FCO celebrates LGBT+ staff with room named for gay diplomat

FCO honours staff association co-founder who left “an important legacy to LGBT+ diplomats”

Sir Simon McDonald (right) with Watkins' sisters Sue Painting and Janet Watkins and partner Gil Concalves. Photo: FCO.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has commemorated the founder of its LGBT+ staff association, Graeme Watkins, by naming a room after him in celebration of the department’s LGBT+ staff.

The naming of the room in the FCO’s King Charles Street headquarters in Whitehall coincides with the 20th anniversary of FLAGG, which Watkins, a diplomat who spent time in the UK Representation to the EU, Singapore and Managua, founded in 1998.

Dedicating the room last week, Sir Simon McDonald, the FCO’s permanent under-secretary and head of the diplomatic service said: “The Watkins Room honours the contribution and commitment of Graeme and all LGBT+ members of staff, past, present and future, to the diplomatic service.”


“This includes recognising the hard work of those colleagues who in the past may not have been able to be open about their identity at work.”

Watkins joined the FCO in 1979, when openly homosexual men and women were barred from serving as diplomats. As a gay man, this meant that like many others, he was forced to hide his sexuality at work until after the ban was lifted in 1991.

Watkins died in 2000 but left “an important legacy to LGBT+ diplomats”, the FCO said in its announcement. FLAGG now works with the department to promote LGBT+ rights overseas and champion the contribution of LGBT+ staff to UK diplomacy.

“Since [FLAGG was founded], the FCO has made important progress to become a more supportive environment for LGBT+ diplomats and continues to work to ensure that our staff fully represent and champion the diversity of the UK today,” McDonald said.

Watkins’ partner and two sisters attended the ceremony, which took place a month-long celebration of FLAGG's anniversary.

“This marks a day of celebration for LGBT+ rights within the FCO, shining a spotlight on how far we’ve come since our staff association’s founders, including Graeme, took a brave step to bring things up to date,” FLAGG’s co-chairs, Jake Beesley and Lucy Monaghan, said in a statement.

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