difference. 

I find it fascinating how diverse the LGBT+ community is. We all have different experiences that we can share and inspire others. I keep saying it but its true: “Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is tell your story!”. 

When you read a story that resonates with you, it has the ability to empower you – you might say: I feel different too!

The end goal is to create an environment where everyone can bring their authentic selves to work regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

What does it mean to you and how has it helped you?

I am a relatively private person but one event happened recently that made me more determined to be more outspoken about being part of the LGBT+ community: my partner and I adopted a little girl. Whilst talking with social workers during the approval process - it became clear that in order for this amazing small human to be proud of her family unit, we must also be proud of who we are. 

I think for many in the LGBT+ community being proud of who you are is a daily work in progress. We know that mental health can impact us disproportionately. But it is vital that we keep talking, sharing, reflecting and working to create a more inclusive world. That is why I am proud to be a part of Together.  This has to be good for all of us.

Olivia Taylor (heterosexual)

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 Olivia Taylor

Olivia Taylor

  • Age: 24
  • Location: Milton Keynes
  • Sexual orientation: Heterosexual 
  • Pronouns: She/Her

Why are you part of the Together Community?

To be part of the Together Community was a very easy decision for me to make. I strongly agree with equality and fair treatment in society of people who identify as LGBTQ+ - which essentially, already makes me an ally. 

I first witnessed homophobia in upper school where it would be a common occurrence to hear ‘impressions’ or homophobic name calling. Having friends who identify as LGBTQ+ allowed me to have open conversations where they discussed some of the challenges they’d personally encountered. From that moment, I refused to sit back and claim that I support the movement, without doing anything about it – this is one of the main reasons I am an ally of the Together Community. 

What does it mean to you and how has it helped you?

My view on allyship is acknowledging a need to make the workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly. I aim to talk positively and actively about LGBTQ+ and spreading the important message about equality. 

It’s very easy for me to sit and wish for the world to be kinder and more inclusive, but joining the Together Community has allowed me to educate myself, as well as lend my support to LGBTQ+ causes. It is something that I am passionate about, and I will continue to challenge the behaviour of people speaking and acting in a hurtful manner – this is where being an ally is so important. 

I feel proud to be a part of a group that involves people of all different sexual orientations and gender identities.

 

Peter James (gay)

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 Peter James

Peter James

  • Age: 65
  • Location: Milton Keynes
  • Sexual orientation: Gay 
  • Pronouns: He/His

Why are you part of the Together Community?

I was chair of PwC’s LGBT Network in the mid 2000’s and when I came to ICAEW I volunteered to help start a similar network  internally.  Working with Shaun Robertson we slowly built up a cadre of people and expertise which subsequent leaders have taken forward and developed as the Together Community.  I am passionate about diversity and am proud to see how ICAEW has evolved internally and externally as a promoter and leader in diversity. It helps that as a legal services regulator it forms part of my job.

I came to terms with my orientation at University in 1975 ironically through studying the philosophy elements of  my Law course. However at that time the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was less than a decade old and though now legal LGBT people and relationships were still frowned upon in society. When I joined Coopers & Lybrand in 1976 as an articled clerk I had to keep my authentic self very much under wraps and this placed me at times under ethical challenge as certain clients read between the lines and tried to influence my judgement based on that knowledge. I stood fast but it was not something I felt I could raise with my firm or indeed the institute. 

Times changed  in 1998 when Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse merged and a new culture defined different to that of the legacy firms which included “diversity”.  When all staff received an email inviting those interested to a gay group discussion with the HR partner it was a shock as the word “gay” had never before been seen in internal mail!  It was a bit slow to get going but I found a ready openness in the new firm to embrace these values and I was  active in the GALE network, later GLEE, until I left PwC in 2011 to join ICAEW.

What does it mean to you and how has it helped you?

The readiness of HR to accept my orientation and encourage Shaun and me to take forward a new network was refreshing and unlike PwC I felt I could be myself from day 1 at ICAEW. I have been able to talk openly about my relationship with Mark my partner of 30 years and my steps through gay adoption for which HR and Together helped define the HR policy.  I have acted as secretary to the LGBT Professional Services Group since 2011 and this has enabled me to leverage for Together external activity and promote equality across ICAEW members and member firms. 

ICAEW is a great place to work and I find the members of Together a strong empathetic group who not only help me emotionally but provide useful cross-Institute contact that enable me to do my job better and tick the collaboration box! In my experience and involvement with different industries I have found that the LGBT networks are the most passionate of the diversity groups and very often they provide the leadership for wider diversity within their organisations. Together is an excellent illustration of that trait.

I also feel proud to be a part of a group that involves people of all different sexual orientations and gender identities and is inclusive in its engagement with staff. 


Polly Bull (queer/non-binary)

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 Polly Bull

Polly Bull

  • Age: 37
  • Location: London
  • LGBT+: queer/non-binary
  • Pronouns: they/them

Why are you part of the Together Community?

I have had mixed experiences of being queer in the workplace in the past, but thankfully ICAEW has always been inclusive and an environment in which I have felt happy to be myself. I wanted to embrace that feeling of acceptance in a supportive group, be visible and hopefully empower others to feel comfortable and included.

What does it mean to you and how has it helped you?

I am currently going through another "coming out" as a non-binary person which I have been working on for several years with mixed results. When I came out as a lesbian at 20, it wasn’t easy but I felt like I didn’t have to explain too much about it. Non-binary feels like a longer, more difficult conversation and I often don’t have the courage or confidence, so just dodge it (hence the long-term project).

However, since joining the Together community I've become more confident in speaking about my gender identity. For me, non-binary means that I don't identify as particularly feminine or particularly masculine. I land somewhere in the middle and don't really feel gendered at all (almost agender). It's something that I've always experienced but I just didn't have the language for it when I was younger. I use the word queer to describe my sexual orientation because it feels like a very inclusive term that fits with my experience of being non-binary and my general outlook. Conversations with members of the Together community have empowered me to share these sides of myself more confidently and proudly. 

Qayam Abdul (gay)

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Qayam Abdul

Qayam Abdul

  • Age: 31
  • Location: Milton Keynes 
  • LGBT+: Gay 
  • Pronouns: He and Him

Why are you part of the Together Community?

I joined the community in hope that I could make a difference. Not just to my colleagues but to also have a positive impact on myself. ICAEW Together community provides an open, inclusive and safe place to be yourself but to also share and explore ideas that will have a positive impact on all colleagues within ICAEW. I am passionate about individuals being able to be their true selves and that they should celebrate their differences as this not only creates a diverse workforce but also helps communities and society in general. Being part of the community is a small but a powerful step to helping create an environment that individuals can be their true selves both at work and hopefully outside work. 

What does it mean to you and how has it helped you?

In order to answer what the community means to me I would need to be open about who I am. I have not come out to my family. For many reasons. This has caused me great pain, balancing my life between the home I was raised to the one I have made with my partner. However what I wanted to share was I have managed to make the two work for me for now. Yes it may seem that I am living two separate lives and you wouldn’t be wrong but I have made them both fabulous and meaningful. It is important to know that coming out or not isn’t the most important thing at least to me. To many it is and to many it would have been liberating and emotional, for me the most important thing is just to be me. My favourite colour is still blue, my mum is still my hero, astronomy and space still amaze me, baking is still one of my favourite hobbies and the stars in the night sky still make me smile, I have been too fond of them to be fearful of the dark. I haven’t changed, I have just learned to adapt to my surroundings and make it work for me. 

The Together community has provided a platform for me to be just that, myself. I have met the most wonderful people working at ICAEW and through the community. If it wasn’t for them I would not be sharing this today, you helped me find a voice, more importantly a voice that I have learned to value and a voice I can use for those who may not have one and help them find theirs. Our stories we share is our power. We can use it to shape the world around us, and that’s exactly what the Together community does. Together we can make a difference.

 

Richard Spencer (gay)

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 Richard Spencer
 

Richard Spencer

  • Age: 57
  • Location: CAH/London
  • Sexual orientation: Gay 
  • Pronouns: He/His

Why are you part of the Together Community?

Why I am here is summed up by this quote by Lilla Watson, Australian Visual Artist. “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” It is reinforced for me by the murder of George Floyd. This was an absolute outrage, which got me thinking about the protests of the LGBTQ community. 

My first Pride was in 1985. I was 22 and terrified. These were troubled years in the UK and bad ones to be LGBTQ. I was coming to terms with being gay and in my first year in London I had been beaten up twice, spat at, had a brick thrown at me and been asked to leave a restaurant for holding another terrified man’s hand. The idea of marching... But I went.

It was the year the Welsh Miners came and joined our protest. I can remember thinking “they came to support us, people they had nothing in common with”. The following year equal rights for the LGBTQ community was tabled at the Labour Party conference and got through largely because of the Mineworkers.

We did have something in common. We faced the full and violent force of the establishment. We were human beings in common cause.

Back then I never imagined that I would be able to get married or that I would enjoy the legal recognition and protections I have today. Chris and I have been together for nearly 20 years now and getting married in New York City hall on New Year’s Eve in 2012 was the proudest moment of my life.  All of this has been won for us by generations of LGBTQ people standing up and being counted always leaves me in awe and I will always honour them. 

What does it mean to you and how has it helped you?

Prejudice, hatred and discrimination still persist and are institutionalised. Not just against the LGBTQ community but against all kinds of groups. 35 Prides later, when I march I hope I am standing up for the bullied, speaking out for the voiceless and protesting for those who cannot, regardless of what they look like, believe or who they fancy. Belonging to this community is very much part of this being in common cause to build a fair and just society and we are here working for that at ICAEW. 


Sarah Hobbs (lesbian/intersex)

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 Sarah Hobbs

Sarah Hobbs

  • Age: 32
  • Coming out age: 28
  • Location: Milton Keynes
  • LGBT+: Lesbian/Intersex
  • Pronouns: She/Her

Why are you part of the Together Community?
I came out as a lesbian four years ago – this was part of a longer journey to discover my true self. At the age of twenty-five I discovered that I had been born intersex. This started a whole host of questions and a voyage of self-discovery. 

During my working life I have had/seen mixed experiences of LGBT+ within the office environment – some extremely positive, some indifferent and some awful. When I noticed that ICAEW had the Together Community I couldn’t wait to be a part of it so I can help those around me feel supported, but also to highlight what great work ICAEW does in embracing diversity and being inclusive. It’s really a pleasure to be part of such a forward thinking and progressive organisation.

What does it mean to you and how has it helped you?
Within my time at previous employers I hadn’t felt comfortable about revealing/talking about my gender and sexual identity but knowing that ICAEW has the Together Community makes me feel more supported and willing to disclose and chat about It. The inclusivity of it all makes we want to help and support others who may be going or have gone through similar situations like myself – it’s a really great support network.