‘The most isolated people who don’t have LGBT+ support around them are the ones that need support the most’: Kate Hughes, chair of the Civil Service LGBT+ Network, on 2020

2020 was a year unlike any other, with the coronavirus pandemic upending the work of government and changing how we live our daily lives. Senior figures from across the civil service tell us how the unprecedented 12 months affected them, and look ahead to 2021
Kate Hughes, chair of the Civil Service LGBT+ Network

By Civil Service World

22 Dec 2020


What are you proudest of the network achieving in 2020?

There is so much to be proud of! As I write this I know that we have reached the Civil Service D&I Awards shortlist for both the Employee Network Excellence and Brilliant Team Contribution awards. By the time this is published the winners will have been announced but regardless of the outcome I am so proud of the team for getting to the final three of both those categories, it’s the culmination of a challenging year where each member of the team has contributed inspiration, dedication and hard work, and it’s great recognition for a fantastic group of volunteers. Between them they’ve produced so much, PrideON was the first online events programme we’ve ever run, achieved with no budget and using volunteer time. Videos and podcasts providing relevant and interesting content to connect with our members and reassure them that the network was still there for them. Guidance to support LGBT+ civil servants and their managers in assessing their covid risks in the workplace and having constructive and meaningful conversations about it. We’ve also had a programme of work looking at the issues that different groups within our membership experience, this has helped us to explore race issues within the LGBT+ community and LGBT+ issues within different BAME communities, as well as providing some focus for our Bi+ members. The executive and the wider volunteer team have risen to every challenge and delivered brilliantly.

What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2020?

The uncertainty. Not knowing what challenges we were going to be facing next and how much resource we would have to meet those challenges. The year started with real positivity around celebrating the Year Of Inclusion and then there were points in March and April where it felt almost impossible to know how to bring everyone together to celebrate. Then we found our feet in the “new normal” and realised that actually for a network that covers the whole of the civil service this was more of an opportunity than an obstacle. So we looked at how we could take everything online and got creative with videos and online social events. Then when Pride events started to get cancelled we were able to create PrideON to fill that void and support our membership, creating that safe space that Pride is where LGBT+ people can be themselves. We spent a lot of time adapting but we learnt a lot and now we are stronger than ever and better placed to support our membership and connect with other networks to really make the civil service one of the most inclusive workforces and a welcoming environment for LGBT+ people.

What are the main challenges facing the network in the coming year?

Maintaining momentum into the new world where we will have to find a balance between the online offer that has been in place for most of this year and the new way of working that we are likely to develop into, involving returning to face-to-face events that are based in a location. There’s a danger that we will slip back into only being able to provide support for people who are based in one of the big cities where there’s a presence but I feel that it’s really important that we don’t do that. The most isolated people who don’t have LGBT+ support around them are the ones that need our support the most and I want to make sure that they still have access to as much of what we do as possible. Hopefully we will be able to celebrate Pride together in person by summer 2021 but I want us to be able to retain some of the progress we’ve made with the online offering too. 

People will have to be more creative about celebrating this year. How will you make the festive period on Zoom special?

The CSLGBT+ Network have decided to do a January quiz to brighten up the month between festivities and LGBT History Month so I’m postponing some of the celebrations. So far I’ve also not got anything planned for personal celebrations - I’ve not had time! No doubt my large and competitive family will come up with some form of group entertainment that will mean we all get to see each other virtually (I’m pretty sure it’ll be another zoom quiz if I’m being honest…).

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